Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Analysis of "The Logic of a Lesser Loved Science" by Carolyn Moore

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Logic of a Lesser Loved Science" by Carolyn Moore
More information about the Poet: Carolyn Moore


Past me wrote, "follow the use of colons and how they are used in the poem" and I could see why rereading this poem.  There's something definition based going on in this poem that ties in, lesser, loved, and science, as individual aspects or all at the same time.

The title bleeds into the poem with, "can give us our bearings where we're lost. / Things vast and physical point the way."  Here is the reference more so of the logic pointing the way -- but what of the lesser loved science?  I feel there is a hinted definition with the next two lines, "Take the earth's geology of scars: / from each new shape-shift we learn caution."  So the science of "geology of scars" is furthered turned into the metaphor with the introduction of the "we" speaker.  The colon in this stanza serves as more of a transitioning point between "scars" and the personal.  I keep thinking to myself why not a comma?  It feels like the scars define the "we" outlook.

So the thoughts of geology keep going forward with, "Trickier than plants or beasts, landforms / deceive, given the change.  Fumoroles, domes, tuff, unloading and mass wasting:" Note with this the geological descriptions is tempered with the insight that it's harder to discern land than plants or beasts -- and with each list of various types of land "mass wasting" ques into the a more visceral tone; meanwhile, the post-colon line, "any list conceals as it contains" defines the list -- a more meta line which can refer to the "we" speaker.

And as if to keep going forward, the poem tries to figure out the previous concept, "Distinguish what's essential from mere / clutter."  And this seems more on the personal side, but this is referring to, "Take two plains: The snake River's / and the Serengeti's.  see the tricks / of likeness?" And even though these are real rivers, there is the undertone of the relationship or rather the concealment with the term "tricks of likeness."

And do the tricks come in, "Plains vary more than ducks, / volcanic necks, far more than daisies."  The comparisons come in, but also note the vast differences in comparison from something expansive to something specific, "We map the terrain best once we've left it." past me wrote that this line is an, "individual line that stretch the encyclopedic language."  Each line seems to hint at something more for example, "we've left it" could mean a multitude of things, but the speaker holds steadfast to the comparative language until, "a new land mass already playing / the slut, promising clean slates and shales."  I think the usage of "slut" is so grounded with the shifting definitions and the tricks that it is risky.  On one hand, the word jars the reader, forcefully, to see the discrepancies, but on the other hand if the comparative traction was enough for the reader to infer something more, then the word is off putting and detracts from the poem.

"Never oversimplify causes."  The line seems to predict the "conceal as it contains" reaction to the word, "True, three forces reshape our world's skin:" stop here for a second.  The metaphor is realized with this line which ties in the geological terminology with  a more human metaphor.  Does this confirm anything? No, but there is a stronger implication of a human/land connection.  But on with the list (again conceal as it contains).

"that first ingenious creep of desire;" here it's just stated emotion, no anthropomorphizing, the shift towards the human and note how the semi-colon is connecting the thoughts and image now, "the slow, harsh dismantling of surface; / then rupture--one plane abandoning / the other over a fault or two."  The line "plane abandoning" holds so many repercussions, but note the rupture, the separation is more towards the landmass.

"In our study we will, of course, cite / slides, soil creeps, various erosions. / e will speak of what we cannot say"  Past me put "synthetic ending" However, the bigger question is "what type of ending?" This hinted relationship between the "we" which isn't there per se, or how land escapes.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Analysis of "Montparnasse" by Ernest Hemingway

Original poem reprinted online here: "Montparnasse" by Ernest Hemingway
More information about the Poet: Ernest Hemingway


Montparnasse

Usually with titles like these I wonder if the poem is an homage or a commentary.  But this poem is neither.  Maybe the suicides that happen in the city.  But this poem seems of a more direct way of the juxtaposition between life and death.  Big concepts, simple execution.

"There are never any suicides in the quarter among people one knows / No successful suicides."  So the opening two lines seems jarring because of the focus on suicides; however, the key phrase to look out for is "people one knows" in regards to the lack of suicide.  Here there's a distinction.  The upcoming list seems like the unknown.

"A Chinese boy kills himself and is dead. / (they continue to place his mail in the letter rack at the Dome)"  I'm not too sure what the "dome" refers to, but I do note the usage of the specific ambiguous adjective of "Chinese" and how people just continue to send mail as though he's alive.

"A Norwegian boy kills himself and is dead. / (No one knows where the other Norwegian boy has gone" in this one it seems the focus is on similarities (on top of the racial theme). While this one is more physical based as the Chinese one is more presence based.

"They find a model dead / alone in bed and very dead."  I still think this is humorous a bit.  The reason being that this focuses on an ambiguous figure that is not tied down to race, and the close rhyme and the use of very seems very flippant and passe, and then the parenthetical "(it made almost unbearable trouble for the concierge)" makes even more light of the situation with the focus being the trouble of the concierge and not the one who killed him/herself.

