Thursday, November 20, 2014

Analysis of "Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief" by Maxine Kumin

Poem found here: "Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief" by Maxine Kumin

An airport as a metaphor for transitioning to the afterlife.  But this poem is a bit tongue in cheek too.  The poem is in two octaves and a quatrain with each stanza going closer and closer and then expanding outward from the speaker.

     Blue landing lights make
     nail holes in the dark.
     A fine snow falls.   We sit
     on the tarmac taking on[...]

So stopping here before the list of things occurs. note how the focus is on the play of dark an light in the beginning and also how the snow appears -- fine, small enough to look at individually in general which foreshadows the way the speaker sees who is going aboard with her:

     the mail, quick freight,
     trays of laboratory mice,
     coffee and Danish for
     the passengers

Note how personal these items appear to others "mail, quick freight", then dispassionate, "trays of laboratory mice" to something for the passengers, coffee and Danish.  What I think the speaker is doing is observing the surroundings as though to be placed in the surroundings -- this is currently what is going on which changes later in the poem.  But now the focus is back on the speaker:

     Wherever we're going
     is Monday morning
     Wherever we're coming from
     is Mother's lap

Note the end rhyme in the first two lines and the repetition of "whenever" which adds a sense of nursery rhyme to the poem.  Note the other half of the phrase also starts with an "M' which brings an extended alliteration.  These techniques seem to ease the speaker -- something consistent when facing something metaphorical:

     On the cloud-pack above, strewn
     as loosely as parsnip
     of celery seeds, he
     the souls of the unborn:

The poem takes a serious turn not only in image, but with the admission of the "souls of the unborn" -- when I stated this poem was tongue in cheek in the beginning -- yes, the items and the techniques were a bit cutsey, but the souls of the unborn brings a sense of gravity and tension to the poem which is then disperses with the repetition of "my children's children's children and their father"  it's not the content, it's the approach.  The list is so vast and so simple that it's confusing -- nothing is direct and pointed, but it is specific to the speaker at the same time.

"We gather speed for the last run / and lift off into the weather."  These lines seems to be cliche with the idea of "the last run" and "lift off into the weather" but I'm fine with the last lines being a bit cliche.  The end seems so dismissive compared to the immediacy.  It's like the speaker is changing emotions mid-poem, mid-flight.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Analysis of "Rosewater" by Nikos Gatsos

Poem found here: "Rosewater" by Nikos Gatsos

Grief.  The first lines of the poem uses high metaphor in order to express and mask the speaker's grief, "When you reach that other world, don't become a cloud / don't become a cloud, and the bitter star of dawn, / so that your mother knows you, waiting at her door."

Here's the trick with the first few lines.  The conceit of the dead happens with the first phrase of "When you reach that other world" and the focus is the separation between the speaker and the "you" speaker -- words apart.

Then there's the repetition of "don't become a cloud" which I take as a ubiquitous transformation metaphor with a catch.  Note how the metaphor expands outward to "the bitter star of dawn". Yes, the adjective of bitter tells much about the speaker's perspective on this grief, but what's more telling is the line, "so that your mother knows you, waiting at her door" which shows that even though the speaker is disassociated with the "you," the mother still knows.  It's that fear of not grieving enough.

"Take a wand of willow, a root of rosemary / a root of rosemary, and be moonlit coolness / falling in the midnight in your thirsting courtyard."  These lines have a fantastical feel about them.  I'm not sure how "willow" and "rosemary" work as far as symbols.  But note how the "you" is not a cloud, but rather a being (ethereal perhaps) that wants and holds things.

"I give you rosewater to drink" this poem is aptly named rosewater.  Even without knowing all the connotations of rosewater the comparison continues with, "you game me poison."  Yes, poison could be the grief the speaker is dealing with and the rosewater is how the speaker is keeping the "you" alive through this poem, but note how the speaker built up this metaphor through the fantastical and high imagery.

