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.

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