"Sweet oil, the white of eggs, mustard and water, soap suds / and stomach pumps rescue the people one knows."   This list of items is specific as though intimate.  As though the speaker knows what it takes how to save a person -- or maybe what it takes for someone to save the speaker (depending how this poem is looked at)

"Every afternoon the people one knows can be found at the cafe."  Even though this line might disregard the previous lines, it's important to note that the "people one knows" can be found -- is there; meanwhile, those who do not know are unknown -- dead or alive or still around.  Know someone to be rescued, perhaps.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Tim Ellison's Analysis of "The Fascination of What’s Difficult" by William Butler Yeats

Tim Ellison is my guest blogger for today and he does a fine job analyzing "The Fascination of What's Difficult" by William Butler Yeats.  

Normally I read only contemporary poetry on Tim Reads Poetry, but today I’m going to take advantage of the freedom writing for TheRetailMFAer gives me and take on one of my old favorites, W.B. Yeats’ “The Fascination of What’s Difficult”. In Helen Vendler’s great book about Yeats, Our Secret Discipline, she basically describes this poem as a frustrated sonnet. I think you’ll see what she means. Here’s “The Fascination of What’s Difficult”:

The fascination of what's difficult
Has dried the sap out of my veins, and rent   
Spontaneous joy and natural content
Out of my heart. There's something ails our colt   
That must, as if it had not holy blood   
Nor on Olympus leaped from cloud to cloud,   
Shiver under the lash, strain, sweat and jolt
As though it dragged road metal. My curse on plays   
That have to be set up in fifty ways,
On the day's war with every knave and dolt,   
Theatre business, management of men.   
I swear before the dawn comes round again   
I'll find the stable and pull out the bolt.

So the poem is about Yeats’ frustration being a professional creative person. He laments that his creative spirit – “our colt” – has to attend to the unromantic pressures of running the Abbey Theatre. It dries him out, leaves him feeling like he’s getting nowhere. He’s determined, by the end, to put a stop to it. A clear enough message. An inspiring message.

But the poem exemplifies this theme in its form, too. This is where you see that Yeats is one of the last great masters of musical form.

Look at the rhyme scheme. Every third line has the same rhyme: difficult – colt – jolt – dolt – bolt. Between each of these is a rhyming couplet. So lines 1-4 give you A-B-B-A, a fine way to begin a sonnet. But lines 4-7 give you A-C-C-A. So we’ve got a slightly compressed sonnet. We’re thinking, “Alright, W.B., give us something new.”But of course he doesn’t. Lines 7-10 give you A-D-D-A. “Wow, that A rhyme is just getting worked to death. It’s holding up two quatrains at the same time, caught between two sets of obligations.”But there’s no rest for Yeats, the poet-statesman, so there’s no rest for his A rhyme either. Lines 10-13 end the poem with A-E-E-A – a cleverly self-referential arrangement of the two vowels in his surname.

Typically a sonnet ends with a rhyming couplet that very musically makes us feel like the poem is finished, but even though Yeats swears he’ll put an end to this awful cycle of difficulty that’s tearing his creativity apart, we can’t really believe him. That A rhyme that ends the poem is just as helpless to bring any kind of resolution as the others. The form is exhausted, powerless to do anything musical, powerless to finish what it started.

A bit depressing? I know, but I love this poem. It’s one of the few poems I’ve bothered to memorize. Funny how that works. An honest lament can be more refreshing than a half-hearted paean.


I write about contemporary poetry on Tim Reads Poetry every day and am on Twitter at @timothyjellison. Thanks so much to TheRetailMFAer for the opportunity to write on his blog!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Analysis of "Devil's Aspect" by Charlie Clark

Original poem reprinted online here: "Devil's Aspect" by Charlie Clark
Originally read: November 20, 2014
More information about the Poet: Charlie Clark


After rereading this poem, I noted a past remark I wrote, "This poem is evasive through rhetoric."  No, not exactly.  I think this poem works on how description is used to blur what's there.

Throughout the poem the focus should be on this idea, "the smoke obscuring."  Because from this idea the poem expands outward, "Easy to say / the smoke obscuring is the aspect."  The speaker is undercutting the self by referring to what is observed as what can be easily stated; meanwhile, the symbol behind the smoke as an "aspect" is just statement with no force.

"Not hard to follow in that in all its moving / it's so consistent."  The parallel between "aspect" and "smoke" has such a loose connection that the "it" could refer to both and still not hold a rooted meaning.  What does it mean to be consistent? Or even more questionable, "Still his single form" who is the "he"?  The devil?

