Saturday, August 30, 2014

Analysis of "Double Floor" by Kay Ryan

Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "Double Floor" by Kay Ryan
More Information about the Poet: Kay Ryan



The quote kind of summarizes the entire poem, "...one sometimes does have a sense that / There is a double floor someplace..."  yes, the speaker does sense the "doublefloor" but the speaker uses different images to define the idea.

     The dual pupiled
     frog eye can 
     scan for food 
     and trouble
     above and below
     the water at once.

The key for this stanza is what the frog is looking out for as the idea, the term "doublefloor" has been hinted at.  Yes, the frog can look above and below but for the purpose of looking for food and trouble.  "food" and "trouble" are ambiguous terms, but specific needs.

But, the poem is focused on the definition, "Many forms of / doubleness serve / local purposes"  they key to this stanza is "local."  here the speaker is announcing  more of a specific area, but the poem goes universal.  What does this mean?  Once again the duality is played up of senses and of reading:

     lulling us to 
     the essential 
     focal baffling
     inherent in
     experience

the moment the speaker uses "us" the poem expands outward.  Universal (collective consciousness) based upon "focal baffling" -- a too focused (perhaps singular) confusion.  The couplet at the end, "how the splits / keep happening"  Food and trouble, local and universal, confusion and clarity.  These concepts aren't separate and inhabit the same space.



Friday, August 29, 2014

Analysis of "Caritas" by Rachael Boast

Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "Caritas" by Rachael Boast
More Information about the Poet: Rachael Boast




Caritas.  I wonder how virtue plays a part in this poem, which, I think, is more of an eckphrastic piece.  As I am rereading this poem, I focus more on how the speaker addresses language as this poem is very planned down to the usage of adjectives and nouns.

"These stones speak a level language / murmured word by word,"  The first two lines of this quatrain plays with alliteration: "s" "l" and "w."  The sounds come at a fast pace and pays attention to itself within the structure; furthermore, the content itself about how the "stones" speak.  At this point, I feel the speaker and the setting are very similar.  "a speech pocked and porous with loss, / and the slow hungers of weathering"  So the language turns from basic "word by word" to a more precise language which anthropomorphizes: pocked, porous from loss and weathering.  If what I stated (building and speaker are similar) then the place serves more of a metaphor for what the speaker feels.

But then the shift in the second quatrain with the focus on "voice" (not language):

     And there, in the broken choir, children
     are all raised voice, loving the play of outline
     and absence where the dissembled god
     has shared his shape and homed us.

The poem expands from the pores to hole and within this whole is the voice of singing children.  The line is a bit awkward with the "children are all raised voice" which puts the metaphor on too hard on the voice as much as the pointed metaphor of the "absence where the dissembled god" has more of a negative connotation which applies to the "us,"  How does this relate to the speaker/structure?  Well, the "us" definitely applies as someone shaped. But this could also represent the internal struggle as we..

"At the end of the nave, the east front stands / both altered and unchanged / its arch like a glottal stop" So with this tercet, the focus to is in the second line, "both altered and unchanged" this sense of opposites seems a bit abrupt, but "altered" could meant how time changed the building, and "unchanged" when the time breaks down things and no one wants to put things together.  But this feels like a stretch for the structure metaphor and even further for the speaker one.

What this could be is just description of a place, as just place.  A reset of the metaphor to set up the last three lines.  The transition is slightly there due to the change of structure, "And what comes across, half-said / into all that space, is that it's enough / to love the air we move through."  I don't think the last line is earned.  Yeah, I do see the holes and porous set-up to lead to the air, but  there seems a lot left unsaid.  So many different techniques used: alliteration, sound, speech, metaphor, simile, language.  But it doesn't add up for me.  Perhaps this is the point - just parts to try to make a whole.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Analysis of "Practice Test" by Anne Cecelia Holmes

Original poem reprinted online here: "Practice Test" by Anne Cecelia Holmes
More information about the Poet:  Anne Cecelia Holmes



There are two "if" gambits in this poem.  When I was rereading this poem, I felt the crux of the poem is how to interpret the two "if" lines, but first the set-up:

     I almost say formula
     but instead say data
     and I am not interested
     in the kind of brilliance
     this offers.

I quoted the whole section because these lines feel like character description lines which indicate thought.  For example, it's not the differentiation between "formula" and "date" (although one is a prerequisite for the other) but the self-awareness of "saying" one thing rather than the other.  Note, the speaker is not "wrong" in any case, but knows and says different things.  Furthermore, the connection through the conjunction of "and" gives connects the ideas, this awareness of mix-ups, to a more expansive idea -- the apathy of brilliance -- simple clarification.

In reference to a "practice test" -- the ability to differentiate (like a multiple choice test) is the difference between good scores and bad scores, but added to this mix is self-awareness.

"If I don't / have a kingdom I don't / need a pendulum."  Here's the first if statement.  This seems more like a cause and effect line.  If the speaker had a kingdom, then a pendulum, a sort of punishment, wouldn't be necessary.  This is somewhat important, but look at the use of the negative to prove a point which leads to nowhere -- somewhat like the practice test tip of "narrowing down what isn't there."  This isn't there and so is this brilliance.

     [...] If I
     perform what I know
     as true unloveliness
     I am a new creature
     and I am brave enough
     to be be wounded

Note the thread of a mythos (kingdom) informing the next line.  And also note that the first half of the line is based on the negative "true unloveliness" to develop something, a "new creature" and the lines "I am brave enough / to be wounded." Seem to be more physical lines in a mental poem.   But, the idea of "wound" here can apply to both which is a drastic difference from the apathy portrayed in the beginning of the poem.

Another key is in the next line " I break / approximately and unfurl /from an understanding."  Note the usage of approximate as though the person cannot be fully analyzed -- the physical not matching up with mental.

"my own bell curve / as it flattens /against the world."  The image is interesting and adds a surrealness to the speaker and applies to both the physically and mentally.  The bell curve image ties in with the idea of a practice test, a more mental game; however, this, applied physically could represent  the "average" of many or the "distinction" at the edges.  I'm not too sure.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Analysis of "The Journey of the Magi" by T.S. Eliot

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Journey of the Magi" by T.S. Eliot
More information about the Poet:  T.S. Eliot





I know I'm out of my league in analyzing this poem.  I have a feeling that I need to know more about Christian allusions and T.S. Eliot to truly understand this poem.  It's not like there aren't good analysis of this poem already:

Shmoop
Modern American Poetry

I only link to these.  I haven't read them at all. I just know that the two above are the most legitimate of analysis sites.  Why haven't I read them?  My analysis of this poem will not be better, but it will be my own.  Whatever conclusions may come of it, regardless of right or wrong, will be what I think at this time.  But I did like about not reading these, I only read the first sentence of the Shmoop one and it reaffirmed my belief.

This poem portrays the journey of the three wise men as they go and greet the newly born Christ.  However, if you didn't get the allusion, then I don't think it's a big deal.  The focus in this poem is the journey that the speaker goes through, and to what end the goal is achieved.

"'A cold coming we had of it, / Just the worst time of year / For a journey, and such a long journey:"  The colon will play a big part in this poem in order to define or list what is currently there or what is felt.  Lists will play a big part.  But first, this setting tells more of the mindset of this speaker than the time of year -- the speaker is in the midst of a "long journey" or is the speaker looking back on the long journey -- the past tense really messes with the point of view:

     The ways deep and the weather sharp,
     The very dead of winter.'
     And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
     Lying down in the melting snow.

