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.