There are a lot more questions than concreteness for me up to this point and even though the following lines are images and concepts that describe this ubiquitous he or smoke or aspect, "Whether dim or glowing.  Whether cocksure or wracked "  These descriptions are heavily into being contrasts.  This could be this or this.  Nothing firm, nothing too tangible except the reaction from the "he," "sensing something larger he knows / he can ignore."

The speaker confirms my previous notion with the line, "He can ignore / only so much obvious obscuring, / even in himself." So regardless of how the descriptors work to not really describe, or the nouns that really don't exist -- the he can only ignore such obscurity for so long.  The natural reaction then is for concreteness or, "before he calls it evasion / Which is deliberate."

I think this is the core of the poem and what the poem builds up to -- the obscure can be ignored like him but to name the obscure is to name this sense of evasion -- this deliberate evasion which confronted, "Deliberate / like his hand inside the skin of another / who knows but does not feel it."  The more evasive the "he" is to himself.

This poem is much like contact or not contact, seeing or not seeing and this -- this sort of limbo is the Devil's aspect.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Analysis of "Elegy in the Classroom" by Anne Sexton

Original poem reprinted online here: "Elegy in the Classroom" by Anne Sexton
Originally read: November 19, 2014
More information about the Poet: Anne Sexton


Is this poem about Robert Lowell?  I'm not too sure.  I bring this up because it was the first thing I thought when I read this poem.  Is there any evidence in the poem?  "Gracefully insane" maybe or "find you disarranged" perhaps, nothing too concrete though.

In any case, the speaker is remembering a teacher.  "In the thin classroom, where your face / was noble and your words were all things, / I find this boily creature in your place;"  The phrase that stand out is "boily creature" and I'm not sure what to make of this adjective noun combination.  Is this a negative connotation?  Is this a connotation based more on "boily" or "creature"?  But not the semi-colon there which connects the more mental state with a physical state, "find you disarranged, squatting on the window sill, / irrefutably placed up there, / like a hunk of some big frog."

And even though "frog" could be a negative descriptor, I'm hesitant to state it is.  The frog is based on physical appearance, but also it is observant, "watching us through the V / of your woolen legs."  Physically and mentally messed up, but not offending (but offensive).  And even though these seem like attacks from the speaker, I feel these are light jabs, the elegy style jabs which honestly frames a person rather than attacks out of emotion.

The next stanza solidifies this thought, "Even so, I must admire your skill. / You are so gracefully insane."  I feel the sense of admiration is sincere rather than sarcastic.  Maybe I'm wrong with this assumption because the only thing I have to back it up is that the speaker is still there, still describing the "you" not with reverence but with metaphor.

"We fidget in our plain chairs / and pretend to catalogue / our facts for your burly sorcery"  The deeper the surreal metaphor the more the speaker is entrapped by something -- the image, the memory portrayed, "or ignore your fat blind eyes" note it's a gaze (or lack of it) that can hinge on multiple meanings, physical or mental but note it's the "We" that ignores not the "you".

"or the prince you ate yesterday / who was wise, wise, wise."  What's curious here is the noun phrase after the conjunction which disrupts the list of (negative) verbs.  Here there's a noun that refocuses the line back to things, concepts, not what the "we" does.

So the prince was eaten yesterday who was wise.  Consuming the young wise.  Cause of death?  The surreal image might be too out there to every be concrete, but maybe the image is meant to be that way, just like an elegy -- a bit out of touch.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Analysis of "Brass Spittoons" by Langston Hughes

Original poem reprinted online here: "Brass Spittoons" by Langston Hughes
Originally read: November 18, 2014
More information about the Poet: Langston Hughes



Boy as a derogatory.  The first thing past me mentioned with this poem is how many times "boy" is used in the poem.  And naive past me states "advice" list.  No.  Probably not after rereading this poem again.

     Clean the spittoons, boy
     Detroit,
     Chicago,
     Atlantic City,
     Palm Beach.

With the very beginning of the poem, note how the list of places are specific, but boy is general.  So there's a prophetic tone coming from the speaker addressing all these different "boys" and then calling out the actions the boys should do:

     Clean the spittoons.
     The steam in hotel kitchens
     And the smoke in hotel lobbies.
     And the slime in hotel spittoons,

But the big turn comes with the admission of the speaker, "part of my life". The only does the speaker reinforce the sense of the prophetic and be relatable by admitting the "boy" struggles is also his own.  And so with the sequence of "A nickel. / A dime. / A dollar" in which the money accumulates only to be spent on:

     Buy shoes for the baby.
     House rent to pay.
     Gin on Saturday,
     Church on Sunday.

Note the responsibilities that have to be addressed which is emphasized by the hard rhyme of "-ay" -- predictable, consistent, there.  These are the responsibilities of both the "boy" and the speaker.

