Friday, November 6, 2015

Analysis of "Here" by Bill Knott

Original Analysis found here: Analysis of "Here" by Bill Knott"
Poem found here: "Here" by Bill Knott

Short poem, but it plays so well with opposites.  The first line, "it's dark in the asylums dayroom" is a continuation of the title.  What's so interesting about the line are two things.  First, there's the opposite of exceptions and language-- darkness in a day room, but also look at the space between the first line and the title: white space.  This white space seems like a darkness or a nothing which is a theme throughout this short poem.
"where the insane count me on their fingers'  I'm not sure what this lines mean.  It does add to the setting, and adds play to the ambiance.
"Though I still add up to nothing,"  Once again a play of language of expectations.  Now this is taken from the perspective of the insane to "here" -- the current.  But what does here mean?
"Therapeutically speaking."  That last jolt of a line makes it funny, but sad at the same time.  What if the white space and something is the breaking point of sanity.  Counting on something, but adding up to nothing.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Analysis of "Singlehanded" by Matt Salyer

Poem Found Here: "Singlehanded" by Matt Salyer

So I'm going to approach this a bit differently -- more reader response than new criticism.  So the first line, "Black apertures in a field of ghost," sets up a dark and creepy atmosphere and ambiance.  Not so much with the term, "field of ghost" but with black apertures which, "they come to me when the winter will be / their last." The noun is specific but the scene is so broad.  Also who is the speaker?  Why do these figures go to him?    What makes this poem wonderfully creepy is the language -- so specific, but so vague.  There's a play of suspension -- wanting to know more.

But the poem reads as though we're too late, "When we collapse, we collapse by the common law / of us."  What is this common law of us?  It's how the speaker is connected to this aperture.  Well the following images of separating the speaker from body parts kind of leads me to this direction

     [...]I do not peel the foil of cold from our stupor.
     I forgot the lame hocks, fine as you'd guess,
     and my jaw shovels a hum from the animal lung
     I face.

But note how the language is so tightly focused on individual parts and ideas -- peeling the foil, hocks, jaws shovels a hum from the animal lung.  So odd and intimate, but at the same time so creepy.

But the next line begets the intimacy with a sense of wrath, "If it were so easy to throw a horse down, / you would all do it; you would hold / their tantrums with a strap."  The semi-colon makes this line.  The action seems clarifies the situation -- the speaker taking care of a dying horse.  But it's not so simple as that.  It's how the speaker views the situation.  There's a sense of empowerment over death.  From the intimacy that the speaker has to the "you" unable to calm horses like the speaker.  It's a bit unnerving the point of view has and the authority he has.  It's because of the language -- the approach.
Starting all the way from the beginning the ambiance is continued through the language so even this line, "No one can tell how bold and lonesome / sies choose their falls or me,"could be taken as a line about how well this person does at his actions, but there's a false sense of comparison -- them or me.  This feels like there's something more than the situation which I don't know the answer to but I don't have to.

The lackadaisical end is the creepiest I've read in a long time.  It's the language:

     but I throw horses.
     What a burden, what a beast
     I've been.

Yes, I'll repeat myself and say it's the language -- the play on the idiom of beast of burden so the speaker gains those attributes.  But it's the short line of "I've been" which has the most power.  The self-awareness of actions and then putting a throwaway meaning behind them for the reader acknowledges the reader but, for the speaker, it seems like the horses, the intimacy, the anger -- is all just a game.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Analysis of "To Make A Dadist Poem" by Tristan Tzara

Poem found here:  "To Make A Dadist Poem"  by Tristan Tzara

This is a recipe to make a Dadist poem.  Simple as that.  Right?  Well, to look further into it is against the dadist mantra -- trying to be logical and reasonable about art.  But, ironically enough, the recipe style of this poem leads to a false of logic and reason with the exception of the outcome.