And the scene doesn't get any better -- there is something gritty about the language here -- "very dead of winter" and the description of the camels emphasis the line, "There were time we regretted" as a concept line that oversees the poem; however, to the concept of the poem, the regret goes to these lines:

     The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
     And the silken girls bringing sherbet
     Then the  camel men cursing and grumbling
     and running away, and wanting their liquor and women

Gritty, or rather more realistic.  Yes, there's regret on something physical and simple in the summer, but then there's the overall discussion of the "camel men" somewhat like the speaker wanting the liquor and women -- physical and immediate satisfaction.  The lines even go more expansive:

     And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
     And the cities hostile and the town unfriendly    
     And the villages dirty and charging high prices:    
     A hard time we had of it.

And note how the anaphora of "and" expands the poem outward from "fires" to cities" and "villages" -- the wanderers overstay their welcome and they are belligerent, but there's a sense of self awareness of this with the last line of the stanza, "That this was all folly."  Self-awareness that what they are doing might be wrong, but also that the journey itself could be a "folly."

The backdrop shifts with a changing of scene, "Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley, / Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation,"  Note the immediate transfer of location from village of "liquor and women" to "smelling of vegetation,"  The more this place is described, the more metaphorical the scene gets, "water-mill beating the darkness" and "three trees on the low sky."  And even though the surrounding hints of the divine, and they would go back to there ways, "we came to a tavern" but "there was no information, and so we continued."

But the real kicker of the second stanza is the last line, "Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory."  Finding the "lord" is a satisfactory moment?  The speaker had more emotion in the beginning of the journey regretting the summers and perhaps the winter, and so the apathy with this line foreshadows the "reason" that the third stanza for the apathy.

The speaker is indeed looking back on his journey and asserts, "I would do it again" but " set down / This set down / This"  The repetition of "set down" and "this" feels like the speaker is trying to ground the divine, and ground his experience, but actually it's more to pontificate:

     [...] were we led all that way for
     Birth or Death?  There was a Birth, certainly
     We had evidence and no doubt.  I had seen birth and death,
     But had thought they were different;

Here starts the inner struggle for the higher metaphor.  Is what they did more representational of understanding birth or death?  How the speaker describes his journey is in "realistic" terms by the use of gritty images and sinful wants -- it's something I relate to as a person, but did they (the magi) accomplish the lofty higher metaphor goal?

     [...]this Birth was
     Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
     We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
     But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
     With an alien people clutching their gods.
     I should be glad of another death.

Here's the tricky thing about this line, when the magi return to their lands they have knowledge of the divine -- but is it true or not?  Back in their kingdoms the magi note, "with an alien people clutching their gods."  How hard is it to see your people clutch to "false idols" when they know the "truth" and could do nothing about it (yes, impose a divine order, but this is not the point).  All their people, theoretically, will go to Hell for their disbelief; meanwhile, the magi only have, "Death, our death" a hard and bitter agony for them.  Their generosity affords them the knowledge and this knowledge can only afford them bitterness.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Analysis of "The Oxen" by Thomas Hardy

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Oxen" by Thomas Hardy
More information about the Poet:  Thomas Hardy



When I was in grad school, my professor analyzed this poem.  I don't have anything contrary to what he saw, so this is the iteration of what Samuel Maio said about this poem.  The poem is written in quatrains with an alternating abab rhyme scheme.  Why? There's a separation or there will be a separation.

But the first stanza hints at this separation:

     Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
     "Now they are all on their knees,"
     An elder said as we sat in a flock
     By the embers hearthside ease.

Here's the setting -- Christmas eves and an "elder" in which the speaker seems to listen to tells the story of how "they" are all on their knees.  Who are they?

     We pictured the meek mild creatures where
     They dwelt in their strawy pen,
     Nor did it occur to one of us there
     To doubt they were kneeling then.

The picturesque scene of the "meek mild creatures" kneeling is what "we" envision.  Note that since this is a highly christian allusive poem the usage of "meek" and "mild" could also be a reference to the speaker's innocent self. There was no doubt until the twist.

     So fair a fancy few would weave
     In these years!  Yet, I feel,
     If someone said on Christmas Eve,
     "Come; see the oxen kneel"

The exclamation with the first two lines is buffered with the alliteration of "f' and the indirectness of the tale as "fancy" and "weave."  What I mean is that for an exclamation, the speaker doesn't exclaim anything.  Indeed what was said by the elder seems farcical, but that "yet" changes the tone back to the "meek" as though to want to disagree.

     "In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
     Our childhood used to know,"
     I should go with him in the gloom,
     Hoping it might be so.

And yes, the speaker second guesses wanting to believe which is a synecdoche of a bigger faith.  But the big question is who is this "someone" that is asking?  What makes this poem have even more impact is that the speaker is looking for is not internal.  Rather external: proof that the meek will kneel in reverence, proof that someone will get the speaker up and check, and proof that hope is still within him.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Analysis of "[little tree]" by E. E. Cummings

Original poem reprinted online here: "[little tree]" by E. E. Cummings
More information about the Poet:  E. E. Cummings


Well this poem has a deeper meaning, but please, it's kind of weird...maybe because I'm looking at the poem based on sensory images.  In any case, the little tree refers to a Christmas tree; furthermore, the poem conforms to a quatrain pattern to be a little more predictable.  But not really.

     little tree
     little silent Christmas tree
     you are so little
     you are more like a flower

So this stanza focuses on the visual aspect of the Christmas tree, and note how the size is the qualifier for the simile -- small (more) like a flower.  The focus seems like aesthetics:

     who found you in the green forest
     and were you very sorry to come away?
     see         i will comfort you
     because you smell so sweetly.

 Yeah.  The rhetorical question right after personifies the tree to be in the defeat or to be "sorry."  And then the line, "I will comfort you," is an interesting line and then, "because you smell so sweetly" the reasoning is what makes the image seem out of place.  And I'm like, oh okay, something innocent.

"i will kiss your cool bark / and hug you safe and tight" No.  Just no.  Even if the perspective from a child, the language is too intimate and a little too genuine.  I can see the poem be a ironic stance with a cynical approach to the season, but, "just as your mother would, / only don't be afraid."

So here I am trying to figure out why the language is like this in this poem and feeling dirtier after every time I reread this poem.  The language of the tree turns more and more away to a child, and yes, perhaps the connection here is the metaphor of the tree to a child with, "put up your little arms / and i'll give them all to you to hold / every finger shall have its ring"  I'm not sure this poem works now, it just seems a bit creepy to me (or my tainted mind).

The last stanza though with this build up for the tree/child to be an idol ends with:

     and my little sister and i will take hands
     and looking up at our beautiful tree
     we'll dance and sing
     "Noel Noel"

This information should be sooner.  As I noted before, that the perspective of the child would buffer such intense and intimate language, but this is still a bit creepy -- the raising of an idol and then the worship is nothing new, but with such intimate terms kind of defiles the innocence.  I think it's just me.  I'm sorry to ruin this poem with my perspective.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Analysis of "A Dream, After Reading Dante's Episode of Paolo And Francesca" by John Keats

Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "A Dream, After Reading Dante's Episode of Paolo And Francesca" by John Keats
More Information about the Poet: John Keats



This is one of the toughest poems I've ever tried to read.  There are so many allusions in this poem and how they interplay as images, as symbols, as references, as points, that I just couldn't (cannot) wrap my head around it.  But, I wanted to come back and figure it out the best I could.  I can only do my best.

