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.


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