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.

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