But first, this is an Elizabethan sonnet with no line breaks to simulate a continuous movement.  So what makes this poem difficult is from the onset the reader and the speaker is in a dream world about a dream world.  Meta.  Dante's Inferno has so many allusions, so we have to start with the title.

Dante's episode of Paolo and Francesca is in Canto V of the Inferno.  Here's some good analysis of the scene, here's the most important piece of information to me:

"Francesca, according to Boccaccio, was blatantly tricked into marrying Gianciotto, who was disfigured and uncouth, when the handsome and elegant Paolo was sent in his brother's place to settle the nuptial contract. Angered at finding herself wed the following day to Gianciotto, Francesca made no attempt to restrain her affections for Paolo and the two in fact soon became lovers. Informed of this liaison, Gianciotto one day caught them together in Francesca's bedroom (unaware that Paolo got stuck in his attempt to escape down a ladder, she let Gianciotto in the room); when Gianciotto lunged at Paolo with a sword, Francesca stepped between the two men and was killed instead, much to the dismay of her husband, who then promptly finished off Paolo as well. Francesca and Paolo, Boccaccio concludes, were buried--accompanied by many tears--in a single tomb. "

So the tricked woman (Francesca) wants to find love, but she was tricked.  Dante sympathizes with her plight in the Canto.  Now the other portion of the analysis which is quite useful is the explanation of anaphora:

"Francesca's eloquent description of the power of love (Inf. 5.100-7), emphasized through the use of anaphora, bears much the same meaning and style as the love poetry once admired by Dante and of which he himself produced many fine examples. "

Note how this style will come back to the Keat's sonnet.

So we're done with the title.  Yes, only the title.

Now we're into the first two lines, "As Hermes once took his feather light, / When lulled, Argus, baffled, swooned and slept, "  Now in order to understand these lines, you would need to know the tale of Argus and how Hermes slew Argus by pretending to be a shepherd and lulling Argus to sleep.  Why was Argus killed? Argus was holding Io captive from Zeus (Hermes did the dirty work basically).

The following talks about the midst of slumber, "So on a Delphic reed, my idle  spright / So played, so charmed, so conquered, so bereft."  Here's where the anaphora comes in.  Note how the speaker is falling asleep keeping an eye on "my idle spright" the woman just like Francesca describing love through anaphora.  But look at how the description of the "spright" is played, charmed, conquered and bereft -- a mixing pot of emotions.

But the next lines (quatrain) goes back to the speaker:

     The dragon-world of all its hundred eyes;
     And seeing it asleep, so fled away,
     Not to pure Ida with its snow-cold skies,
     Nor unto Tempe, where Jove grieved a day;

The switch of Greek and Roman gods irritate me the most here, but it could mean a transition in time -- generational "grieving" for a snide day. 

But the focus should be on the first two lines which references Argus again and how  his slumber not see anything.  Now in context to the Paolo and Francesca, note how the male person is asleep and/or grieving to match the female spright who is at a loss.  What the speaker is trying to do is connect so many allusions together to comment on them.  Note how Jove is grieving for the day for Io but also, "But to that second circle of sad Hell" the circle where Paolo and Francesca are.  There's sympathy from foreign gods, the speaker, and Dante on this situation.

The next three lines describe their hell, "Where in the gust, the whirlwind, and the flaw / Of rain and hail-stones, lovers need not tell / Their sorrows.  Pale were the sweet lips I saw."  Here's the important distinction here.  With all the sound and images and allusions, the way to tell separated lovers is the "pale sweet lips."  or rather the lack of contact -- as a dream is out of contact with reality.

So the couplet at the end, "Pale were the lips I kissed, and fair the form / I floated with, about that melancholy storm."   Is the speaker trying to revive those lips, that love, regardless how forbidden it is.  The speaker is willing to connect a love (albiet through him) and go through that lust whirlwind.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Analysis of "The House on the Hill" by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "The House on the Hill" by Edwin Arlington Robinson
More Information about the Poet: Edwin Arlington Robinson


This is a villanelle.  Past me tried to make sense of the form and wondered why did the lines repeat themselves, and why the rhyme scheme.  Distance does make things appear different.

But that's the point of this poem in particular -- how "they are all gone now" and how this distance changes the perspective of "the house on the hill."

So the two refrain lines in the poem are, "They are all gone away," and "There is nothing more to say."  The first refrain has a somber tone of leaving and the second refrain has more of a mysterious quality since the poem, indeed, says something.

"Through broken walls and gray / The winds blow bleak and shrill: / They are all gone away.  The first usage of the first refrain brings more of the after effects -- they are all gone only the broken and the bleak and shrill wind.  Happy setting.

"Nor is the one to-day / To speak them good or ill: / There is nothing more to say."  So the speaker emphasizes no one is there, but note the "nothing more to say line" comes in as though to end the setting and shift to a new idea.

"Why is it then we stray / Around the sunken sill? / They are all gone away,"  and here the rhetorical question is a bit subdues the introduction of the "we" a bit since the poem is very visually oriented, but this rhetorical questions asks the reader why are we still her reading this poem if nothing is there.  They are all gone away, aren't they?

"And our poor fancy-play / For them is wasted skill: / There is nothing more to say."  So the subject is a bit more focused here with the adjective of "poor" and even though the setting feels more from a horror story, the background narrative to this piece is the poor that had to leave.  Think Great Depression.  Think Dust Bowl.  Both gloomy and dark.

     There is ruin and decay
        In the House on the Hill:
     They are all gone away,
     There is nothing more to say.

Now the ruin and decay plays a bit too much on the gloomy and dark, but note that the language adds a surreal element to loss, and by expanding the image to such proportions the concept of the poor is in the background compared to what is left behind. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Analysis of "Douglas Fir" by Ken Howe

Original poem reprinted online here: "Douglas Fir" by Ken Howe
More information about the Poet: Ken Howe


The first thing I wrote about this poem was it looks similar to "Robinson Jeffers lines" -- long lines that have some tinge of nature to them.  And I think the poem utilizes the style of Jeffers to still revere nature but add a bit more to it as well.

The first lie seems like a Jeffers line discussing the sacredness of a douglas fir, but the language is a bit different in the end, "where it is more rare."  Here the speaker talks about value in the sense of existence while Jeffers tended to be enveloped in nature.  Basically the speaker places himself as a judgement position which differs.

But then the speaker seemingly refers back to nature, "Frequently alone in a meadow, surrounded by dropped fir cones, needles bestrewing its pedestal, its dais."  "dais" once again the word shifts the context of the poem which now is a stage for a point of view.

"The Douglas-Fir can eschew standing in a fire which burns but does not consume when it interpellates a Charlton Heston or other zealot"  Well, the only clear thing is that Charlton Heston is compared to with a zealot.  But the burning makes the tree into a metaphor.  Why is it burning? Who knows.  But know that the trees burning  showcases zealots like Charlton Heston (known for gun rights).  Those two don't necessarily mix but, "Its aloofness is its sufficient interpellative act, cleanly articulate in the thin alpine silence."  The Douglas-fir is anthropomorphized as "aloof"  and the focus is the act being noticed (the burning) than the silence.

Not necessarily true to the speaker, "The meadow is filled with this silence, Ukrainian dolls of it radiating from the tree, a choir of bumblebees in the goat-grazed grass:"  And here the silence adds more, but it seems like more from the speaker.  The metaphor of the silence being equivalent to these images that the speaker knows "Ukrainian Dolls" and "bumblebees"

And this type of silence is further defines with "the tree the omega point of a labyrinth of columbine and saxifrage encompassing the entire valley and diagramming, in labelled SI units, each isobar of its beatitude."  And even though there's a sense of the divine at the end definition, there's something more that defines this silent beatitude.