This line line I'm unsure about, "eaglet of the frost, hawk of the desert."  Two different beings in two different worlds.  Who is the eaglet, who is the hawk if this is indeed a comparative metaphor between the speaker and the "you"?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Analysis of "Minnows 2" by Ray Amorosi

Poem found here: "Minnows 2" by Ray Amorosi

Situational awareness.  This is a term that I here often where I live, meaning, this poem, to me is about the surroundings and how the surroundings influence the speaker's wanderings.

"Whatever the cost I pay up at the minnow pools, / I don't know anything of the misery of these trapped fish / or the failure of the marsh I'm so hidden."  Regardless of how the scenery is, the speaker places himself in there to comment about what he knows or doesn't know -- well more likely doesn't know: doesn't know the cost, doesn't know misery, and doesn't know failure.  Apathy.

"Up above the island with its few houses facing / the ocean God walks with anyone there."  So the tone here is more informative than moving, but note that the mention of the speaker shows more of a separation since there is a lack of action with the acknowledgement, "I often / slosh through the low tide to a sister / unattached to causeways."  The question of "who is sister" or "what does the sister represent."  With the context of the poem the sense of apathy is added onto with the verb "slosh" as well.

"It's where deer mate then lead their young / by my house to fields, again up above me."  The tone is informative, but the twist in the language is, "again up above me" where there is a god and a sister but not the speaker.

"Pray for me."  This is situational awareness when the speaker knows the situation around him, but also knows that he's writing for a reader -- who?  Who knows and who cares?  "Like myself be lost / An amulet under your chest, a green sign of the first / rose you ever saw, the first shore."  Now the focus is on the "you" introduced in this section.  And everything is the first, even the prayer.

"Then I wash my horse, dogs, me behind the barn. / Only the narrow way leads home."  So there's a sense of cleansing, but it's mundane and informational which makes the last line, which seems a little cliche, into something a bit more cynical.  A sort of everyday cleanse.  A sort of narrow road that actually does lead home.  Nothing more.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Analysis of "Long Trail" by Stephen Scaer

Poem found here: "Long Trail" by Stephen Scaer

This is an Elizabethan sonnet in which there is a comparison between two different ideals and sometimes people.  This separation is indicated in the first line, "You can spot the better hikers by".  And so starts the conceit of what it means to be a better "hiker."

"the lightness of their steps, and how their packs / seem much too small.  They've learned they shouldn't try / to carry their whole lives across their backs."  Note aspect that's most prominent to me in this poem is the speaker's tone -- a little sarcasm through cliches "lightness of their steps, " over embellishment, "packs seem too small," and then embellishment, "to carry their whole lives across their backs.

But the poet goes even further with the tone, "Inside their tidy rectangles they keep / the minimum they need to make their homes."  Compartmentalized, compressed, clean -- the speaker is showing the "ideal" through sarcasm but isn't placing a named judgement, just implied passive-aggressiveness, "They eat two protein bars and fall asleep, / snug inside their instant nylon domes."  The nylon domes is an interesting image which I can't comprehend image wise except that these hikers are surrounded by something that drapes well and is fragile.

Then comes the introduction of the speaker to contrast the serene hiker image, "Though I go hiking several times a year, / I always carry much more than I need:"  of course this list has metaphorical implications as well as literal ones, "outside, my pack hung with cooking gear," something to cook with, "inside, the books I probably won't read;" This is based on unrealized intentions, "and when I raise my tent, unwelcome guests / crowd a cluttered mind that never rests."  So with the couplet (which should be the volta) there is a comparison between the physical preciseness of the hikers and the speaker's psychological mess which is filled with unfulfilled intentions.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Analysis of "A Man Young and Old III. The Mermaid" by William Butler Yeats

Poem found here: "A Man Young and Old" III. The Mermaid" by William Butler Yeats

This poem is like an Aesop fable even with the didactic message at the end.  And even though this poems intent is a bit obvious after reading the poem, it doesn't mean that this poem cannot bear interest after each read.