"Take a newspaper / Take some scissors / Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem."  Note that when choosing the article, don't focus on content, focus on length -- no meaning, no focus.

"Cut out the article / Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag."  Steps that lead one after the other where there are only words left.

"Shake gently" The adverb here makes me laugh because I think of this poem at this point as one about what's not being stated.  The meaning, the focus.  So to have a direction is out of place.   Also, thinking about shaking vigorously would be too out of place.

"Next take out each cutting after the other / Copy conscientiously in the order in which hey left the bag. / The poem will resemble you."  The comparison between what a poem means and what a person is -- a jumble of words -- not logical or reasonable, doesn't conform -- this is the outcome.

"And there you are -- an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though / unappreciated by the vulgar herd."  This is some entitlement language, but there's a sense of venom with the outcome as well to both being an "original" author and the "vulgar herd."

It's quite ironic that to be an original author, the author has to take text from others to create the work

It's quite ironic that the vulgar herd doesn't appreciate the artwork, as though appreciating the work would make the audience have charming sensibilities.

Such drawn out conclusions and black and white outcomes.  That's how a recipe works though.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Analysis of "Arrowhead" by Tasha Cotter

Poem Found Here: "Arrowhead" by Tasha Cotter

"To understanding the word enemy, imagine"  The first line proposes to the speaker that the understanding of "enemy" is what the poem is going to explore.  Note not the definition, since definition doesn't mean understanding.  It's where the audience has to experience vicariously in order to understand.  And at first the audience is imagining, "The buffalo grazing while listening / For the stir of men approaching/ The hill"

Note that the grammar in this part indicates that the men do or do not exists.  The focal point of the buffalo listening out mirrors our own expectations as readers for something out there that might attack us, "sharpened flint in their palms."

Then the poem shifts from the buffalo's perspective to the men -- imaginary men:

     Each of them, ready to die for the same

     Thing: the hush of a limestone cave,

     The rise and fall of sinking creeks.

The key to these is not the scenic objects the men would die for, rather the verb: "hush" and "rise and fall."  These verbs bring out a sense of the hunt -- the silence and the focus on movement, but are placed in the scenery as though to refocus the reasons from the enemies.

Then the switch to the second person which tries to, or maybe force, that the definition of this enemy also requires the understanding of killing, "You can almost understand killing / For your home because it's a place / That claims you and call you / Back."

So there's motive.

Motivation actually from the enemy to state what they are doing -- killing -- is for a home that always calls back.  Place.  And how flippantly the speaker, through all the setup, disregards the actual killing,

     [...]But what about the arrowhead?

     Instrument in hand, the buffalo

     Never stood a chance.

But it's the "Tiny monster" that draws me in.  I wonder what that means or more specifically what the tiny monster refers to.  Since it is singular, I'm assuming the term is demonizing the buffalo -- a tiny monster of no worth in order to keep place.

By the end of this poem, there's a sense of a moral to the exploration of the definition proposed in the beginning.   "Just when you think you know what / To expect, there lies the incredible / Surprise waiting for you to cross its path."  For me, this is more of a satire on the morality tale -- there isn't really a moral, just justification and belittlement.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Analysis of "The Day After My Father's Death" by Bill Knott

Original Analysis found here: Analysis of “The Day After My Father’s Death”"
Poem found here: "The Day After My Father's Death" by Bill Knott

There’s multiple things at play here: expectation, form, narrative, perspective.  The speaker as a child, who is in an orphanage, is told that his father has died, is placed into an office to grieve.  The child reads comic books as more of a distraction but comes around back to the situation.  And even though the poem reads as a narrative of the moment, the end has a slight acknowledgement of the speaker now.

The opening line of the poem, “It’s too complex to explain,” might seem a bit on the nose, but for me, it’s a refreshing continuation of the title, “The Day After My Father’s Death.”   The opening line doesn’t try to romanticize feelings or hyperbolize the situation — the speaker automatically tells the audience, it’s complicated — maybe the death, maybe the feelings, but the following lines, “but I was already in / the orphanage when dad died; ” adds a complex situation to another complex situation.

