Friday, June 20, 2014

Analysis of "Universe in the Key of Matryoshka" by Ronnie K. Stephens

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Universe in the Key of Matryoshka" by Ronnie K. Stephens
Originally read: November 1, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ronnie K. Stephens





This is a cumulative poem in which the anaphora of "I opened" acts like a Matryoshka doll as seen above.  However, does the first topic discussed encompass everything inside the poem, or does the speaker play mostly with the idea of "opening" up something similar but different.

I'm not sure after reading the poem a couple of times.  I'm more likely to say neither.  Here's the list:


  1. "Letter" to "bachelor's degree"
  2. "bachelor's degree" to "one hundred thirty thousand unpaid minutes"
  3. "one hundred thirty thousand unpaid minutes" to "a house I will never own"
  4. "a house I will never own" to "two years in rural Japan"
  5. "two years in rural Japan" to "better credit better interest rates better understanding"
  6. "better credit better interest rates better understanding" to "one point five children in the backyard"
  7. "one point five children in the backyard" to "my wife"
  8. "my wife" to "my wife"
  9. "my wife" to "my wife"

There's two important things I'm not acknowledging with this list though.  One, the form of the poem of a block with "/" separating each line instead of a period.  This is important to note since the ideas are meant to be continuous -- connected, not so much, continuous as a sequence.  Second, the cumulative effect of "I opened" sort of changes tone based on what is opened -- a slightly more cynical tone with "a house I will never own," then a more endearing and/or desperate tone with "my wife."

Now what does this list show?  A life? Yes there's a chronological sequence here that could make sense from one way to the other, but does the events come from "a letter" -- probably.

How about more of a cumulative effect to bring a sense of importance to the wife aspect.  Another wife?  Or finding out more about a "wife" after unpacking so much that the core of this speaker's life is a "wife" (multiple or single).  Maybe.  

I think what I'm getting at is that when unpacking a matryoshka, there's a set system: something inside, smaller than before, until the list runs out.  This poem does play with the idea and there's multiple unpacking reasons to gain from the form.  Narrative justification of a life.  The praise of a wife at the core of an unpacked life -- both, but is there anything more?  The system is set, what else is at the end when it can't be unpacked anymore.

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