Friday, October 31, 2014

Analysis of "Sauget Dead Wagon" by Steve Davenport

Poem found here in the comment section of my previous post until Steve Davenport decides to delete it or not: "Sauget Dead Wagon" by Steve Davenport



If that wandering gritty mid-west Americana bard replies to this analysis with another poem, I'll try to contain myself from posting my analysis of that poem the next day -- I'd still analyze the crap out of it though in my own personal time and post it at a later time and date.

However, Steve Davenport's reply to my previous analysis of his poem hit a couple of weak spots of mine.  1) My MFA thesis is titled "Tourist in the Red Light District" which has similar themes and ideas that continue to interest me and 2) I'm pretty sure a good portion of my blog covers formal poetry from around the world: ghazals, sonnets, ballads, rhymed quatrains or couplets, terza rima, haiku, tankas.  So this poem, a hard rhymed villanelle with a lack of punctuation, it's too difficult for me to resist.  And, yes, I know that Steve Davenport has a well written sestina as well, but I can only analyze so much and post.

So the haze that I wrote about in my last analysis continues with this poem due to the lack of punctuation adding a sense of speed to the language, but a slow down of thought (where should a line end) and with the added information that this is about a very specifc place -- the "rough end of Illinois with hookers, poverty and gangs" that my coworker from Illinois told me (paraphrased) there's the added slow down of trying to figure how the poem relates to place.  There's a bit of disconnect with the form and the subject already through the form.

But the refrain lines for this villanelle "Down to Sauget and all that hell" and "Carrying things from fall to fell" are used, language and semantics wise, to the tee.  But what stands out in the first stanza is the line, "The bodies come the bodies go" which devalues the body as an object and, for me, the actions are consistent, it's what's belittled and devalued that has my focus.

"To ashes ashes ring the bell / Dead wagon going coming slow / Down the Sauget and all that hell"  Note the repetition of ashes in the first line and the hard rhyme scheme forces a simplicity onto the a difficult subject as though to be like a nursery rhyme or a drinking song (what's the difference really) and the adjective verb of "Dead wagon" coming off humorously because of the rhyme and the simplicity.  It's as though the speaker belittles the experience, but there's something off with the next stanza.

"Yellow grease bone chips a smell / A body never wants to know / Carrying things from fall to fell"  The list of descriptors in the first line creates a very vivid smell image which goes against the sort of "play" in the previous stanzas; furthermore, there's a sense of gravity with "A body never wants to know"  -- this is more of a projected line than a personal line to me, the speaker relating experience rather than the reader observing the speaker's experience.

This sense of projection continues with, "Who cares what doesn't render well / Until the wind begins to blow / Down to Sauget and all that hell"  Past me wrote "prophetic rhetorical question"  Or rather, there is a sense of frustration from the speaker about the rhetoric and style the poem is in -- the little nouns and actions always continues always the reference to the Dead wagon which comes to sell and pick up dead bodies high and low -- and always carrying things from fall to fell" the present (fall) to the past (fell).

Now I somewhat kid with the phrase "wandering gritty mid-west Americana bard" as something endearing, but, when it comes down to it, the speaker solidifies himelf as a bard with the very sharp line of, "I say fuck this villanelle"

Bards write poems for the people about the people  -- just straight up -- Whitman, the American Bard, writes about peoples experience, but also places himself as the savior, chronicaller, voice of the people.  This speaker, by denouncing the form rather than the experience, is going back to the people and so the final lines of the poem resonate as a call to action, "That can't stop what's got to go / Down to Sauget and all that hell / Carrying things from fall to fell."  The speaker appears to attack "what's got to go" -- something to break this cycle.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Analysis of "Life" by Steve Davenport

Poem can be found here in the comment section until he deletes it if he wants to: "Life" by Steve Davenport 



Before I get started with this analysis I want to write that I was going to do a different poem today, but I was intrigued at Steve Davenport's response to my analysis about James Wright's "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota."

I analyzed a poem by Steve Davenport ,"Ministry Today" from his collection Overpass, wow, years ago.  What also intrigued me about "Life" was I could get a sense of a theme from Overpass (which I still need to get) from just these two poems:  the wandering gritty mid-west Americana bard.

But this analysis is about "Life".

The interesting thing about this poem from the outset from a comparative angle are the specific stanza breaks: sestet, quatrain, and single line which I find the opposite of lazy (which was a theme in my analysis of James Wright poem) but rather specific, but not too specific (it's not like it's all quatrains or sestets).