First the reference to flowers of columbine and saxifrage.  For me, I keep the shooting in mind when I read the line, but maybe the  allusion comes up too easily for me, but the reference to Chalton Heston kind of corroborates my theory, but only the slightest way.

Furthermore though the mention of the flowers, columbine and saxifrage, feel like a microcosm of this poem where the columbine stands out -- reference and flower -- above the saxifrage (low growing plant).

Then the switch to electrical technical language of diagramming and SI units somewhat sets a precursor to the change of landscape and the usage of the word "isobar" contrasts the beatitude -- the mixture of silence, science and reverence to overtake the previous metaphor.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Analysis of "Corpse Flower, Luna Moth" by Daniel Tobin

Original poem reprinted online here: "Corpse Flower, Luna Moth," by Daniel Tobin
More information about the Poet: Daniel Tobin

So I want to start with the last stanza of the poem:

              to say something
   wordlessly -- the word we too
             can neither speak
                      nor sing.

And this poem seems like a stream of consciousness song -- that the title, "Corpse flower,  Luna Moth" are connected through image and the speaker is trying to find out more through language, image, song, and just thought.  But there are hiccups along the way to anchor the speaker to the image as the adjectives to the subject anchor meaning.  Also since the lines are so short and the alignment, which fluctuates with each line, have a structural importance, I'm going to fluctuate between the line and the form as a I quote them depending which I think stands out more.

For example, the first stanza I think the usage of the word "corm" grounds the description of the plant and the speaker, for now with the previous lines a bit too focused on metaphor on the onset, "The deep win / of it risen tall above / the buried"  And so there's the interplay of plant terminology and, "its ornamental / spathe furrowed though-/ fully,"  The usage of compound seems "messy" but note how the line after, "to human / warmth" brings in a human element to the poem instead of description of the flower.





I feel the turn in this first half happens in stanza three:

     O un-branched
   inflorescence, amorpho-
            phalos, misshapen
              swelling,

This is more of the visual aspect of the poem and feels more organic because of the dashes to make something fit.  Sure, the language is a bit high here, but there is a shift of tone with things broken up -- death and, "allure / of rotting flesh / for the scarabs"  again with the human element but this time a turn of the emotions (allure) with a scene (rotting flesh) to describe this flower.  and note the play of language, "follow, / hollow" that makes the lines appear more on the language level than on the image.

"all / dark were light unibidden" this generality seems a bit out of place, but keep an eye on "unbidden" the negation factor here.

Although these lines, "love itself / hidden inside / the word" is simple language which bids the reader to look what is hidden with the language and with the flower itself:

     Call it life
   entrapt with death's
      blight, bloming
           briefly.

The alliteration at the end creates more of an artifice than anything else for me.  This flower is definitely a representation of death through the words and symbols -- difficult or simple.




Theoretically, the second half is more about the Luna Moth, so the shift in tone and image isn't too surprising, "Emergent morning / in the sweet gum triggering," So instead of symbol we get action here of, "green, green / its wings"  And the description goes a bit overboard to contrast the Corpse flower section, "fanning translucent" "Angelic / a palm of light / opening"

So at the third stanza, I wondered where is the language and image play?  Here is a reverence, the poem somewhat turns for me with, "Hallowed, hatched / each instar inches undercover"  Once again the play of alliteration and assonance used differently here -- to add more whimsy than the first section being a little more ironic.

Then the return, "larval, alluvial / out of every cycles shelf-/ life"  The same splitting technique, the same encyclopedic language and the key here is "cycles" as though to state that yes, this reverence cycles as well as death.  But note how both images are portrayed as singular -- not even comparative.  I could say, that up until this point, it feels like I'm reading two different poems with the thin connections of death and "angelic" uses of language and images.

"brief birth flying, flown, thrown / at midnight into beginning"  note the play of language and the repetition here again reinforces the whimsy, but also note the language of "brief" coming back as though to say this moment and the last moment are just that -- moments.

"Mouth-less, it appears / something bidden out of the dark,  / out of the broadleaf,"  So, if I remember my animal facts correctly -- luna moths come out of the chrysalis without mouths and cannot feed.  They are meant to re-procreate and then die.  But note the language returning -- the dark and something bidden -- coming towards.  Is the moth the light unbidden that defines the dark?  Rather the situation.  Again, the connections are there, but the leaps might be too much, and maybe this is the point of the poem.

     to say something
   wordlessly--the word we too
       can neither speak
           nor sing.

Remember that "hidden inside the word" well that's meaning and only thought of in the "death" portion.  And here, in the whimsy alive until death portion -- that love is not there through words - why?  It cannot be spoken or sung.  It is the lack of connection, no matter how hard we try through language or image, which can never be connected.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Analysis of "Tense" by Cullen Bailey Burns

Original poem reprinted online here: "Tense" by Cullen Bailey Burns
More information about the Poet:  Cullen Bailey Burns


Written in couplets where the focus of the poem is on the construction on the first and last stanza, but the rest of the poem is trying to hint at a relationship that either neither becomes fully formed or is malformed.  I know, one is set in the creation and one is set in the aftermath, but the medium doesn't pop to me (the middle of the poem) as the beginning and end does.

"Am smitten, I said, and the grass lay still, / and him on it, and I barely lied."  Here is a variety of puns and subject/object play here.  When the speaker admits "Am smitten" the object should follow, right?  And when the object is "the grass lay still" there's something odd going on construction wise; furthermore, the enjambment of "him" to the next line brings doubt to what the speaker is smitten with (currently) the lack of movement that the speaker shares ("I lied") or the him.
Also, the usage of "lied" at the end could refer to what the speaker is saying.  There's some subterfuge going on here:

     I couldn't stand his shoulders, how
     they rounded, how the past tense

     would have ached in them.  The true word
    never left its place beneath my tongue

So for a couplet focused poem, I chose to single out these four lines since this is a change of pace which also works -- here the speaker is nitpicking aspects of "him" and turning "him" more into a craft talk.  The talk about shoulders interest me because I keep wondering how shoulder look like and I don't think they can be anything but round, but the definition of round, in this case, is supplemented with "how the past tense / would have ached in them" -- a call to technique.  Here it would've been simple as "the past would've ached in them" but the specific call out to technique brings a more "ars poetica" tone to the piece especially with the play of the truth as "The true word / never left its place beneath my tongue."  The truth not being said but hidden where things are said.  The connection and what the connection here is more of a mystery.

Which is never really followed through, "as the sun cast down gold, September, / and the crickets sang," this could be an extension of the "truth" or "lie" but this feels more like a distraction (as in focusing on the setting like the speaker does), "telling us how the cold would come /from the warm tangle of our arms," and the tactile premonition from the crickets foreshadows the relationship, but again, I felt like the first couplet based on technique.

"and legs entwined in what? / We couldn't stop imagining." So the parallel image of the crickets further punctuate the separation also with the terse rhetorical question of "what."  However what is interesting with this stanza is that the usage of "we" comes into play as though the "him" at this point, thinks the same way as the speaker -- but note the continuous images of body parts: shoulders, arms, and legs -- the description of a brief coupling which ends with, "I lay beside him, my hands cold, / wishing largesse from fall,"  Of course the diction that doesn't quite fit in, "largesse" stands out to hide the cold form a bit -- generosity in bestowing money or gifts -- and with the description in the background this seems more like a tryst for a financial gain (or at least the description makes it seem like that).