The next lines adds to the narrative but there’s an interesting way of looking at grief as well:

and so that day when I cried,
to keep the other children safe
from my infectious grief
they left me in lockdown

There’s a sense of hyperbole at play here through the term “infectious grief” and “lockdown”; however, after reading the poem a couple of times, these terms don’t feel out of place.  “Infectious grief” adds more sense of tragedy to the scene since the context is at an orphanage — it’s like the orphans playing out the same scene over again of losing everything; furthermore, the idea of lockdown seems like a prison term, but it isn’t far-fetched.  The speaker is in lockdown to hold back the grief from spilling over.

And this poem takes a turn to the reserved with the switch onto reading the comic books, “which they had confiscated / from us kids through the year.”  And it seems to distract the speaker, “and on through wiped tears / I pored quickly knowing.”  Note how there isn’t any focus on what comcs were read or any of the plot.  The comics serve as a numbing device from the reality of the situation when, “this was a one-time thing– / this quarantine would soon end–” Part of me thinks that this poem hinges on the idea on “one-time thing.”  Not only with comic books, but also the situation — it’s a one time thing losing a father.

But then again, there’s the comparison of what’s worst — losing the comic books at the age of kid or

worse than that I knew
that if a day ever did come
when I could obtain them,
gee, I’d be too old to read
them then, I’d be like him, dad.

Now this could reference the comc books — being able to read them at an old age, but the last lines are complex and the idea of “too old.”  Yes, to old to read comic books, but also too old to die the same age as the father (which I assume the father died young) or to old to “read” and rather “understand” or “look deeper” into the moment.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Analysis of "Poem (How I lost My Pen-Name)" by Bill Knott

Original Analysis found here: Analysis of "Poem (How I lost My Pen-Name)" by Bill Knott"
Poem found here: "Poem (How I lost My Pen-Name)" by Bill Knott

The pen-name serves as another identity focused on writing.  However the focus is on writing the pen name:

I wrote under a pen-name
One day I shook the pen trying to make the name come out
But no it’s
Like me prefers clinging to the inner calypso

What stands out in stanza is how erratic the line lengths are for this exposition.  Where is the focus?  The short line stating no?  Could it be the long action line.”  At this point I feel the speaker is trying too hard to show how sporadic the exposition is through the line lengths, but, in doing so, separates identities — the focus is on this pen-name as an identity.

So when the speaker tosses the pen to his “pet” the wastebasket with intentions for the name to come back to him, the shock is shown in individual lines, “But no again” “It stayed down.”  Realize that the focus on it staying down means that the pen-name is thrown away.  That the name pen-name is truly gone.  However, the seriousness of this revelation is tempered with the earlier line of “Names aren’t fit / For unhuman consumption.”

What is left them — the unhuman person when the pen-name, the personified writer is gone:

I don’t use a pen-name anymore
I don’t use a pen anymore
I don’t write anymore

The repetition adds to the slow realization that the other is lost and what is left is thought — thinking — expression trapped in a receptacle, “I just sit looking at the wastebasket / With this alert intelligent look on my face.”

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Analysis of "To X" by Bill Knott

Original Analysis found here: Analysis of "To X""
Poem found here: "To X" by Bill Knott

The first four lines state the same thing, well, by definition.  What makes the first four lines of the poem interesting is how simply the tone changes through the repetition.  A build up of importance, or romance.  The anaphora of “Somewhere” brings a sense of searching — and what is the speaker searching throughj: “history,” “untold ages,” “the sands of time,” “the vast sea of eternity.”  It’s comic, but romantic.  It’s a speaker who is writing in fantastical hyperbole.

Love creates strange writings.

