Saturday, July 5, 2014

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.

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