"A mermaid found a swimming lad, / Picked him for her own, / Pressed her body to his body."  At face value, this beginning has the mermaid take the lad as her own.  But note, there is no mention of love, just ownership.  Also, when her body presses up against his there's a sense of fusion or rather something akin to Adam and Eve, Eve and Adam.

"Laughed; and plunging down / Forgot in cruel happiness / That even lovers drown."  It's not the didactic tale that keeps me reading this poem, it's how the poem is shaped syntactically.  The stand alone verb of "Laughed" reinforced the past tense with a more visual verb (pressed is visual too, but not as "human" as laughed).  And then when they plunge down, they forget with "cruel happiness"  here the adjective/noun combination which brings a sense of irony foreshadows the didactic end.

"That even lovers drown"  I guess this could be a play on the inability of looking at death when in love or how the twisting of emotions that makes up love makes us blind.  The poem is didactic, but what is the lesson learned?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Analysis of "A Hundred Years from Now" by David Shumate

Poem found here: "A Hundred Years from Now" by David Shumate

A self-eulogy.  The speaker himself as the specter of the past trying asking someone in some time about the future, "I'm sorry I won't be around a hundred years from now.  I'd like to see how it all turns out."   These feel like ending lines of a self-eulogy, but these lines serve as an opening on how "it all turns out."

"What language most of you are speaking. What country is swaggering across the globe."  For me, the verb of swaggering brings in a different appeal to the poem. Granted, I have a negative connotation with the verb (swag), but at least this is a signal of how the language changes through the rhetorical questions.

"I'm curious to know if your medicines cure what ails us now. And how intelligent children are as they parachute down through the womb."  There are two important aspects of this poem.  One, instead of the poem being complete rhetorical questions, the speaker breaks up the punctuation with a period and conjunction.  In this way, the speaker is still asking a question without being redundant.  Two, it's the verb that makes the scenarios a bit surreal -- "parachute," "cure" -- pay attention on how these verbs operate.

"Have you invented new vegetables?  Have you trained spiders to do your bidding?  Have baseball and opera merged into one melodic sport?"  Now this part is a bit silly, but also note that the tempo of question, question, question adds speed to the poem.  These questions are meant to be a bit silly, not thought hard upon -- just a bunch of questions added to what the future might be.

"A hundred years...." An ellipses. This forces the speaker to be in a thought process or to consider the next lines more of the speaker's thoughts rather than the speaker's questions.

"My grandfather lived almost that long.  The doctor who came to the farmhouse to deliver him arrived in a horse-drawn carriage.  Do you still have horses?"

The speaker talks about the age of his grandfather and withe the personal anecdote asks the final question, "Do you still have horses?"  How to take the last rhetorical question?  Certainly, there could be a case of it being humorous in the poem due to how the questions were set up in the poem.  But this particular question has a story behind it.

There could be something like "who will take you away when you get that old?" or "if a strong symbol of the past goes away what is there left in the future?" Maybe, maybe.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Analysis of "Clonazepam" by Donald Dunbar

Poem found here: "Clonazepam" by Donald Dunbar

Clonazepam is a drug that treats a variety of diseases or symptoms like MS, Anxiety, panic disorders, or alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

And the first line of the poem plays with the idea of something being solved. "Finally, stability."  These two words set the pace of the poem -- a sense of finality or perhaps what constitutes as stability, "Finally, the fractal iteration of kings."  Definitions.

"The legless herds lie still in the fields / and eventually the fences crumble / and the wilderness returns."   Here the return of the pastoral has a sense of cynicism behind it because there is no basis -- finality and stability breaks down to the fractal iteration -- something is being hidden in the pieces.