The poem starts out with a specific image of a bridge, "Across the bridge from downtown St. Louis, / it's Ballet du Sauget" followed by a specific location.  But note that the placement of the speaker is based around the area.  The speaker is not relying on images rather place-marks.

The next three lines of the poem dictate more of the mood of the poem through language and sound rather than place, "Women at work / moving the wet middle of ripe motion / around the poles on rubber mats down a clean road."  Yes, the images are specific (and also mimic Pound a bit here with "wet" a bit) but note the focus here is "motion."  Content wise, the motion of the women at work cleaning the road could symbolize an opening away from the direct place.  But, for me, the strongest impact of these lines are the alliteration of "w" and "r" which makes it hard to pin down the poem.  I feel this specific phrasing of the inability to be pinned down says more about the speaker than the observation.

Then the poem list places as place-marks, "Monsanto, Big River Zinc Smeltery, / American Bottoms Treatment Plant / and Deer Creek."  Yes, there's a sort of descent from big city place to more of nature.  This could represent a return of some sorts, but I also feel the listing of places adds to the haze of the speaker -- the language and the listing adds a sense of wanderlust.

Now the poem goes to a specific time frame, "That summer evening we rode the bottom / before the game, windows open, passing / the bottle, roads we didn't know, the weed."  So these lines confirm a couple of my analytic points. But more importantly, this is the introduction of the speaker into the place-marks and how he reacts to such haze with specific actions and time.  "That summer evening" indicates that the speaker is looking back at a moment; furthermore, the line "before the game" could be read as literal or metaphorically inclusive to the poem as the speaker is playing word and language games as well.

Then the drinking and the weed -- which, actually, adds a physical haze to the poem along with the language and the places.  The speaker is not necessarily lost in the haze, but rather celebrating it with the final line of, "I did not waste my life."

Comparatively, with the Wright poem, the more specific the speaker became the more the speaker realized that he wasted his life; meanwhile, the more the speaker in "Life" goes further and further into the haze, the more the speaker feels that his life is not a wasted.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Analysis of "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" by James Wright

Poem Found Here: "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" by James Wright



The poem is lazy, both in content and in form.  Short lines, long lines, referencing other lines to get a point across, stationary, laziness.  The act of inaction is apparent in the poem, but the speaker's transformation about the subject and about himself shifts throughout the poem.

"Over my head, I see a bronze butterfly, / Asleep on the black trunk"  These lines could reference Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" through the image (butterfly like petals, black trunk like a black bough(, but the comparison ends here.  What is important with these lines is to note how observant and whimsical the speaker is about his surrounding and cognizant enough to crate artifices from them (maybe).

"Blowing like a leaf in green shadow, / Down the ravine behind the empty house, / This cowbells follow one another."  For a short poem, there's an emphasis on empty direction.  What I means is that that there's basically screen shots and transitions, but the end result is "the cowbells" -- something audible, but holds no significant meaning.  It's the transition to the time, place, setting, "Into the distances of the afternoon," that feel empty.

"To my right,"  A simple shorted line transitions the poem to something else, but this is obvious, "In a field of sunlight between two pines, / The droppings of last year's horses / Blaze up into golden stones,"  Here is where the metaphor goes a little to far.  I've fallen in love with the laziness of the poem -- the emptiness of transition, the apathy of images.  Here the poem tries to make something out of the images -- the last years horse droppings being golden might seem out of place, but the attempt foreshadows the end of the poem.

"I lean back, as the evening darkness and comes on. / A chicken hawk floats away, looking for home,"  Here, when the poem introduces the speaker, he's observing himself just like the previous lines -- first as just simple lazy observations to trying to make a metaphor.  Here, with these two simple lines he relates to the hawk with the personificated line of "looking for a home."

This is why the end is so devastating, "I have wasted my life."  Regardless of how the speaker thinks of himself, there's still inaction through the metaphors, the similes, the observations.  Here is the emotion that moves the poem, a simple confession at the end of a beautiful artifice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Analysis of "'Gymnopédies No. 3'" by Adrian Matejka

Poem found here:  "'Gymnopédies No. 3'" by Adrian Matejka


I'm not sure if this poem is referring to the compositions by Erik Satie or if the title refers to this sort of whimsy and dance found in the poem.  Does the poem depend on the title?  Honestly, I'm not too sure, since when I was reading the poem I was focused on the flow and movement of the images and lines.

"This sunlight on snow."  A very focused image descends, "this decrescendo / of covered stomps & brush / stop for it"  The poem has a commanding tone which is subdued by the nature imagery.  But the focus is on this light and to "stop" for it.