"From the future, until our silence / opened the day wide,"  the opening of the day wide signals a sense of escape of both away from each other not with each other, "(as lightning / does the sky sometimes)" the parenthitcal seems to be more of the speaker's thoughts on the issue to press further the separation; meanwhile, "and he said / am? was? what does it matter with this thirst?"

A couple of interesting things with the last stanza -- the juxtaposition between what's thought and what's said is pretty much equivalent to each other except for the he says the separation as the speaker experiences it.  Furthermore, the parenthetical, although separates, encloses the thoughts of the speaker but he actions are open like the day.  Lastly, the last rhetorical question "what does it matter with this thirst?" doesn't necessarily imply his thirst rather, subtly, their thirst.    There's an assumption on the "him" on motive.  Maybe he's right, Maybe he was right.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Analysis of "The Architecture of Sunlight" by A. E. Stringer

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Architecture of Sunlight" by A. E. Stringer
More information about the Poet:  A. E. Stringer


So the poem, 3 septets, follows the sunlight and what it illuminates:

     Imagine the sandstone sun just
     before down, streaming through
     the lattice of the garret's
     broad windows

But the key here is the very first word -- imagine.  The speaker engages the reader not to be in the scene or actually envision it -- but rather to set the scene open to imagination, but it's not necessarily what the light illuminates.  Here the light focuses on structure and form -- note the lack of judgement rather the form exposed.

      [...] dusk orange
     levered up on the far wall
     Even your room inclines westward,
     somber shadows to begin

So the shift in tone follows the lack of light -- dusk orange.  The introduction of the you is to "your room" and the description of the "somber shadows" indicates, maybe too much, something leaving -- perhaps through death or memory, whichever.  Know the tone shifts from exposing in the light mystery in the dark.

"As the ceiling admits to evening, / a skylight slopes in the kitchen / Open it slowly,"  Here the style shifts from the more descriptive lines with the alliteration of "s" sprinkled throughout the poem -- a sort of routine that the speaker builds to a command of "open it slowly" action and tempo shifts for, "a single pane leveling / reflection."  What? A lot of adjectives to describe a very specific reflection in which the speaker places the utmost importance to (as though to make the reflection the big metaphor) but moves on, just like light, "Along the hip rafter's / diagonal, a tapestry arcs into the wedge / of a spare room."

So I'm not too sure at this moment if the tapestry represents the light or if it is really an ambiguously described artwork -- perhaps both.  The poem plays with actual language with hiccups of metaphorical imagery, but this comes off as a bit too poetic description of a place for me to look into.  "Day's heat rises / from downstairs and peaks / and goes out."  Now a different image of tactile that eventually "leaves" but feels more transposed to the next image since the line is so abrupt, "Later the candles."

"The way you gaze toward / the sky beyond the glass is no /fiction"  Past me feels this part is self-referential because the lines admit a gaze when all the speaker is doing is also gazing and creating a sort of non-fiction fiction.  Every image is set for a purpose, I'm pretty sure that's not the truth.  "Where all beams / converge is the center of your / thought" and the metaphor expands precisely, "a minor chord scissored, / gimlet sun refueling inward."  "Replenish?" is the word I put at the end.  So the poem is a construct of the speaker  -- through image, metaphor, simile , diction and at the end the artifice sun "refuels" -- this is like how a reflection (single pane or not) refuels the ego.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Analysis of "Sawhorses" by Greg Williamson

Original poem reprinted online here: "Sawhorses" by Greg Williamson
More information about the Poet:  Greg Williamson


Some notes I jotted down:


  • Rhyme scheme abbacc
  • Sestets
  • majority pentameter, majority iambic

Why did I write this down right away?  The press that published this poem is Able Muse which only publishes metrical verse.  Would I have known about the structure if I didn't know the publisher.  Probably, the form is pretty rigid just by reading the poem.  Of course, the subject matter of "Sawhorses" comes into play as well.

"Are these the fabled 'horses of the Sun,' / This team of no-trick ponies, these stick horses, / So far of now their stratospheric courses?"  What are these lines talking about?  Yes, there's a huge sense of the grandiose with language like, "fabled 'horses of the Sun" and "stratospheric courses,"  And even though I've reread the poem, the only image I can think of when talking about "Sawhorses" are:


So my mind contrasts the usable saw horses to a grandiose ones.  They don't match up.  

And I think the language, since it's so contrasting, the opening gambit of the rhetorical question works too humorously to me on the initial onset, but, as I stated, I reread this poem and the poem plays with the idea of the personal (mortal) and the grandiose (image), "Are these what's left of the race we read was run , / Outside the carriage house's doors he squints / In sizing up? Time flies."  So the rapid fire rhetorical questions serve as a build up of what is really there ("stratospheric courses" "we read was run") and how to take the past images.  The succinct time flies serves as a transition device to set up more rhetorical questions for example:

     [...] If there are hints

     Of the old line left in them, what do they draw
     For the charioteer without the robe or reins
     But just a ball cap and some Baily planes?

So now there's a questioning of the past and what do the images mean.  But it's a bit long winded I suppose, The last three questions basically ask the same existential question of purpose behind the race, the rider, the charioteer -- all symbols for something yet discovered as just, "A sheet of worked-up figures, some old saw, / And a few board feet once knew as 'wandering heart.'" Symbols as just items.  And with items (and the forced transition of "Time flew. Has flown") comes te question of, "And who would call this art?"  Now here's a concrete question that ties up the doubt building up with the previous lines.  This is the main question.

Now the response, "And yet recall your reckless eyes were lit / To stand behind them on your father's lawn / and dream the tall High Flyer Phaeton."  I think the key here is "High Flyer Phaeton" which is a mixture of both archaic language and pop-culture reference.  Yes, High Flyer seems like a riff on the brand of child wagons meanwhile a Phaeton refers to a carriage:




So is this poem a question of aesthetics: contemporary versus classic?  A bit too far out there based on the poem, "Go blazing fast and touch the brace and bit / You couldn't turn but asked to try. ' Village in flames and river dry'? Note quite"  These lines feel more like the experience of the forward, black and white thinking (going fast unable to turn) versus asking questions (a bit self-referential and grandiose with the answer being "not-quite" which can refer to asking the "right questions") but the poem continues with the image of the flame.

"And still a flame though cooler now aspires / In these two rearing cutouts with a look / He got from Geek amphoras in a book"  These are linguistic simple lines that lack real meaning for me.  Who is the he and why end the stanza with him?  What does the flame represent and why does it aspire while being cooler?  And yes the "cutouts" could be form books, but the build up dies down from "An who would call this art?" from a more grandiose perspective to a more, to me, forced perspective that needs to tie in the questions and the images, "A simulacrum of those high fliers."  And yes, this does seem like a reference to Harold Bloom's "The Age of Influence" on how the contemporary writer is just a simulacrum of the past, but there's no strength in this stance when the build up of rhetorical questions and the grandiose built the poem.

In which the poem does end in that style, "In brilliant heats they tumbled in, or won-- / Hitched to a gilt medallion of the sun"  Awestruck?  Note how the past has a brilliant heat and the present has a cooler one, and how the medallion of the sun compares to "reckless eyes."  What is created in the past was art.  What is created in the present are cutouts.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Analysis of "Happy first anniversary (in anticipation of your thirty ninth)" by Bob Hicok

Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "Happy first anniversary (in anticipation of your thirty ninth)" by Bob Hicok
More Information about the Poet: Bob Hicok


Past me wrote, "move to a different narrative," and even though this poem feels like a Best Man's speech, there is a move to a different narrative -- the singular to the plural and, perhaps, to the singular again.  The single stanza forces the connections between everything with no breaks.  However, the poem has a sense of speed due to the syntax and the language.