Then the poem goes toward a more religious turn going off on the "church on sunday" idea with:

     A bright bowl of brass is beautiful to the Lord
     Bright polished brass like the cymbals
     Of King David's dancers,
     Like the wine cups of Solomon


Here is the transition of "worldly" brass (spittoons and hotel lobbies) versus the divine (bright to the lord, dancers, Solomon) -- the prophetic turns towards the divine as an escape

     A clean spittoon on the alter of the Lord.
     A clean bright spittoon all newly polished--
     At least I can offer that.
     Com'mere, boy!

So the question is why end with "Com'mere, boy!"  instead of the more uplifting, "At least I can offer that."  The big question here is who is the "man" and who is the "boy."  Although unstated, the move to the prophetic and self-awareness shows a move towards something -- the leader of the "boys" who can bring insight.

The last line seems to me of one of a man who takes the form of those who call the other's boy.  The speaker wants to be in that spot above and more "mature" and through this poem he does, he does "offer," at no cost and no question.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Analysis of "Vision" by Robert Penn Warren

Original poem reprinted online here: "Vision" by Robert Penn Warren
Originally read: November 17, 2014
More information about the Poet: Robert Penn Warren


Quatrains with adjusted lines.  Furthermore the rhyme scheme alternates (abab) which portends the separation between man and nature in this poem.  To me, this poem seems to be a riff on the pastoral.

The poem starts off with the typical sentiment of the pastoral, "I shall build me a house where the lakspur blooms / In a narrow glade in an alder wood"  note how specific the language is here with "laksupur" and "alder" which not only indicates a certain region, but also a certain commitment to the idea based in comfort.

Even so, this speaker has thought out this idea maybe a bit too much, "Where the sunset shadows make violet glooms, / And a whip-poor-will calls in eerie mood."  Note how direct thee speaker states "eerie mood" as though not to trust the images to depict such a mood.  Does the poem get "eerie" the further the poem goes?

"I shall lie on a bed of rive sedge, / And listen to the glassy dark,"  The answer to my previous question is no.  Why not?  The poem is more of a push and pull, like a formal argument, to riff on the pastoral rather than to constantly attack points.  With these lines, the speaker seems okay with the "eerie" -- this sort of "glassy dark".

"With a guttered light on my window ledge, / While an owl stares in at me white and stark" and here is the eerie -- somewhat.  I don't feel like the owl stare has enough impact in the poem to carry the "eerie" since all it does is stares.  Creepy, yes.  Eerie, maybe. But note with these lines have the language and the imagery of something dark with "guttered light" but the juxtaposition of the comfortable and the eerie mutes each other out meaning that a bigger impact has to be done.

"I shall burn my house with the rising dawn, / And leave but the ashes and smoke behind," this is drama.  Yes, the burning of the house is dramatic, but when the speaker leaves but the ashes and smoke it seems he's leaving an extended metaphor.  As I stated, the metaphor could be the riff on the pastoral, or it could be a rise against a personal "eeriness" -- burning a home down has many implications.

"And again give the glade to the owl and the fawn, / When the grey wood smoke drifts away with the wind."  And here's where I think the poem is more against the pastoral (form) since the intentional behind the burning the house down is to return the place to the "owl and the fawn"  -- or rather not only leave behind what is built but also what was there already.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Analysis of "November Night" by Adelaide Crapsey

Original poem reprinted online here: "November Night" by Adelaide Crapsey
Originally read: November 15, 2014
More information about the Poet: Adelaide Crapsey


This poem is the epitome of the cinquain since the progenitor of the cinquain is Adelaide Crapsey.  The form is sort of like the tanka which is based in syllabics this poem is 2, 4, 6, 8, 2.

The question is how does the form inform the poem or vice versa.

Well the usage of imagery is apparent in the first line with the command of "Listen" which forces the reader to hear the following lines.

"With faint dry sound / like steps of passing ghosts"  With simile with these lines, it's important to decide which has the most weight: the "faint" or "the ghosts."  Why?  A short poem is dependent on attention and when the attention is split between a simile, then the lost focus weakens the impact of the images in the poem.  If the focus is "faint" then, I feel, this poem won't work due to the over focus on sound; however, if the focus is "ghosts" then the poem works for me because the simile continues with the line, "The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees" since there is and added sense to metaphor through the visual image bringing another layer of depth.

The last line also finalizes the ghost metaphor and plays with a pun of "And fall."  Bringing a sense of lament not only to the season, but also the speaker and the situation.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Analysis of "Peace" by Ted Berrigan

Original poem reprinted online here: "Peace" by Ted Berrigan
Originally read: November 15, 2014
More information about the Poet: Ted Berrigan



So I looked at this poem all wrong, or rather, the marks on the page indicate a very close reading of the poem and I missed one big part -- the visual of the poem.  The poem is titled, "Peace" but I didn't note the "chaotic" order of the poem.  Rather I looked at the "form" and stated how the descending lines goes towards the "core."  And even though this might be a good insight in the poem, the initial presence of the poem is not the first line rather appearance.