"Like cinnamon coaxed back out of the tongue, / this book is a formalist approach for a kiss. / or vice versa."  The level of self-awareness of the speaker debunks the stability set in the beginning.  Well not so much.  What is stable is the inconsistent direction, but interesting ideas.  The burning sensation of something sweet like cinnamon and a kiss is compare.  But also note the "formalist approach" is self-referential to the poem and to the collection as well.

Then the speaker continues to riff off the images, "Like a kiss / is oblivious, they don't know their homestead is meat;  is meat and an age of eternal iteration."  These lines cascade down together in a sense.  From the image simile of a kiss, to meat, back to the notion of iteration.  What is interesting here is the introduction of "they" which doesn't point to anything in the poem other than "kings."  So these lines have a "higher" implication as far as nobility and perhaps rhetoric is concerned.  "Eternal iteration" is not thrown around in a daily basis.

The idea of "finally" returns back to the last stanza, "Finally I have met you / in this video of cyborgs making out, making out / with androids in the comments below."  These lines have a flair of the contemporary.  Gone are the pastoral and personal images, they are tied up in these lines of technology.  Cyborgs are machines/man and androids are pure machines with a human appearance, if I get my terminology correct.

So facsimiles are making out with facsimiles.  Learn more on the (clickbait) comments below.  There's humor here.  But the finality of the poem from time to subject ends with what others think and not what the speaker can conjure.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Analysis of "Smartmouth and the Mysteries" by James Malone Smith

Poem found here:  "Smartmouth and the Mysteries" by James Malone Smith

This poem has a mixture of couplets and singular lines.  But what intrigues me with this poem is how the religious references play into the poem and the perspective, first person, applies such religious icons to the speaker.

"Year upon year I know less and less / about time.  It gits like nobody's business,"  Note how the first line depends on the enjambment.  How the line expresses an overall lack of knowledge to a specific source, time.   But the following made me think of what "gits" mean.   Maybe it's more of a colloquial term depending on the speaker, or perhaps, just forced perspective from the overall theoretical intro line.  The focus, in the end, is back to the speaker.

"though I suspicion it is not.  Verily, / I am content with dust snug in corners. / I wander around scroungy as John the Baptist"  First, the suspicion line feels out of place grammatically, but it goes along with how the sentence is structured with "git."  Something that doesn't fit right then goes with the images of the speaker content with dust and the "scroungy as John the Baptist" line.

Note how the John the Baptist line seems to be more visual, but the speaker cannot run away from the allusion of John the Baptist (well the speaker isn't even trying to).  What I mean is that the religious implications of the icon colors how the next lines will be seen.  John the Baptist, someone who foretold the messiah.

"And no longer implored to worship anything, / free of idol chitcat, I snoop about the premises."  Here's the interesting thing.  The colloquial seems to fit because it was foreshadowed by the language in the beginning of the poem, but this seems like a post religious self.  Instead of proclaiming, the speaker is exploring, "At Easter Vigil the priest has angels at the tomb / and a mirth quake."  Okay, mirth quake is a pun that has religious implications.  But the thing to note is how the speaker switches to the priest but quickly "mocks" the presence and continues to do so.

"Shaken, he addressed / the State of the Jungian, and God's rabbity / elbow in my ribs made me jump and yelp."  The way the speaker comes back to the poem is how the priest (shaken) has a silent address (nothing is being said but action) which then goes to God's rabbity which then goes back to the speaker -- moves the speaker to jump and yelp.  It's the speaker that actually moves and observes.  The final three lines takes a complete shift of focus.

"So when I read in a caption, 'Maryland woman / now Buddhist lama,' I hear my often-- / misquoted mother driving her enormous car."

This poem feels like that the speaker is built up to this.  The foreteller of nothing and the feeler of God's on rabbity is reading a caption which is outside knowledge.  And the caption is of another religious icon, although a bit parodied, "Buddhist lama" but the speaker kind of undercuts the icon with it being "misquoted" like the mother driving her enormous car.