This repetition of "stop" continues in this poem, "Stop before the shed end- / over-ends / down the chin of the hill--"  Note how the punctuation mimics Cummings, but the way the poem descends on the page has a stronger visual influence to it.  Stop the poem says and read these lines and look at these images.  Every adjusted line seems precise as well.

"the way it always will / at the rock 2/3 of the way down."  The usage of the fraction breaks the tempo of the poem in a good way.  In this way the poem is looked at the fracturing device of adjusted lines and the difference between the sun and the snow.

"Stop & shiver in it: the ring / of snow inside gloves, / the cusp of red forehead"  Note the usage of ring and how this image is used as a simile to the contrasting image of, "like a sun just waiting to top / the hill."  The play continues of sun and snow with actual mention of games, "snowball waiting to be thrown, / every bell-shaped angel / stamped over the brown leaves."

Then the poem goes into the reason from this change of pace -- one that has, in the beginning, this sort of nature reverence quality, to the one of play, "When my daughter ranges / in winter, / she works every dazzling angle --"  These lines might be a little too cute, but I contend the focus on this lines are two fold: 1) To solidify the change in perspective and 2) the line "dazzling angle" is such a encompassing image which tells more about the style and content more than the relationship between the speaker and the snow and daughter.

So the following phrases, adjective/noun combinations, refers also to the dazzling angle, "the crestfallen pine-cones, / the grizzled beards / of bush in the morning."  The personification of the landscape to match the human in nature transition.

"a furnace's windup huffing / in this throat- / clearing of snow."  The final image is inside, but the personification could refer to the idea of "clearing the snow"  the change for the sun -- something brighter no matter how it is seen in different angles.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Analysis of "Early Sunday Morning" by Edward Hirsch

Poem Found Here:  "Early Sunday Morning" by Edward Hirsch


Old man lament in five quatrains.  The interesting thing in this poem is that the poem admits what type of poem this is within the first stanza:

     I used to mock my father and his chums
     for getting up early on Sunday morning
     and drinking coffee at a local spot
     but now I'm one of those chumps.

The first stanza is not only tongue in cheek content wise, but also structure wise with the rhyme and inversion of "chums" (friends) and "chumps" (fools, but the speaker is by himself).  The question then is what the speaker does with this self-awareness -- be cynical about the structure and the idea, be genuine as though to confess some parts of the self.

"No one cares about my old humiliations / but they go on dragging through my sleep"  There's a mix, yes there's humor about no once caring about "old humiliations" -- but the idea is pressed forward to the personal with, "dragging through my sleep" this idea is further internally ingrained with the specific simile of, "like a string of empty tin cans rattling / behind an abandoned car."

The image itself can represent a marriage or a missed connection which is followed up with the next lines, "It's like this: just when you think / you have forgotten that red-haired girl / who left you stranded in a parking lot"  With these lines there is a sense of cynicism about the memory or rather to retell the memory again and again to a reader as though the speaker knows all this already, but the lament comes with, "forty years ago, you wake up / early enough to see her disappearing" to a bit sentimental, "around the corner of your dream" to a bit outlandish, "on someone else's motorcycle / roaring onto the highway at sunrise."

The shift of tones so frequently within three lines feels more genuine to me against the cynicism of the speaker.  This is the emotional draw the speaker feels about the memory -- regardless how real or tangible it is.  These are the speaker's thoughts, not thoughts for show for an audience:

     And so now I'm sitting in a dimly lit
     cafe full of early morning risers
     where the windows are covered with soot
     and the coffee is warm and bitter

Note how the girl leaving at sunrise correlates with the speaker observing the "early risers" with him in the dimly lit cafe.  The speaker acknowledges that people around him too have this lament as they all share the same setting -- windows covered with soot, and the same coffee, warm and bitter.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Analysis of "A Dream Within a Dream" by Edgar Allen Poe

Poem Found Here: "A Dream Within a Dream" by Edgar Allan Poe



A rhyming tercet followed by rhyming couplets -- the poem feels connected at first then goes off, trying to keep things together style wise.  Content wise, the poem seems so sure of itself and then the last half of the poem is full of rhetorical questions.

How is the poem so sure of itself in the beginning?  Look at how it starts with a verb and exclamation, "Take this kiss upon the brow! / And, in parting from you now, / Thus much let me avow:"  Look at how the actions are precise and direct from the speaker to the subject.  There's conviction in these lines which decay as the confession continues, "You are not wrong who deem / That my days have been a dream;"  note the semi-colon here which ties in the acknowledgement of the dream with:

     yet if hope has flown away
     In a night, or in a day,
     In a vision, or in none,
     Is it therefore less gone?