What I mean is this.  A conceit has been made already with the title of "peace" and the first representation of this peace is misaligned lines.  I think this is the draw -- trying to figure out within the lines how the content relates to peace.

And when I start reading the poem there's a good bit of structure here.  First, note how the descending lines are usually in a rotation of three (when they don't, I will get to that).  Also note that there is a rhyme structure in place, sporadic, yes, but still in place.

But for the most part the poem is very laid back, "What to do / when the days' heavy heart / having risen, late"  I don't get a sense of urgency from these lines as though something has to be done -- rather the speaker is contemplating what can be done.

The speaker notes the setting the most in the first part on how "darkening East" goes West, "&settles, for a time, at a lovely place / where mellow light spreads / evenly from face to face?"  So the rhyme in the poem is place and face which is actually important since this shows that the setting is of people and of place that the speaker is observing.

"The days' usually aggressive / contrary beat"  this generality is contrasted with, "now softly dropped" just like light and people, there's a contrast, but also a balance.  Both don't stand out to overtake rather just be there.  This is the sentiment of the poem until the bunched up lines of:

"Why, / take a walk, then, / across this town.  It's a pleasure / to meet one certain person you've been counting on"

The poem now has a sense of urgency with the speaker just going to meet someone.  This becomes the focus since the setting is so innocuous.  Furthermore, the rhyme of pleasure, measure, and leisure following what I quote add to a sense of importance, "who will smile, & love you, sweetly, at your leisure."  Well, yeah, prostitute perhaps.  But does the introduction of this character change the perception of the speaker?  Yes and no.  Yes, in the sense that the speaker moves on, but the emotion behind the experience is to move on from place to people to women to a place to rest.

So by the end of the poem simple acts like "making a sandwich" or "have a diet cola,"  or "write this" have greater implications of peace through ability and routine, "because you can."  This poem feels appreciative of what can be done in aggressive and anonymous surroundings.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Analysis of "We Are High Performers" by Victoria Chang

Original poem reprinted online here: "We are High Performers" by Victoria Chang
Originally read: July 5, 2014
More information about the Poet: Victoria Chang



This poem plays with the idea of puns with "high" and "performers."  And since is a definition poem, is the idea to have all the shifts in definition accumulate to a clearer understanding, or is this just a play on what words could possibly mean from different perspectives.

I think this poem does both and the adjusted lines for each quatrain adds to this sense of play that accumulates.  "We are high performers not normal but high performers / we perform things make papers smell like perfume".  The shift in senses from a mental definition to a olfactory smell depicts a change that deals with the mind and the physical which is then further defined by this list: "we are highly creative unusually industrious / exceptionally conscientious diligent intelligent".  This is definitely a list I would read from someone's resume.because employers are looking for those "qualities" in an employee, and once they are on paper -- it's kind of like perfume.

The puns come in the second stanza, "we are high performers former high hopers on a high wire / balancing a ream of paper on our heads".  The mixture of the visual, the repetition, the alliteration, and the various definitions of "high" (height, working, expectations) that this creates a fast pace in which, "no net under us just the boss with her arms crossed / in a knot glasses fogged" is an image that works because in this fast pace the poem emphasizes the  visual becoming blurred, "we think she is smiling" and when the visual (and other senses) get blurred at a fast pace then the interpretations come in, "yes the boss is definitely smiling she has / finally found a vein on her wrist that smells of oil / we plug away".

So a poem with that plays with the olfactory twice brings attention to itself, but "oil" is such an ambiguous smell.  In this instance in the "work" mood, then the oil could represent mechanization that contrasts the "perfume" image in the first stanza; yet, this image cold also go along with the image of perfume (oil and perfume) to create a common scent -- defined yet ambiguous still.

But then the play goes away to the generalities, "despite the plagues in other countries / we are still in awe of the boss and / the law and all the dollars"  A hard turn to the symbolic.  What this does is solidify the ambiguities  in a sense.  Yes, this poem is about work and the images nor the rhetoric don't stray from it.  This adds to the "business" experience in the poem.

So when the poem goes personal, "the doll I once had is now my / daughter's doll she will dream of balls and / gowns and sparkly towns"  this shift to this innocent time of toys is already set up to fail.  The "business" world won't allow this, "when should I tell her all the / town are falling down"  I know the last line confirms everything set up and, perhaps, opens up the poem in a collection to go down a different path, but, on closer inspection, who has the power to lift the veil.

The parent, not the business world.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Analysis of "Violet Swords" by Stephen Sturgeon

Original poem reprinted online here: "Violet Swords" by Stephen Sturgeon
Originally read: July 5, 2014
More information about the Poet: Stephen Sturgeon



Here's the story.  I took a nap and now I can't go to sleep.  I go to /r/poetry and I see this thread asking for help interpreting a poem.  A lot of the times I ignore these posts, but then I click on the link because I'm bored.