“There is one person / Only one.”  The repeating of the “only one” is the turn in the poem.  If this was another sappy love poem then the comparison would be more grandiose, the emotions amplified to the point of comic.  Here the attention turns to the tone of the speaker.

“Who could understand me and love me / And your’re it/ So get with it.”

The responsibility goes with the other who (according to the speaker) sees as someone who needs to get with it.  Take responsibility for the speaker.  There’s humor here of course — the abrupt turn at the end. But this poem, at the end, turns to the speaker’s view of love rather than a hyperbolic love poem of an unknown other — or maybe both.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Analysis of "Demolition Song" by Benjamin Goldberg

Poem Found Here: "Demolition Song" by Benjamin Goldberg

What makes this poem is the line breaks.  There's an unsettling feel about this poem which comes from technique: the images, the line breaks, the form of the sonnet, the language -- that brings a whirlwind of emotions, nothing to be pinned down,

But first, this opening line "Too often sledgehammers are the answer--" mixes what the title represents -- the image of demolition, the feel of a psalm with the focus on the answer.  What is the sledgehammer the answer to, "rotting crossbeam, plank, or stud, this ribcage, / these boarded storefronts."  The introduction of the speaker's ribcage seems off in the sequence, but not how easily the subject stays within the idea of construction and then the play of sound, "Avenues all sound / like rooftop cisterns, their absent water."  It's the sound of something absent -- when you expect to hear water you hear nothing.

The next three lines of the second stanza have a play with line breaks which make the images descend, "Lord, I"m too often dawns' color of rain / left too long on the frames of a pickup trucks / whose wheels are cindreblocks."  The color of rain is a very pretty metaphor and image -- something that feels a bit heavenly with the tone of the piece, and then the truck is like, "okay it's more down to earth."  But the wheels as cinderblocks hits hard as an image -- there's implications of poverty or class here.  And with the last setnence of the stanza, "Answer my bones, just as you would my driveway, with bindweed" feels more of a play on terminology -- bindweed -- both the literal and the metaphorical binding.

The third stanza is the opposite of the second where the images ascend, "By brake light, I break glass on the wrong side / of your sound walls. I read the pyro's creed / from a matchbook, and make my church once more [..]"  There's a sense of religious neurosis with first the glass on the wrong side and the sound walls, but the the ascendance of "pyro's creed" which in turn into a church.  There's a bit of a mocking tone here, but it makes me wonder if it is or is the last stanza a mocking tone and this the serious tone.  For me, the second stanza and the third cannot have the same tone.  Well they can but not the way I see it.  The second stanza stanza seems serious, a bit more down to earth.  The third stanza seems more sarcastic with finding the creed on a match book and the church as a gas can which then leads to the frustrated tone with the question, "I'll ask again -- how many / streetlights has my faith avenged?"

The streetlights take an antagonistic role.  It seems like the speaker wants the lights out, "Flicker once, / if you can't hear me."  The idea of flickering is the slight hope of something there meanwhile, "Flicker off if you can." is absolute -- the lights out -- the faith avenged.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Analysis of "Oblivion Poem" by Jessie Redmon Fauset

Poem Found Here: "Oblivion Poem" by Jessie Redmon Fauset

Rhymed AABB quatrains.  For a poem so conceptual and hidden, the monosyllabic rhyme scheme (until the end) wants the reader to remember this poem, which, ironically, is against what the speaker wants.  What the speaker wants is to be "forgotten" and become one with "oblivion."

A bit overblown?  Not really, another way of looking at this poem is what the speaker thinks of death and of outside forces -- to me, this is more of a character piece than a poem that has high philosophical value.  

The opening lines, "I hope when I am dead that I shall lie / In some deserted grave [....]" has a very strong sentiment to amplify the need for loneliness and the, "I cannot tell you why," adds a sense of mystery that the reader wants to uncover.  However, the mystery doesn't do it for me as the next two lines reiterate this sentiment, "But I should like to sleep in some neglected spot . Unknown to every one, by every one forgot."