I don't know how to interpret the mother driving her enormous car as something on the outside different than the inside -- physically speaking.  Maybe the mom is enormous though to match her car, but it seems like the poem plays with opposites.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Analysis of "My Kind of Love Poem" by Rafael Campo

Poem found here: "My Kind of Love Poem" by Rafael Campo
Author Website: Rafael Campo

So the melody of the poem pulls the poem a little too close and a little too intimate  within itself.  The question being what is "My Kind of Love Poem" -- a more content driven title.  But I contend that this poem may or may not depend on the content rather how the poem adapts to the content.

For example, the first two lines, "Unluckily, the day begins: a bomb / has detonated in Mumbai. Again,"  So the content is grounded more or less in reality, but note how the internal rhyme of "begins" and "again" flow within the poem.  Note how the sound of the poem has this sense of routine.  So the rhetorical question, "we ask ourselves: Is this what we've become?" which is a bit broad, but brings a collective concious to this "love poem."

The speaker repeats "Unluckily" as though to continue the descent, "Unluckily, the night has eyes.  A train makes music of the city's sleeplessness again:"  Here note how the usage of again keeps inferring itself into the poem.  This scene, these things:

     A baby shrieks with hunger or
     the need to have its diaper changed.  Unless
     he finds a job, the man who lives next door
     will have to go on unemployment.

These things repeat itself.  Weirdly, the poem goes in different directions as far as theme and tone go for me.  "My kind" isn't referring to preference rather the lifestyle the speaker leads.  This is his kind of love poem -- unique to himself.  And isn't the best kind of love the most consistent through the worst of the worst? "Bomb / explode in other places, ruining / other lives, scarring other faces."  Again the internal rhyme of "faces" and "places" adds to the generalization (or perhaps rationalization) that these things happen everywhere -- but note that these things, perhaps unique to the speaker are all external and not so personal -- broad strokes on a large canvas.

The last lines seems the most personal -- and the most ambition

     [...] Crumbs
     form constellations in my sink.  The ring
     of doorbells, telephones, and certain phrases:
     The night dies.  Unlucky Saturn rises.

It's not important on the direction the poem is going, what matters is the direction -- outside of the self, the personal, and away from the constant violent setting on the outside.  These haiku-esque lines goes from "crumb" to "Saturn" through a flow of sonic and visual images.

I can't dismiss 2/3 of the violent and depressing lines for this "love poem" though the ambitious end.  What makes this "kind of love poem" unique is not the images, but the lake of judgement on both sides.  As though to accept the constant violence and the unknown beyond.  In unison, perhaps, but both existing side by side, at least in this poem.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Analysis of "A Crazed Girl" by William Butler Yeats

Poem found here: "A Crazed Girl" by William Butler Yeats

So when I reread this poem, the pop image that came to my mind was Sia's video "Chandelier".  Beautiful, artistic, but looks crazed.

It's not that the girl in this poem is "crazed" -- this doesn't define her -- rather what is the cause of the "crazed emotion."  And, this poem being a bit vers libre and a but reverse sonnet, proclaims here core passion, "That crazed girl improvising her music / Her poetry, dancing upon the shore."  Her music, her poetry.

Note the first stanza is more of an interpretation of her actions from the speaker upon seeing her art, "Her soul in division from itself / Climbing, falling she knew not where, / Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship."  Note how the speaker starts creating a narrative of this crazed girl as to understand her actions, "Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare / A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing / Heroically lost, heroically found."  What he impresses onto her is the idea of heroism on going through the narrative.  Maybe the narrative is true.  Maybe the narrative is something the speaker concocted, but in any case the speaker sees something heroic, something beyond her -- a symbol, an art.