The confession of something as a dream is tied into this rhetorical question where the speaker can explain the actions of the dream as something tangible, something flown away any time or if seen or not, it's still gone.  "All that we see or seem / Is but a dream within a dream."  The admission of going and going gone.

"I stand amid the roar / Of a surf-tormented shore," so if we are stuck in the dream, then the metaphors, images, ideas relate to the self...perhaps.  Dreams seem so personal of a concept, I'm trying to figure out how a metaphor would work in a dream, especially since the speaker is discussing this as a confession in first person.  In any case, in this "surf-tormented shore," the speaker continues, "And I hold with my hand / Grains of the golden sand --"  it's the adjectives here that change the context of the poem:

     How few!  yet how they creep
     Through my fingers to the deep,
     While I weep--while I weep!
     O God! can I not grasp
     Them with a tighter clasp?

If you can't tell, I quoted five lines here.  Why?  Here' the continuity of the speaker falling further and lamenting the single bright spot that is tangible for him (gold sand) continues to fall through like his sanity trying to grasp things together.

     O God! can I not save
     One from the pitiless wave?
     Is all that we see or seem
      But a dream within a dream?

Note how the rhetorical questions continue and how focused the speaker is on saving the "one" which seems to be the core of the loss of sanity.  However, the tie in is that the speaker himself sees himself in a dream within a dream (yes, the repetition) or perhaps wants to.  Even within the speaker's dream, there's not much to look forward to.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Analysis of "Harlem [Dream Deferred]" by Langston Hughes

Poem found here: "Harlem [Dream Deferred]" by Langston Hughes


So the version I have of this poem spoils the powerful opening line, "What happens to a dream deferred?"  when, I think it shouldn't.  The poem should start out as "Harlem" which is more an over-encompassing with then the first line asking a very sharp and personal question to the community and the self.

What happens when dreams are put on the side?  I mean people shift their dreams for multiple reasons, but this isn't a poem about that; rather, harshly, the dream is already deferred, so what happens, "Does it dry up / like a raising in the sun?" Exists but deflated, "Or fester like a sore-- / And the run?"  The metaphor with this line goes in different direction. To fester implies to stay in one place and decay, while running means either to let it keep going or to get away.  In this case the ambiguous metaphor is searching for something.  "Or crust and sugar over --  like a syrupy sweet?"  This line has a a sense of cynicism to it with it being "syrupy sweet."  But why?  Note something that something rough like crust and sugar is the noun, syrupy sweet then is the taste -- kind of like glossing over the bitterness of losing a dream with and implied (simile) taste.

The stand alone couplet has more oomph, "Maybe it just sags / like a heavy heart."  A tad sentimental in the list of interesting metaphors and similes to describe dream deferment, but the emotional impact is there.

The last line, "or does it explode?" comes out of left field image wise, but makes sense when connected with the "heart" imagery -- sag or explode -- the explosion being more prominent of when a dream is lost, a slight second of sudden pieces.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Analysis of "Mag" by Carl Sandburg

Poem Found here: "Mag" by Carl Sandburg



The opening line of this poem feels so personal, "I wish to God I never saw you, Mag" that I wondered if this was a confessional poem.  I read snippets of other analysis from other people here and here which discuss Sandburg's personal marriage with Lilian Steichen and his children.  Does this tie in with this poem.  Perhaps.

But I feel the core of this poem, stemming from Sandburg's series of Chicago poems, is more ubiquitous.  And even though the woman is named, it doesn't necessarily have to be about Sandburg, but rather the speaker's frustration about "Mag" and, furthermore, what she represents.

So the poem starts out with the speaker wishing, and the anaphora of wishing continues, "I wish you never quit your job and came along with me. / I wish we never bought a license and a white dress."  Note how the speaker projects his grief on Mag's actions, even if there is a "we" involved.  Mag quit for him.  They bought the dress for mag.

"For you to get married in the day we ran off to a minister"  Note how the speaker uses "you" for marriage as though the speaker doesn't or wasn't a participant.  Of course the "we" runs off to a minister, "And told him we would love each other and take care of each other."  The proclamation.  This is somewhat the core grief that isn't explained in the poem -- a connective promise between the speaker and "Mag" that binds them together.