I'm not concerned why the speaker hates people, rather these lines, "And I should never hear the note of jealousy or hate, / The Tribute paid by passerby to tombs of state."  Now, the jealousy and hate part is hyperbolic to put on all people, but this is what the speaker thinks people are.  However, what the the speaker thinks of itself, "tombs of state."  Someone worth a something on a state level.  It's the idea of worth.  For the speaker's worth is given tribute through jealousy or hate which she wants to shy away from, "To me would never penetrate the prayers and tears."

The idea of prayers and tears and tying them with jealousy and hate, and then tying that in with people is a long thread of reasoning.  This is what the act of death feels like.

So for the speaker at the end, Oblivion, "the shroud and envelope of happiness" is an afterlife thought.  The bliss is not something new.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Analysis of "Painting Vs. Poetry" by Bill Knott

Original Analysis found here: Analysis of "Painting Vs. Poetry"
Poem found here: "Painting Vs. Poetry" by Bill Knott

[Note: I'm copying and pasting my analysis for Bill Knott from his forum onto here -- partially to promote the Billknottarchive, and partially to continue the analysis on my blog]

The initial line already separates painting and poetry, “Painting is a person […]”.  The speaker adds human characteristics to the idea of painting.  Why is this important in the very beginning of a poem.  For all accounts, this poem is a compare and contrast poem where the definitions should be laid out in the beginning; furthermore, since this is a short poem (a sentence long) every type of image and comparison counts.

The placement of the person, “between the light and a / canvas so that their shadow is cast on the canvas” is not as important as, “then the person signs their name.”  What is not important is the process of art?  The placement, the play of light and shadow — the metaphor of an impression onto a canvas — none of these seem important.  Why?  Note how the signature at the end, the person signing his/her name seems important.  The last on the list to create art.  What I feel is described here is a visual representation of the self.

Versus what the speaker states about poetry:

[…] Whereas poetry
is the shadow writing its
name upon the person.

See how the idea of the signature is played around with again.  The shadow, which is a Jungian term if I’m not mistaken which influence Bly Kinnell, and many poets, is more of the forefront.  Here it is not the impression, but what the other half, the one hidden, writes.  There’s ideas of repression coming out here.  There’s ideas of the other coming out here.  But the main differences, a visual impression versus a shadow’s expression, is not a judgement holder (not to say one is better than the other) just an observation on an observation.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Analysis of "Dancer" by Patricia Spears Jones

Poem Found Here:  "Dancer" by Patricia Spears Jones

"Memory" is the main thing in this poem.  Note that the word is used three times in the poem -- once per each stanza.  And, even though this poem starts out focusing on the dancer, the poem feels as though it wants to test the idea of memory and meaning.

Well, the play happens with this line, "Between fantasy and the memory of a man's carved / Torso". With these lines note how the idea of "fantasy" has been kept in the general -- some concept that is grounded in its allusiveness.   Rather the focus is on memory -- what does memory mean.  The literal of the memory in the first stanza is, "man's carved torso" but what it represents is," stroking and celebrations."  Something sexual, something intimate, something festive -- this all fro m a single black feather.

This type of sentiment bleeds over to the next stanza, "Today the sun's brightness is like that lover's kiss / Wonderful in the present and greater in memory."  Note that the physical description plays as a metaphor set up in the beginning stanza, but also note the judgement call here -- "wonderful in the present and greater in memory."  Memory is "greater."  Greater is what way though?  Funnily, as a fantasy that can be expanded upon with the last stanza.