Someone needs help interpreting the poem "Violet Swords" which appears in the June 2014 edition of Poetry.  I was just going to write a single sentence, and then, welp, entire analysis.

I don't want the analysis to go to waste, so I'm posting my analysis here:

I think everything hinges on contrasts.

But first the form. The poem is written in alternating ababcdcd rhyme scheme which feigns a sort of connection; furthermore, the poem has very loose syllabics ranging from 9 to 11, but the twenty line poem is constantly in this range. Why? Well I think the form shows an attempt at focus.

Focus from what though? To me, there's the attempt to reign in contrasts. Note that the use of gloves, a more innocuous action, contrasting the violent action of "conquering Dubrovnik"

But the speaker undercuts this idea with, "of, no one would care how, evading Hell." The key to the first three lines to me is the semi-colon which connects the contrasting concepts with the end goal of evasion.

And this poem definitely evades. The repetition of "C" and "T" with "Christmas turkeys; circulating trophies;" and the "pedestal stacked upon pedestal" doesn't equate to much, but there's a sense of build up based around the language which is, again, undercut with "silence has come to see what no one sees," no one sees, no one cares.

However, with each part of negating the audience, the speaker places himself as the observer, "the silence" in which can state snide remarks like, "Fellows, who wait à propos their intros / clawing at the panels, such shrill tigers, / thrive unthreading the hems of the heroes." Pointed futility at "everyone else" who are too busy clawing and unthreading or "Friends of our late friend are minor-leaguers" casting judgement on friends of friends. Yes, the speaker can say this, but keep in mind the speaker knows that no one sees, no one cares from big instances to these petty ones.

So when the reintroduction of the "she" comes in, there is an attack on "you": "... She wipes / away red records of the stocks you stole ... " Note the (over)usage is far different than anything, syntactically, used in the poem. This could mean something more, but to me this is the core issue the speaker has. Contrast the observer who has much to observe, but what, in actuality happens. Also note the color shift of red seems important because the color could be for violence (red indicating blood and such) or actual stocks (red indicating a fall).

Now the big undercut is the final contrasting image at the end:

     Yesterday, books were thrown from the third floor,
     out the window, they sank in pairs like shoes,
     and I watch violet swords on a white shore,
     blade-tip laid across blade-tip, where it snows.

Two actions of "yesterday" which informs the speaker of "today." One, the throwing out of books which the speaker see as coupled. The use of the simile "like shoes" indicate a lack of movement on one end -- this is more of an idealized situation. The words not moving.

Two, the violet swords on the white sands -- a bigger (forced) metaphoric contrast based on color and location "where it snows" -- note again the coupling effect "blade-tip laid across blade-tip" similar to the rhyme scheme and the repetition earlier on which the speaker comes to the conclusion that no one sees and no one cares -- on various different levels (epic to petty) no matter how close the images, rhetoric, or ideas appear to be.


Analysis of "Rocket" by Todd Boss

Original poem reprinted online here: "Rocket" by Todd Boss
Originally read: November 13, 2013
More information about the Poet: Todd Boss




This poem is like a mathematical equation.  I think the equation would be a + -b - c - c - c - c - c = d - e + f.  Well maybe not like that since math is not my strong point, but structure wise there's a lot of play with the idea of negation.

The first stanza is the action the "you" has done:

     Despite that you
     wrote your name
     and number 
     on its fuselage
     in magic marker

and by starting off with "despite" there's a sense of work negated.  But the poem goes write into the rocket with the name on it.  The rocket isn't used as a metaphor at this point, rather a catalyst to review actions taken previously what it equals to which is built up by negation.

The first negation is with "neither" and this applies to:

     your quite 
     hours at the kitchen
     table assembling it
     with glue

The process goes backwards from assembly with the neither, but with the following negations of "nor" the changes are innocuous at first, "nor your choice of / paint and lacquer" then goes to the choice of day which seems innocent enough, but look at the construction:

     nor your seemingly
     equally perfect
     choice of a seemingly
     breezeless day
     for the launch of 
     your ambition

This stanza adds the speakers mood toward the "you" and what the "you thinks.  The repetition of seemingly and the added adjectives brings a saccharine, almost sarcastic mood from the speaker at the you's"launch of / your ambition."  Noted that the speaker added this tidbit of insight to the you, but there's definitely a shift which colors the other negations, no matter how short.

"nor the thrill / of its swift ignition"  The change in mood brings a more symbolic feel to the poem since this rocket now equals ambition, and here the key is "swift."  "nor the heights it streaks" the key is "heights."  "nor the dancing / way you chase / beneath its"  the key is "chase,"  These three terms adds to the you's ambition, but also the awareness that the speaker is adding these modifiers to this event through negation.