The first person perspective in the first introductory lines has a sense of humor behind them, "I don't have much time.  I'm an important person / to chickadees and mourning doves, whose feeder / was smashed last night by a raccoon." Here the language is too real, as though to define importance by building something that was once destroyed -- and how to fix this, "Soon / I'll be wielding duct tape, noticing the dew, / wanting to bathe in it,"  So the speaker has to define his perspective as one that tries to fix things with simple methods and is a little brash (bathing in dew).  But the speaker acknowledges this, "hoping the awkwardness / of yesterday (three instances with bear traps for mouths) never repeats itself / and we all go forward is if to party."  Here, the speaker seems to depict the lesser of two surreal evils -- the somewhat bizarre with a purpose, or the bear trap mouths who chomp.
We don't have a choice but to go along with the speaker who notices the boy who cannot smash candy out of a burro:

     It's too cute, the burro, too real
     for him not to ask his mother, can I keep it,
     and when the other children cry, they're given
     lake front property

This is what the speaker sees in the boy -- a boy who wants to keep the image of something cute rather than get whats inside, and this is contrary to the kids who want and get too much, "This / is what I see for you"  is the speaker referring to wanting more and getting too much, or the boy who wants to keep cute things that hold something more inside.  It's probably the latter.

And what is for the boy -- the play on "s" words:

     this isn't the SATs, don't think but stay
     Stay happy, honest, stay as tall as you are
     as long as you can using giraffes if you need to
     see each other above the crowd.

Note that the "s" words  add a sense of play to the poem, but the most important sound is the "t" which literally stops the sounds from getting to far where the speaker is asking the other to not stay still, not to be the kids who settle, but the ones who see above what the "crowd" wants.  And then the focus on the personal:

     when I realize I'm not breathing, my wife
     is never why I'm not breathing and always why
     I want to lick a human heart.

Kind of surreal and disturbing, but note how the speaker takes away the dream-like metaphor for something more disturbing as though this is the speakers true intent to "want."

This next part is important because this is the conceit to the rest of the poem.:

     [...] remember that each of you
     is half of why your bed will sag toward the middle
      of being a boat and that you both will sag
     if you're lucky together, be lucky together

"sag" is a verb that feels old.  There's no youthful "sagging' (of pants perhaps, but not directly with this poem), but in comes the tone of the "best man giving speech" but with the context of the speaker looking  at things in another perspective and noting the small, unique details in somewhat normal situations.

Sagging comes further as, "acquire in sagging more square footage / to kiss and to hold."  A developed metaphor that reminds the speaker, "I hate you for being so much closer / than I am to where none of us ever get to go / again -"  Yes, hate is a strong word, but not so much in this poem.  It is the observations the speaker makes that has the power:
   
     first look, first touch, first
     inadvertent brush of breath or hair, first time
     you turned over and looked who was surprising
     you by how fully she was there.

As the title says, the first anniversary is not necessarily only based on marriage, it may also be knowing, for a while, when these things occurred and in what space.  Sure the list is romantic and is grounded in what can actually happen, but is the last "first time" which I'm confused with, but also works with the parenthetical in the title.

The last line could be a development of something there or a loss as well, "how fully she was there."  To me, this signals the reverence of both the first and last anniversary because something fully could form or disappear.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Analysis of "Dedication" by Czeslaw Milosz

Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "Dedication" by Czeslaw Milosz
More Information about the Poet: Czeslaw Milosz

The use of the second person is hard to implement in poems.  The first question is always whom is the speaker referring to?  For example the first stanza:

     You whom I could not save
     Listen to me.
     Try to understand this simple speech as I would be ashamed of another.
     I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words.
     I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.

The first two lines of the poem seems as though announce the speaker addressing a specter (or spectator) with such a dire objective of "saving" someone. The speaker continues to try to persuade the other to listening to everything by saying the speech (monologue) will be simple, the speaker swears it.  But then the last line, "I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree" transforms the poem into a metaphorical rumination rather than a straight forward talk.  Poem over, right?  The speaker is giving the point of view over to the reader and the other.  We could walk away now or --

"What strengthened me, for you was lethal" now this is an interesting conceit to go off of.  The speaker gives a mysterious admission that draws me in, but then the "simple" language or explanation fades away, "You mixed up farewell to an epoch with the beginning of a new one, / Inspiration of hatred with lyrical beauty; / Blind force with accomplished shape."  This is the tricky part -- navigating through the generalities and how they intertwine.  But first, note that the speaker is telling how the other thinks, and by doing so, the speaker is thinking in a different mode.

"Farewell to an epoch" -- a long goodbye that leads to "the beginning of a new one" here is the key, the continuous cycles of goodbyes, of leaving behind, and in doing so, inspiration of hatred with lyrical beauty -- trying to deceive (through words) beauty as hatred, and force into shape.  This is construction issues based on how the speaker understands the others perspective: always with the intent to leave, always trying to hide hatred with beauty, always forcing things into shapes -- to say what?

The next stanza has something to say, "Here is a valley of shallow Polish rivers.  And immense bridge / Going into a white fog. Here is a broken city."  Note how direct the speaker  is with the naming of place (Poland) and also his perspective "white fog" and "broken city" -- again note the semi-colon on how these two perspectives connect "And the wind throws the screams of gulls on your grave / When I'm talking to you."  The connection of the city and the personal intertwine.  Also the other is confirmed as dead -- this is simple.  The poem could have ended with the exposing of the other, but the continuation feels like a search.

"What is poetry which does not save / Nations or people?"  Here I think the rhetorical question comes from exasperation.  The aesthetic does not save nations or people, but what does poetry do?

     A connivance with official lies,
     A song of drunkards whose throats will cut in a moment,
     Readings for sophomore girls.

Lies, drunk, and girls.  This seems like the end goal of the speaker when thinking of poetry, but ultimately:

     That I wanted good poetry without knowing it,
     That I discovered, late, its salutary aim,
     In this and only this I find salvation.

Note the salvation is personal, and the salvation is simple to state.  Note that the "you" was more in the generalities -- here the speaker looks for something more by stating what he wants simply.

"They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seeds / To feed the dead who would come disguised as birds."  A simple tale which is  a set-up to talk to the "you."

"I put this book here for you, who once lived / SO that you should visit us no more."  The question is who does "us" refer to -- the simple?  Or rather is the ghost more of a metaphorical figure that could represent the negative -- the hatred, the shallow through blurring aesthetics?  I feel the strong end is not the other who is not allowed to visit, but the specificity of time "Warsaw, 1945" to open and close the poem further: Open: maybe about World War Two or the death of a loved one during World War Two.  Closed: This sense of violence of letting go, letting go and leaving alone.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Analysis of "Travel Plaza" by Heather Christle

Original poem reprinted online here: "Travel Plaza" by Heather Christle
More information about the Poet: Heather Christle


Rhetoric, personal, white space.  It's how I see this poem.  And even though these seem to be different techniques and outlooks composed in a poem, they fold into each other quite well.