"A memory that brings me back." -- Memory serving as a nostalgic device as the poem transitions from a day image to a night image "Stars dazzle in some other part of this world / Where the sun has set."  That passionate sun is gone and what is left is, "the moon illuminates / Swans diving into voluminous waters."  I think the assumption for me is that the swans are black -- a culmination of feathers going under or the swans are black in the scene, shadows in the night, and are even more hidden, more somewhat repressed, diving into the water.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Analysis of "A March" by Ishion Hutchinson

Poem Found Here: "A March" by Ishion Hutchinson

From there beginning of the poem there is a play of definition and how the definitions intertwine and contrast.  Well, literally in the beginning:

     Lesson of the day: Syria and Styria
     For Syria, read: His conquering banner shook from Syria.
     And for Styria: Look at this harp of blood, mapping.

It's a play of homophones -- similar sounding words to distinguish a difference; however, note the play on the placement of the verb "read" in line 2 and "Look" in line 3 in which the former is before the reading which should take more time to process, but the latter is more of an image that is taken in

"Now I am tuned" is an interesting way to introduce the "I" speaker.  There's a sense that the initial tercet was a warm up, now the real play of images and language stars here.  And within the second and third there's a play of image, "the forest shaken / on the bitumen" -- the artificial versus the natural. Furthermore, the play of expanse and image with, "synapses, intermittent, on edge / of shriek -- perhaps a cluster of fir, birches?"  What makes this image is the rhetorical question of both the self and the audience of what the image is and the transition of images.

The play of, "Don't get too hung up / on the terms; they have entropy / in common"  shows a turn in tone, but why?  The entropy in terms is not what we are supposed to get hung up on, but rather the connection between the contrast of images or the contrast of terms, "the public weal, / those obtuse centurions in the flare of bougainvillea."  A mark to a plant -- something based on the human ego to a gift that should placate the human ego.

The contrast of terms becomes blatant with, "Cruetly. / Justice."  What saves these lines from just being concepts is the set-up of how to look at terms and how, for that split second you want them to mean everything, they mean everything -- they mean too much -- they are a means of distraction, "Never mind, but do / pay attention to the skirmish"

Is this the skirmish? "the white / panther that flitters up the pole -- / its shade grows large on the ground."  Yes, there's a play of color with "white panther" which holds many references with "white" and "panther" plus the connections could lead to a whole essay based on color and race, but this is the distraction.  The "shade grows large on the ground" is the skirmish -- they play of space withing thoughts and connection.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Analysis of "The Hinge of Spring" by Kay Ryan

Poem found here: "The Hinge of Spring" by Kay Ryan

This poem, comprised of two five line stanzas, plays more the idea of definition and redefinition.  For example, the title, "The Hinge of Spring" begs the reader a question "what is the hinge of spring" or rather what is the moment when we know winter has turned to spring.

The first stanza plays with the idea by defining the first moments of spring, "The jackrabbit is a mild herbivore / grazing the desert floor, / quietly abridging spring."  So with these lines the focus is on the jackrabbit as a representative of "the hinge of spring."  The usage of "herbivore" brings more of a foreshadowing scientific presence to a pretty mundane scene which shifts in intensity with, "eating the color off everything / rampant- height or lower."  So we have a mixture of science and metaphor playing here.  The mythos of the jack rabbit is one who "eats the color off everything."  So we have mostly colorless scenery.

The second stanza plays with the descriptive tone, "Rabbits are one of the things / coyotes are for."  The switch of focus to from the rabbit to the relationship of the coyote adds a sense of play between opposing sides, but also the reality of the situation of hunter and hunted, "One quick scream,"  Although this comes off a bit harsh, but this is the sound of the hinge of spring.

Or rather, in this poem, every technique focuses the reader to the definition to images: color, landscape, animals, sound.

"a few quick thumps, / and a whole little area / shoots up blue and orange clumps."  The key to these lines are "area" which encompasses how to take in this poem -- spring as a change in area.  And so with the blue and orange clumps there's an elimination of emotional distress, but the emphasis of the humor of color.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Analysis of "Sky Burial" by Ron Koertge

Poem found here:  "Sky Burial" by Ron Koertge

A response through metaphor.  This poem utilizes many rhetorical techniques to support the metaphorical answer.  And, the focus is the metaphorical answer. The wind-up, and the rhetorical devices and techniques to lead up to the metaphorical answer are deceptively humane.