This is what is lost thought -- all these negations equate to:

     dot 
     across that
     seemingly endless
     childhood field
    
     will ever be
     restored to you

A pretty quick judgement and insight.  A childhood regained.  If the poem ended here then I would state that this poem attacks the "you" and the idea of "regaining childhood" and that's it.  And that the negation style is more of a gimmick than nothing else, but there's an added layer after the "epiphany."

The speaker talks about "the people / in the topmost / branches of whose trees"  and when I see this, I feel the speaker is referring to himself.  Why?  The speaker takes the stance as the observer and judge, and it seems that the people the speaker is mentioning are also -- both are "unseen."

and so the poem comes down to "it" (there are many "its" in this poem but they referred to the rocket).

     it may yet from
     its plastic 
     chute 
     on thin
     white
     string

     still swing

It refers to the rocket.  It can also refer to childhood.  It could also refer to ambition.  Or perhaps all three.  The action is more important than the representation.  Note how the "it" swings. down with a "thin white string" -- even with a little bit, "it" still can come back down.  

How does this go back to the speaker?  Well the key to this line is "may" which ekes in a little bit of hope against negation which brings the poem less about the speaker's judgement and more of what the speaker gives (if only a little) -- a chance.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Analysis of "Loitering Outside a Leather Bar" by Julianne Buchsbaum

Original poem reprinted online here: "Loitering Outside a Leather Bar" by Julianne Buchsbaum
Originally read: November 12, 2013
More information about the Poet: Julianne Buchsbaum

The scene versus the individual.  I'm not talking about setting when I mention the "scene,"  I feel this poem depicts the mood, the area, the type of situation one would find in "her strap down / her ecstasy in an alleyway."  This sort of seedy underground scene without over-dramatizing.

But first the poem starts with an observational verb, "Saw Melancholia's gaunt face / and gown"  Yes, Melancholia is a pun and foreshadow of melancholy, but note how this line sets up an away from what is "real."  I know I stated that this poem depicts the mood and situation really well, and it's because of the name.  Academically read, this poem has allusions.  But, unless you've been there, people are named Melancholia.  I'm just stating that, to me, that suspension of disbelief is still intact.

The poem then goes to the speaker with, "Evening came brine-packed / from the bog while I slept / all night in my rusty car."  This is a very concrete personal line.  Then comes a more metaphorical line, "Knew the tang of scat in bog, / fields yielding their corn sugars / to beasts of burden."  Name, yes that adds to the scene, but this line adds to the mindset of speaker who waits in the car and is now thinking further and further away.

"Words upon our Tomb / This sisterhood is misshapen."  Past me wrote, "form not definition" -- note the eulagaic effect happening in the mind -- something is over beofre it started, "She said she would be right back"

The break here (along with the asterisk between them) feels more like a separation of ideals but with conditions.  What the asterisk does is connect these two stanzas together -- not by words, but by symbol.

"Memories of barbed wire, / morocyclists, Monday nights."  Concrete once again, "Like a monk in Grand Central Station, / I close my eyes, homesick."  What throws me off here is the simile of the monk which deeply contrasts the first stanza, but what ties it all together is what the monk represents -- someone who is away and searching.  The poem goes further into nature though which feels off, "the green velvet no-man's-land / where fat snails move like split / tongues in the wood mushrooms."  And okay I'm losing my suspension of disbelief and the poem becomes more symbolic than a scene.

But then come the direct lines, "I know I'm not your friend. / I know you're not my lover."  A confession in a sense, no more of a confirmation about a relationship status in which  the speaker is talking to himself/herself(?)

Okay, so at this point I have a feeling the speaker is a woman because sisterhood, but nothing is really stated here like the relationship --- the only thing concrete is the scene, "I know, I know, / I know . . . I cannot say / life is better without you."

So here's the leap, the thing that the speaker is missing is not the person, but the entire scene.  Note how there's the focus on the car and staying, and then the simile of the "Grand Central Station" and the monk missing home happens in the second part.

Admitting what the speaker is not pushes the momentum of letting go, but not by choice, by realization.  So when we get to the end the use of sentimental language seems to be unfocused.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Analysis of "Song on The End of the World" by Czeslaw Milosz

Original poem reprinted online here: "Song on The End of the World" by Czeslaw Milosz 
Originally read: November 12, 2013
More information about the Poet: Czeslaw Milosz 

So this poem is more of a cause and effect type of poem.  The cause and the effect is not about "the end of the world" though.  This poem plays with perceptions.