Well, that's what the poem states:

     The day not redolent
     of anything in particular
     but more generally
     it folds into itself
     a little bag that hides
     a large bag inside

So the rhetoric here is based on a visual metaphor of a little bag holding a folded up larger bag.  But before that, there is the play with ideas (particular versus general) and the image of smell defined within those parameters of particular and general.  So the folding technique based on rhetoric is there and the speaker has to be specific behind the meaning of this, "The day promises only / to give us this more"

Although not a direction, "give us this more" is this sense of folding -- the mixture of both the particular and general not having any meaning, think of compartmentalizing without the emotional attachment.  "What I am doing / right now I will do / in perpetuity."  I do think the key term here is perpetuity.  Not the definition, but rather the usage.  Perpetuity seems like a term mostly used in legal cases.  So this particular word sets the speaker and the rhetoric together within the confines of a boundary -- like folding to create a certain amount of space.

"a nation I cannot leave / with no such thing as a passport . the wrongness of my papers"  The construction of these three lines are awkward.  I don't think the transition between the perpetuity and content mesh totally together, but perhaps this is the point as the last line, "same letters       different order" don't entirely mesh together either based on the white space.  Here the separation is important to show a further contrast things folding in together: day, bag, self, letters to what is lost to a "different order."  Being stuck in a "Travel Plaza" with no where to go based on a logical sequence.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Analysis of "Eighth Air Force" by Randall Jarrell

Original poem reprinted online here: "Eighth Air Force" by Randall Jarrell
More information about the Poet:  Randall Jarrell


Cinquains with a couplet rhyme scheme at the end of each stanza.  In the poem there's the continuous image of youth through the obvious symbol of "puppy," but what's intertwined with the youth is a sense of obvious violence as well.  However, how do this images interact?

"If, in an odd angle of the butment, / A puppy laps the water from a can / Of flowers, and the drunk sergeant shaving."  So we're introduced to the setting -- there's flowers and puppies, and then there's a butment with a drunk sergeant shaving.  Not necessarily violence, but there seems to be a foreshadow of something more, but, "Whistles O Paradiso!--shall I say that man / Is not as men have said: a wolf to man?"  What's the most important part that's added here is the judgement call. Not from the speaker, but what the speaker expects the outsiders (readers) to think.  This perspective continues throughout the piece.  However, the neither wolf nor man definition continues as well.  The mention of O Paradiso! feels like it's trying too hard to ironize the piece with already obvious symbols.

"The other murderers troop in yawning; / Three of them play Pitch, one sleeps, and one / Lies counting missions, " So the violence is there, but only in name.  murderer is the title that is given to the people, but what are they actually doing -- sleeping, counting missions, play pitch.  The speaker is humanizing people and not going off the concept which is the core of this piece -- the concept (which comes from symbols like the puppy and the O Paradiso!) versus the actual -- men shaving, men sleeping.  "Till even his heart beats: One; One; One. / O murderers! ... Still, this is how it's done:"  Note the singular, the man counting missions, and how the "one" is more of an illusive symbol: unit, last mission, responsibility (I am the one), then the culmination of "murderers" again strikes more of a personal cord, "This is a war" and this line is the slight justification to change a topic.  The poem could go more with the "war aspect."

Instead, "But since these play, before they die, / like puppies with their puppy; since, a man, I did as these have done, but did not die--"  The speaker reveals himself in the end, but before there is a sense of a unified fatalism that cleanses the stain of murderer.  Cleansed to the point of innocence -- puppies with their puppy,  This is what the speaker looks back upon, but not necessarily what the speaker wants, "I will content the people as I can/ and give up these to them: Behold the man!"  These lines seem more self-referential to the poem itself.  The act of humanizing with the "Behold the man!" focusing more on the "man" part and not the "murderer" apart.

"I have suffered, in a dream, because of him, /Many things; for this last savior, man, / I have lied as I lie now, But what is lying?"  Dream and lying are important aspects to this poem.  The pun of "lie" intertwines with the personal, the poem, and the audience.  The speaker is lying in multiple ways, lying physically, and possibly lying to himself, the him, and to the audience, but why?  "This last savior" Yes, murdering people is not something justifiable to some -- even in war.

So when the rhetorical question comes of "what is lying." the image, "Men wash their hands, in blood, as best they can" has so many emotional tweaks with each phrase.  "Men wash their hands" is the action of cleansing or wanting to cleanse -- "in blood" is what is left with the lack of anything else around -- not water.  Why is this important?  A title sticks and no amount of water can change that.  "as best they can" and no matter how hard they try, they try because that's all they can do.

"I find no fault in this just man."  "Just" is a hard adjective to swallow here because the reader has to sympathize with the perspective of the speaker in order for the line to work.  It's one of the few cases where the rhetorical argument constructed with hyperbolic images has to be taken seriously in order for the last line to work.  This is war.  It's a difficult concept to wrap the mind around.  Behold the man!  Just seem the person as a person is also another hard concept to understand.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Analysis of "Ars Poetica" by Archibald MacLeish

Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "Ars Poetica" by Archibald MacLeish
More Information about the Poet: Archibald MacLeish



"A poem should be palpable and mute / as globed fruit,"  This is how this poem starts out -- humorous rhyme with the images being as realistically awkward as possible.  The funny thing is that this "Ars Poetica" or a poem about writing a poem changes but the form is the same -- couplets -- the writer and his words.

"Dumb / as old medallions to the thumb"   I was thinking that this was a older version of "dumb" as in mute but here I think that the reader shouldn't take the meaning too seriously and look at the rhyme scheme for the sake of rhyme scheme.

"Silent as the sleeve-worn stone / Of ceasement ledges where the moss has grown."  And in this case, there's a play of the definition of dumb coming back to the next stanza (silence) and the image of layers -- the ledge and then the moss.

"A poem should be wordless / as the flight of birds."  The flight of  birds announces a coming or departure, but doesn't state -- "the bird is departing".  I'm not too sure if this is the meaning, but the simile becomes more serious and a bit more theoretical in approach.

I'm not too sure about the break, but it does separate the poem into four couplets.  However in this sections there's repetition, but the concepts are more or less contained in the couplet.

"A poem should be motionless in time / As the moon climbs," past me noted, "simile? serves as a 'time' indicator, prepositional phrase."  I think this is the beauty with this line is that the language turns the meaning -- "as the moon climbs" could be a time indicator or a comparative one or both.  Is it important to decipher what the moon means w

"Leaving, as the moon releases / Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,"  the image of the moon continues with the rest of the section but note how the images become more surreal.  But it is not in the images that the poem is made, rather it is the connection to be made through not likely images -- moon and night tangled trees.

"Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves, / Memory by memory the mind --" and then to the personal  Note here how specific  winter is here as setting that relates to memory.

And then the repetition of the beginning stanza of this section, "A poem should be motionless in time / As the moon climbs" now has a different context as this couplet relates to memory of a poem more so than a concept.  Shift.

"A poem should be equal to: / Not true."  The colon to cease the line into a definition.  So should the line read that a poem should be not true or should a poem not be equal to.  Again the haziness of the line creates the tension in the poem.

"For all the history of grief / An empty doorway and a maple leaf."  This is more of a play of the signifier and the  and the signified -- the concept is grief and the image that represents it is an empty doorway.

"For love / The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea,"  Once again signifier and signified, but in this instance the concept is love and a transitional image of leaning grass and two lights above the sea (which I'm thinking is stars) note though in the past two stanzas that the tone of seriousness and reverence is here with contrasting images where as before in the beginning the images served as play.

"A poem should not mean / But be." Not true.  Well sort of.  Here the poem does go along with being through the images, but the past two stanzas described the meaning of the images: love and grief.

