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.

1 comment:

  1. Thus this homage to Wright in my collection Overpass:


    Across the bridge from downtown St. Louis,
    it’s Ballet du Sauget. Women at work
    moving the wet middle of ripe motion
    around poles on rubber mats down a clean road
    from Monsanto, Big River Zinc Smeltery,
    American Bottoms Treatment Plant,

    and Dead Creek, a Superfund paradise.
    That summer evening we rode the bottom
    before the game, windows open, passing
    the bottle, roads we didn’t know, the weed.

    I did not waste my life.