There's no set stanza structure or order which is important in this poem because there's nothing to predict through the structure like the first two lines, "On the day the world ends, / A bee circles a clover,"  and then starts the list of the ordinary, but not mundane:


  1. A fisherman mends a glimmering net
  2. Happy porpoises jump in the sea, 
  3. By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
  4. And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be
Note with this list, the focus is to the sea and then the land.  This focus also brings in the actions of people and the actions of animals -- either they are unaware, or don't care.  Actually, no.  What the list shows is actions happening on the day and it is nothing dramatic like the next list (second stanza):

  1. Women walk through fields under umbrellas
  2. A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn
  3. Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
  4. And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island
  5. The voice of a a violin lasts in the air / and leads into a starry night
This list operates differently focusing on more of a urban landscape to the naturalistic.  One big note is with number 2 with the introduction of the drunkard.  The line adds a sense of humor to the poem.  But other than that the scenes, like the first stanza, are more realistic actions done by humans or animals.  However, with this stanza in particular the last image is a sonic one that goes expansive -- from the violin to the starry night (allusion to Van Gough -- just for the sake of allusion).  In any case, there's a transition that continues image wise by not rhetoric wise.

"And those who expected lightning and thunder / are disappointed"  Note that the specifics are to "those" looking up to the sky and seeing something portent.  And with a more specific jab, "And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps / Do not believe it is happening now" at the divine.  This poem isn't against religion (just yet), rather at "those" who seek a cataclysmic divine sign like angels and thunder to tell them the world is ending.

     As long as the sun and the moon are above,
     As long as the bumblebee visits a rose
     As long as rosy infants are born
     No one believes it is happening now

The anaphora of "As long as" plays with the idea of time and length, and also conditional priority -- as long as "x" exists then "no one believes it is happening now"  The \key word being "believes" since the world could be ending, but around things seem pretty normal.

So the last stanza brings up a person, a would be a prophet but who "is not a prophet" -- the potential to state the future, but isn't claiming to be able to state the future "binds his tomatoes," something so innocuous (this is the action) while the thought (what is believed) is repeated, "No other end of the world there will be, / No other end of the world there will be."  

So when I first read this, I thought, hey, no end of the word will happen.  But upon further inspection, the phrase represents the whole idea: as long as regular and good things are happening, then no one believes in the end of the world"

To apply this idea, around me are normal things happening everyday, but somewhere else there could be someone's apocalypse, a world ending due to war or some "lightning and thunder" from the sky that we cannot see.  

Or to put the idea more succinctly: does the end of the world happen if we don't experience it until it is too late? 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Analysis of "Amazing Grace" by John Newton

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Amazing Grace" by John Newton
Originally read: November 11, 2013
More information about the Poet: John Newton


When this poem came up, I wanted to think about it a little bit.  I've always known this poem as a song with pretty high religious significance.  I wasn't wrong about that, but the extent of the significance goes pretty far.

The poem is written in quatrains with an alternating rhyme scheme (abab) so the disparity is the idea of "amazing grace"  this sort of divine redemption, and the reality of the self:

     Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound!)
     That sav'd a wretch like me!
      I once was lost, but now am found.
     Was blind, but now I see.

First this grace has changed the present situation.  Lost to found.  Blind and see.  Miraculous intervention through the divine.  But note how lowly the speaker puts himself as a "wretch" which is never expounded upon, just named.

     'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
     And grace my fears reliev'd;
     How precious did that grace appear,
     The hour I first believ'd!

This same grace places fear and relief.  This stanza also focuses on the idea of believing which has a time reference (the hour).  This "grace" saves, implants, and comes at the right times.

     Thro' many dangers, toils, and snares,
     I have already come;
     'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
     And grace will lead me home.

Just like John Newton, this specific stanza clarifies "wretch" in stanza one.  I usually don't go to the biographical, but here John Newton was a born again Christian (if I get my bio right).  Now, the "specifics" of what he does to be a "wretch" isn't clarified; however, the danger, toils, and snares indicate a past that, upon looking back, made him a wretch.  Grace takes another attribute as a guide.

     The Lord has promis'd good to me.
     His word my hope secures;
     He will my shield and portion be.
     As long as life endures.

Note every stanza is self encapsulated, but I feel this stanza is the most specific in the beginning and the most ambiguous at the end.  Yes, the Lord here is the equivalent to grace, well, until "life endures."  All life?  Pesronal life?

     Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
     And mortal life shall cease;
     I shall possess, within the veil.
     A life of joy and peace.

Both?  I find this a weird time to go both personal and expansive within the same stanza.  It's like the poem wants to be prophetic, to join the ranks amongst the grace that saves by stating "mortal life shall cease" but still be personal with "I shall posses"

So when the poem goes prophetic at the end:

     This earth shall soon dissolve like snow
     The sun forbear to shine;
     But God, who call'd me here below,
     Will be for ever mine.

The grace becomes blurred to a more didactic peace.  It's like reading two different poems -- the first half discussing the definition and power of grace according to the speaker, the second preaching that this grace saves lives, more importantly his life, but lives.

Weirdly, I feel this poem is a bit on the selfish side on being saved.