Or should, "Yes, I'm wishing you lived somewhere away from here."  For me this line has strong implications that Mag is dead.  Not really.  I like to think that the situation at this point is that Mag is dead and the speaker is lamenting her death and tries to displace the blame stating it was "her" actions, but the "we" comes back up which brings the situation back to the speaker.  But, there's no clarification that she's dead, the speaker just wishes for distance, "And I was a bum on the bumpers a thousand miles away dead broke."  The adjective of "dead broke" indicates the play between "life" and "death" and how the speaker wished to trade places with her.  But the line does suggest the speaker would rather go to the extreme.

But in any case the wishing tumbles farther and faster like the line adjustments, "I wish the kids had never come / And rent and coal and clothes to pay for / And a grocery man calling for cash,"  Adult responsibility for the speaker that he's feeling alone in.  Regardless if Mag is alive or dead, the responsibilities of kids and bills start to weigh heavily on the speaker and he'd rather be the "bum" that is "dead broke" -- no responsibilities to others except for self.

"I wish to God I never saw you, Mag. / I wish to God the kids ad never come."  Here the regret come from Mag and the kids as they represent responsibility and perhaps debt.  Now the tricky idea is attachment and love which isn't fully developed in this poem which strengthens the feeling of regret -- overall regret in the poem.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Analysis of "For Once, Then, Something" by Robert Frost

Poem Found Here: "For Once, Then, Something" by Robert Frost



I still don't know how to analyze this poem.  After rereading this poem it seems very uncharacteristic of a Frost poem.  Fifteen lines, no rhyme scheme, no focus on meter.  It seems that this poem is more of Frost's musings and relating his thoughts to the scene.

For example, "Others taught me with having knelt at well-curbs / Always wrong to the light,"  Note how the speaker focuses on what the other's taught him and not focusing on his actions -- the wrongness of light is an interesting generalization, but the poem is just a collection of image generalizaitons: "Deeper down in the well than where the water / Gives me back in a shining surface picture"  The images state something -- there is action behind them, but there are more questions, what is the surface picture?  What shines from the "wrongness of light?"

Then this curious line, "Me myself in the summer heaven godlike".  Yes, the poem could be the contemplation of Frost being in summer, but what does it mean for the speaker to be "me myself"?  I'm not sure.  But I do know that the "well-curb" and the well is a reoccurring image "Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb, / I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture, / Through the picture, a somewhat white, uncertain."  These lines are uncertain.

And I think uncertainty is the point of this poem -- the images have a sense of vagueness, the speaker proclaims himself in god-like summer, but goes back to the depths of the well -- the images and the tone have the speaker looking for something, and even though the speaker has discerned "something," "Something more of the depths--and then lost it, / Water came to rebuke the too clear water."  The sense of irony comes from the line "rebuke the too clear water."  That, in contrast, clarity doesn't answer anything or reveal anything -- it's translucent.

"One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple / Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom / blurred it, blotted it out.  What was that whiteness?" Here, the lack of clarity creates something revealed a sense of "whiteness" which is mostly tangible like the descriptions of these lines.

Then the didactic last line, "Trust? A pebble of quartz?"  The physical is the truth -- or rather what is known.  The poem focuses on the well and the unknown search for unknown answers, "For once, then, something."  Honestly, these last few words don't make sense to me.  "For once" focuses on the brevity of the time frame -- maybe with or without sense, and "then, something" not clarity or truth, just a guide perhaps?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Analysis of "A Happy Man" by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Poem found here: "A Happy Man" by Edwin Arlington Robinson


Written in four quatrains with an aabb rhyme scheme, the structure in the poem is very tight nit, first two lines then a semi-colon then the next two lines and end the sentence.  Each quatrain serves as a different focus on saying goodbye.

     When these graven lines you see,
     Traveller, do not pity me;
     Though I be among the dead,
      Let no mournful word be said.

The conceit is established in the first stanza.  The first two lines address a traveller (the reader) and how the reader should't "pity" -- the semi-colon with the line brings the narrative together relying on the connection of "no pity" being reiterated "let now mournful word be said."

     Children that I leave behind,
     And their children, all were kind;
     Near to them and to my wife,
     I was happy all my life.

At this point and at least for me, I would be highly suspicious about the "happy" man -- how the reader should do the opposite and pity him for his unhappiness of leaving everything behind; however, I feel a certain genuineness with these lines with the language and kind and happy or rather, I don't see the turn in the lines just yet.

     My three sons I married right,
     And their sons I rocked at night;
     Death nor sorrow never brought
     Cause for one unhappy thought.