I think what the last stanza does is subverts rather than define.  Every instance of how a poem operates is subverted: meaning to no meaning, initial to final meaning, humor to seriousness, that the "be" aspect doesn't mean to exist, but change, contradict itself sometimes or even mean something.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Analysis of "Donne, They Say" by John Savoie

Original poem reprinted online here: "Donne, They Say" by John Savoie
More information about the Poet: John Savoie


This poem is in two parts -- the "rumors" of John Donne, and the reader's reaction to said rumors.  This piece is a light piece (something Donne would write in the beginning of his poetic career) which contrasts Donne's hard and serious religious style (near the end of his life).

     Donne, they say, duelled death,
     preached his own funeral,
     hymned his own requiem,
     then slid his sunken corpse
     into the clear flowing stream.

The terse lines bring a sense of speed to the poem, and the verbs of the beginning of the lines punctuate his actions rather than focus on the results.  Yes, Donne died., but how: preaching, creating hymns, sliding in to a clear flowing stream.  These actions are what Donne is about.

However, the key idea in this first part is deciphering "they" -- not who, but what it means.  They, in this context, can only remember Donne for the serious religious style near the end of his life.  The man who wrote pages and pages of meditations before his death and wrote poems like "Holy Sonnet Number X."

The latter half of this poem goes back to the kind of frolic in a poem like "The Flea"

     So let us breath our own
     elegy, weave our  own shroud,
     or spread and billow the blanket,
     then sneak beneath like laughing,

 The key here is the word "or."  As a reader, there's no huge difference in readings in Donne's later work.  The religious gravity is absolute in the poems -- whether questioning death or questioning life -- these are serious business questions.  But the "or" here indicates a change to the whimsy.  Note how the language changes of lighter alliteration of "b" and "l" and actual laughter appears.

"children before it falls, / and there we'll sleep, hand in hand / as bladed grass beneath the snow."  Pay attention to the closeness the speaker exhibits to "us"  this sort of "weaving" beneath the snow applies to two parties and this is the cause of the laughter during the fall.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Analysis of "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" by Christopher Marlowe

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" by Christopher Marlowe
More information about the Poet: Christopher Marlowe


This is my Dads favorite poem.  This was the poem he wanted to recite to my mother when they got married.  If he analyzed this poem he'd say there's a sense of romance in it.  The romance of the pastoral, "Come live with me and be my love, / And we will all the pleasures prove"

I would add that the aabb rhyme scheme adds to the sense of "couple," but the speaker is asking and he's describing his plan, "That valleys, groves, hills, and fields, / Woods, or sleepy mountain yields."  The expanse that they will have, and note nothing more than what they can explore.

"And we will sit upon rocks, / Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks."  Again back to the pastoral -- note that they are not doing, rather being in the scene, "By shallow rivers to whose falls / Melodious birds sing madrigals"  The alliteration along with the reference to songs brings a sort of giddy quality to the poem -- somewhat childlike -- and I think this is what the poem goes back to.  The pastoral is always a first love feeling.  There is beauty in the spring and the pastoral keeps to this feeling.

     And I will make thee beds of roses
     and a thousand fragrant poises
     A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
     Embroidered with leaves of myrtle:

And note how the progression starts -- the speaker making the "wedding dress" of the other, delicate and appealing to multiple senses (visual, texture, smell).  With each description the speaker is trying to bring the other there with him.

     A gown made of the finest wool
     Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
     Fair lined slippers for the cold,
     With buckles of the purest gold.

Note that the gold is for aesthetic appeal and not for monetary value.    The speaker, in a way, is creating his other in his image of beauty -- he is in control what the expanse is and the visual.

     A belt of straw and ivy buds
     With coral clasps and amber studs;
     And if these pleasures may thee move,
     Come live with me, and be my love.

I thought about the deeper implications: power in gender or the unrealistic landscape and other as a form of psychological control.  But, I think the last two lines of this stanza doesn't make me that cynical.  Yes, the speaker is dressing the ideal, but he is still asking.  Would the other be moved by this -- to live with him and be his love?

And to my father, probably, his intentions or what he sees in the poem is just that question -- could he makes something to his love to make him stay with him.  She said yes of course (that's why I'm here), but those other interpretations are still valid, but poetry is dependent on the reader not theory.

     The shepherds's swains shall dance and sing
     For thy delight each May morning:
     If these delights thy mind may move,
     Then live with me and be my love

How is the last stanza different from the previous one?  A lot more song in this one with the alliteration of the "s" in the first line -- then there's the repetition of the feeling of "delight" which goes with "thy" and "these" -- it is for the other.  So how is that for an argument?  I will bring you to the pastoral, make clothes of you from what is around, and the people will dance and sing for you.  Are these things not delightful?  Woiuld these things make you my love?  

Analysis of "Vulture" by Robinson Jeffers

Original poem reprinted online here: "Vulture" by Robinson Jeffers
More information about the Poet: Robinson Jeffers


"From nothing comes epiphany"  And I think this explains the poems core -- that the majority is in the guise of nature, but it is the speaker trying to place himself in nature but not fitting in quite as well.

Jeffers is known for his long lines, so I'm not too sure how to quote them.  But the poem starts out with setting first, "I had walked since dawn and lay down to rest on a bare hillside / Above the ocean."  Simple enough, right?  The speaker is traveling and ends up looking up.  And as the speaker is about to sleep or awaken, "I saw through half-shut eyelids" a vulture appears above him like a skylark, but rather than fly upward like the skylark, the vulture, "lower and nearer, it's orbit / narrowing.'

Then comes the epiphany, "I understood then".  Such a short line in a Jeffers' poem over-implicates the poems core, but the poem is not the epiphany, it is how the epiphany is used.

"That I was under inspection.  I lay death-still and heard the flight-feathers / Whistle above me and make their circle and come nearer."  The speaker appears to be near death from the inspection of the vulture, but note there's no tonal shifts towards a positive or negative rather a curiosity to figure out what the vulture sees.  And yes, the circling and coming nearer, feels like a reference to the skylark, "Higher still and higher / From the earth thou springest / Like a cloud of fire;"  Where the skylark feels like a distant harbinger, the vulture is a more earthly figure.

"I could see  the naked read head between the great wings" this seems like a foreboding image, but this is juxtaposed with, the speaker's insight "Bear downward staring, I said, 'My dear bird, we are wasting time here / These old bones will still work, they are not for you.'"  A tinge of humor.  Yes, the vulture is looking the speaker as something that is dead, but is really alive.  The key here is who is he speaking to.  The easy answer is to the vulture, but isn't the speaker himself trying to convince himself that he is alive?  This is more of a monologue than an exchange due to the speaker's conceit of the epiphany -- this is what he "understood."

The speaker refers to the vulture as beautiful as the vulture shifts between observation and metaphor, "On those great sails, how beautiful he looked, veering away in the sea-light."  The vulture takes on beauty and two metaphors of sea and land -- the vulture consumes the scenery.

"I tell you solemnly / That I was sorry to have disappointed him.  To be eaten by that beak and become part of him."  Just as the scenery is consumed by the vulture, the idea behind the vulture starts to consume the speaker -- first the visual, and then the metaphor, "share those wings and those eyes -- / What a sublime end of one's body, what and enskyment, what a life / after death"

To be a part of something.  Note at the beginning of the poem, the speaker was alone on a walk and was at his limit and could see further places to travel when the vulture consumed him.  Yes, this reminds me of Prometheus and how, for punishment giving man fire, his liver was eaten by an eagle.  I'm not too sure if this plays a role in this poem since the vulture serves more as a natural Charon than an vengeful eagle.