"No matter what disaster occurred / She stood in desperate music wound, / Wound, wound,"  What gets me is the repetition of "wound" which shows the subject as either being hurt or being vulnerable, or both, but the speaker sees this as something heroic -- this girl stands with regardless of her wounds "and she made in her triumph"

The shift in image kind of pulls back from the crazed girl and looks at her surrounding or rather the effect that happens around her, "Where the bales and the baskets lay / No common intelligible sound / But sang, 'O sea-starved, hungry sea.'"  A part of me wants to focus on the sea imagery and how lonely it sounds, just like the scene where no one is around her (or understand her sound).  But there's a certain sense of individual with this crazed girl.  The speaker sees her as heroic in her individuality.  But perhaps, she actually feels alone like the sea.  Impressions are one things, but quoting what the girl "actually" says is another.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Analysis of "Complete Destruction" by William Carlos Williams

Poem found here: "Complete Destruction" by William Carlos Williams

This is a parody of "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost.  Both poems have a sense of humor about destruction, but this poem is more personal, I suppose.  Well.

     It was an Icy day,
     We buried the cat.
     then took her box
     and set it on fire

So there's the place of the initial lines of "Fire and Ice" content and structure wise -- discussion about the duality of fire and ice.

      Some say the world will end in fire,
      Some say in ice.
      From what I’ve tasted of desire
      I hold with those who favor fire.

But what differs is the personal nature of Williams.  The ice is attributed to the day, and the fire is something to cleanse the box; meanwhile, Frost takes more of an ideological stance on destruction.

The last four lines of Williams poem does go more ideological, but in a humorous way:

     In the back yard.
     Those fleas that escaped
     earth and fire
     died in the cold.

The humor is the introduction of the fleas and, regardless of circumstance, would die in fire or in ice.  But behind these lines, there's no choice -- eventually, these "pests" will die by their surroundings.  Comparatively speaking, Frost's last lines are humorous because of a faux choice.

     But if it had to perish twice,
     I think I know enough of hate
     To say that for destruction ice
     Is also great
     And would suffice

This stanza hinges on the line, "Is also great" to redirect a sense of seriousness of the choice between fire and ice.  The end of Frost's poem ends a bit more humorously on the ideology, but Williams is a bit more of a downer when thought about, just a smidge.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Analysis of "The Archaic Torso of Apollo" by Carol Light

Poem Found Here: "The Archaic Torso of Apollo" by Carol Light

This poem is "freely after Rilke" -- Rilke's Archaic Torso of Apollo.  While Rilke's poem has more of an existential  -- this poem has a tongue and cheek feel starting with the first line, "This guy's lost his head but, Jesus," through the tone.  From the lost head the speaker focuses on that luscious body:

     what radiance gleams beneath the pectorals,
     and, as the eye follows the contours
     south towards genesis, well,
     one could go blind smiling.

The lines feel tongue in cheek in what past me called, "physical reverence."  Who doesn't like a some good pectorals and contours?  However, the poem turns a bit with the innuendo of "genesis" for the male part.  Yes, the humor is in innuendo, but there's something too tactful about the word choice.  And the poem goes somewhat into it after the stanza break.

On a side note, this poem isn't a sonnet like Rilke's, but emulates the sonnet form -- at least with the sestet at the end, "Sure, the surface is stone, chipped / here and there, but who wouldn't be taken / by those shoulders, and underneath.  As the poem goes on with the physical appearance and the acceptance of "chips on the shoulder" the poem turns a bit with the word, "underneath."  What is underneath this physical perfection with slight faults?

"can't you see the blazer? A star / goes nova inside you.  You can't hide / anymore. You must get a life."  The poem ends a bit tongue in cheek about getting a life, but the poem is about how the realization occurs.  Note that the perfection on the outside is enticing, but how can it compare to a star going supernova.  Such contained combustion shouldn't be.  I'm not so sure about the blazer line though.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Analysis of "Atmosphere" by Maxine Chernoff

Poem found here: "Atmosphere" by Maxine Chernoff


The existential crisis brought on by the surroundings or what is there to think about trapped because of the atmosphere?