I think there's multiple reasons why I think this poem is genuine within the third stanza.  The poem has kept uniform up until this point and even the structure of the lines of the "sons" being first then the "I" and then the action.  Furthermore, the actions are so specific "married" and "rocked" that the comparative semi-colon announcing the lack of specificity to the speaker's own emotion belittles the emotional appeal or the chance for the speaker to create self-irony with his narrative.

     Now, and with no need of tears,
     Here they leave me, full of year,
     Leave me to my quiet rest
     In the region of the blest.

Here's where things get interesting.  The lack of the semi-colon opens up the poem for that cynical appeal, and what is focused on with the shift, "Here they leave me, full of year"  Note how the speaker state he's being left behind.  What does this do to the poem?  Does this invalidate his memories as his actions are less important so the family walks away with "full of year" actually meaning the opposite?  I don't know.  It can be.  But the bigger question then would be why overall?  Why should a deadman reiterate how his life was good?

Furthermore, is the plane that the speaker is talking the "region of the blest" a place where the speaker can linger in his own memories of being left behind?  Or is the speaker going back to a different "region of the blest"?  Again I don't know, but I feel arguments could be made on both sides and perhaps the other side would always win.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Analysis of "Token Loss" by Kay Ryan

Poem found here: "Token Loss" by Kay Ryan


"To the dragon / any loss is total" going opposite of the implication of "token" in the title, the contrast stands out more than the premise of the dragon.  This easily could have been a more fantastical poem, but the idea of loss, I feel, stands out because of the opposition therefore making the dragon more to be like a metaphor.

     His rest 
     is disrupted
     if a single
     jewel encrusted 
     goblet has 
     been stolen.

So what does the dragon represent?  Well, in these lines, we learn more that the dragon is "disrupted" when a "single jewel encrusted goblet" is stolen.  There's an implication that there's a lot more treasure that the dragon has.  But what is lost is something small but specific.  A piece of gold or something else would have little or no value to this dragon.  But knowing something small and specific is gone disrupts the dragon.

"The circle / of himself" here's when the poem becomes more metaphorical and ties in the implied treasure and the dragon himself.  If both are considered the same  (the circle of treasure, the circle of himself) then that small specific piece that is gone would impact both, "of his gold / has been / broken"  This is more of a reassuring line.

Then the didactic line of "No / loss is token."  The line itself has serious implications but based on the internal rhyme of "token" and "broken" the line has some slight tongue and cheek overtones.  Ah, but what is lost if this poem and the message is taken too seriously?  The fantastical.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Analysis of "Legacy" by Amiri Baraka

Poem found here: "Legacy" by Amiri Baraka


The poem here starts off with place "In the south," then gains traction by the usage of verbs.  For example, "sleeping against / the drugstore, growling under, the trucks and stores."  The focus here is action; meanwhile, the subject who is making the action is invisible.    But note the usage of verbs here tending to side of animalistic or basic:

  • stubling through and over the cluttered eyes / of early mysterious night
  • frowning / drunk waving moving a hand or lash
There is mention of human action but no actual specific focus on a single one.  Here the speaker is encompassing the "blues people" by their actions

Then the switch to the fun, "Dancing kneeling reaching out, letting / a hand rest in shadows. Squatting / to drink or pee."  The speaker doesn't hold back on the actions, this is not somewhat glamorous action -- these are human actions which bring the groups of people together with "letting a hand rest in shadows" being more poignant metaphorically and "Squatting to drink or pee" being more poignant physically.  The speaker is building up a group -- blues people.

"Stretching to climb / pulling themselves onto horses near / where there was sea."  And as the people climb there's a parenthetical, "(old songs / lead you to believe)" the only one to appear in the poem in which the refer to the past rather than the present action.  Here, the parenthetical serves as a underlying push of the blues people -- "lead you to believe."

Then the leaving based on belief, "Riding out / from this town, to another, where / it is also black."  "Black" holds many metaphorical implications -- the physical darkness, the unknown, the mental escape.  But it's a direction, and the end of the poem starts every phrase with a direction: 

     [...]  Down a road
     where people are asleep.  Towards
     the moon or the shadows of houses.
     Towards the songs' pretended sea.

Note the reference of the sea comes back around at the end.  The "sea" is non existent, but the people keep searching for it physically and within a song.  It is the search beyond the shadows and the moons.  It is the search beyond the people that are asleep which these people aspire to, in which the blues people get past through old beliefs to live by.