Friday, September 5, 2014

Analysis of "River of Stars" by Akiko Yosano

Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "River of Stars" by Akiko Yosano
More Information about the Poet: Akiko Yosano

Each stanza plays out like a scene of the speaker's life, but not like a movie.  Different aspects are shown of her life: the setting, characterization, and plot, but this is not a narrative poem.  Rather, this is a bunch of lyrical stanzas that create an incomplete narrative -- note the incomplete:

     Left on the beach
     Full of water
     A worn out boat
     Reflects the white sky --
     Of early autumn

Setting.  Although innocuous enough there's a sense of "reflection" based on the worn out boat.  The sky, the sea, and the land have a metaphorical feel to them which expands outward to the next stanza.

     Swifter than hail
     Lighter than a feather,
     A vague sorrow
     Crossed my mind.

So the "reflection" goes inward and the poem adds texture to the generality of sorrow -- swifter than hail, lighter than a feather -- fast and light, but in contrast to the "weight" the sorrow has on the speaker's mind.

     Feeling you nearby,
     how could I not come
     to walk beneath
     this evening moon rising
     over flowering fields.

Of course the big question with this stanza is "who is the 'you' and how does the 'you' interact with the speaker."  But also note that the speaker feels compelled to walk.  And yes, the setting overtakes the speaker, but from thought to action changes the momentum of this poem.

     I say his poem,
     propped against this frozen wall.
     in the late evening,
     as bitter autumn rain
     continues to fall.
     What I count on
     is a white birch
     that stands.
     where no human language
     is ever heard.

Note the pattern of emotion and image.  Here the resentment comes strong with the adjective of "bitter" to describe the speaker's feelings, but this is the obvious, but note the color of the white birch that stands out in fall -- something that is easily seen in the background.  The speaker seems to be caught in this bitterness due to "his poem" but escapes through reliable "nature" without the human language but exists.

     A bird comes
     delicately as a little girl
     to bathe in the shade of my tree
     in an autumn puddle.

A note how this bird transfers over to the next stanza and takes on an attribute of a "little girl."  This will come up in the stanza, but also note the possessive nature of the speaker with "my tree" -- something to shade.

     He stood by the door,
     calling through the evening
     the name of my
     sister who died last year
     and how I pitied him.

So the "he" stated before doesn't necessarily means this is the same "he."  There's a bit of lament from the "he" but resentment from the "I" speaker.  It's as though the speaker cannot grieve over her sister but finds little bits of this "little girl" around here and reveres here: boats, wind, bird.

And by calling out the name, the "he" is showing his remorse -- something external from the "he" that the speaker doesn't allow for herself.

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