"Rain pummels windows, words unshake trees"  Note the shift between image and metaphor and how the combine together without an conjunction, they just exist together.  But, for me, the metaphor has the greater impact in the line because I'm curious what "words" the speaker is referring to.  "I have not looked outside all-night."  In any case these words aren't visual, something maybe more auditory or conjured in the mind.

"As if distance were merely a loose wire."  Loose wire to what?  I think the idea here is how someone deals with a loose wire -- a reconnect from distance.  "We are talking, nowhere but here / and here, my love."  Something tells me to take the idea of talking as connecting with a grain of salt due to the previous line which makes the line of "my love" twinge a bit with sadness.

"I do not doubt your existence--any more than I can walk on he ocean / floor (nonchalantly as a ghost)."  This line reminds me most of "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock"  "I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas."  But the most important part of the line is how the parenthetical is distancing the speaker from the subject -- not really non-chalantly as a ghost on the page, but in context.

"Shut in winter's house, not epic's dark gray, trees without corollary, a / small flame wavering as shadows burn and waver."  Note the shift between the overall scene of winter which is then compared to the focused singular flame in which the "shadows burn and waver."  This separation of extremes of a cold outside and a "wavering" flame could represent the external and the internal or the self and the other -- in any case the distance goes further and further.

"Something expert closes a gap in curtains."  This line makes sense and doesn't at the same time.  The trajectory of the poem relates to the distance here, but the personal usage of "curtains" and "expert" are suspect.  Then I thought about how an expert is created -- someone or something that has survived the turbulence of the subject -- the speaker has gone through this type of distance before, "I'll repeat, then you: this / gaping vault we'll fill with clocks and days and numbers.  There is only / time."  I feel these lines are self-explanatory as far as the content is concerned.   The proclamation of that there only being time is the speaker's perception.  Or rather the speaker knows that there is only time and that keeps the slightest connection through the distance.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Analysis of "Buddhist Barbie" by Denise Duhamel

Poem found here:  "Buddhist Barbie" by Denise Duhamel

So everything depends on how to interpret the last two lines of the poem.  I've been going back and forth on how I feel about it.

However, let's start in the beginning.  The poem starts out with an informational tone:
     In the 5th century B.C.
     an Indian philosopher
     Gautama teaches 'All is emptiness'
     and 'There is no self'

This is the conceit of the poem in which the Barbie figure responds to.  I think the build up here is the response and the informational tone is more of the "straight man" premise to the "humorous response.  Note how this section is a quatrain and how the next part (still within the same stanza) is a quatrain as well:

     In the 20th century A.D.
     Barbie agrees, but wonders how a man
     with such a belly could pose,
     smiling, and without a shirt.

The first line referencing time feels like an inversion of what would be normally stated, "In the 20th century" with the A.D. being superfluous, but the A.D. is important to this section to continue the connection between Barbie and Gautama.

When the Barbie figure agrees, the question that always runs through my mind is how this figure interprets the phrase "All is emptiness" and "There is no self."  In some ways, I can take this as a very cynical approach to see Barbie as a vapid nobody dress up doll with no concrete personality or self at all -- just the imposed one by people.  I feel this is a set in stone case for the end with the exception of the last two lines.

It's how you interpret the last two lines, "with such a belly could pose, / smiling, without a shirt."  Yes, this could add to the vapidness of the barbie, but my question to myself is "emotion, acceptance, attachment to the body doesn't that fulfill a person or rather go against the mantra of 'emptiness'"

And then backtrack, Barbie is the perfect representation of Buddhism based on the quotes, "All is emptiness" and "There is no self" based on my definition, and, weirdly, Gautama doesn't represent this in his depiction, rather the opposite -- everyone knows Gautama's self as a big bellied smiling man.  How can there be emptiness with a beggar bowl in the hand.

What I'm trying to write is not to dismiss the last two lines of the poem as something vapid and characteristic of the materialistic Barbie, maybe Barbie, through her observation, is the epitome of Buddhism.