But let's start with a question, "Q. You're Such a Disciplined Writer.  Were You Always That way?"  Note that this is a question that the speaker will answer but as a poem this is a construct the speaker creates.  This may be a personal response, but this poem concerns the construct of the "Disciplined Writer."

And so the answer:

The first stanza focuses on the time frame and sets up a scene for the exact moment -- that metaphorical answer, "When I was in graduate school, I worked part-time at a local / library."

Then there's the mention of the regulars, "I learned to know the regulars who talked about living with pain / and waiting for bland meals to be delivered."   Yes, there could be something taken away with the specific image of the regulars -- complaints of pain and bland meals as though the regulars are part of the scene, just some backdrop to go along with a basement.

But then the poem switches to something learned:

"One sweltering afternoon I read about Tibetan body breakers
who dismember corpses with their hatchets and flaying knives
so the vultures will have an easier time."

Note how the body breakers relate back to the pain to the body of the regulars.  And also note the "bland meal" is grisly parallel to the bodies of corpses.  Easier time.

Then the relation to the image to the metaphor:

"I imagined my own body and the monks asking, 'What did this one
do?' And the answer would be, 'Not much.'  As the hand I could
have written with flew away from the wrist."

Past me wrote "regret through image" and it's pretty apparent at the end.  But note that the regret is first characterized through the perception of the imagined the monk answering a question within a question, "Not much."  And then the regret is then actualized through a metaphor -- not a direct answer an implied one.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Analysis of "For a Poet" by Countee Cullen

Poem Found Here: "For a Poet" by Countee Cullen

This poem has so many repeating lines.  The first two lines and the last lines repeat: "I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth, / And laid them away in a box of gold;"  Furthermore the repetition of the same rhyme of -th and -ld words hit hard and are jarring.

For a poet, there's cynicism.

This poem is not the passing of the torch -- those types of gift poems where the speaker writes it like a commencement speech.  Yes, the speaker's dreams are in silk and in a box, but note the separation of the dream into a beautiful containment -- the flow of -th.

      Where long will cling the lips of the moth
      I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
      I hide no hate; I am not even wroth
      Who found the earth's breath so keen and cold,

The following two lines has a nature image of the "lips of the moth,"  but the moth doesn't serve as a beautiful metaphor to coincide with the silken cloth -- rather antagonistically.  Even thought the moth's cocoon is silk, the moth itself is the unpretty byproduct.  "Long" in that line isn't a determinate of time, rather the emotion of want.  It seems (although a bit of a stretch) the moth is burying itself in such beauty.

So much is buried that "I hide no hate;  I am not even wroth / Who found the earth's breath so keen and cold."  Even though the "hate" is not hidden what is hated is hidden; furthermore, anger is hidden against the physical breath that's keen and cold.

So when the lines repeat, "I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth. / And laid them away in a box of gold."  The dreams are protected from the outside reality and metaphors.  They are kept internal, but beautiful.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Analysis of "???" by John Surowiecki

Poem found here:  "???" by John Surowiecki

The title gives away the base conceit of the poem:  ??? or something is missing.  It's not a mystery in the first stanza, the question more is "why are such things forgotten."  The poem starts out with the multiple ways of saying mussel bear ranging from the scientific to the nick name, "its byssus, its sea silk or sea flax," and then what the actual things do in multiple ways, "penetrating, securing."

But the key idea is in the line after that, "It clings like what's her / name, a poetic name, but I can't recall it now."  Regardless of what's going on in the poem, the forgetting of a name -- specifically calling out the forgetting of the name, comes to the forefront to me.  Especially since the poem is titled "???."  Why?  if this poem was called something like "Mussels at the beach" then all sense of urgency is gone with thte poem.  The reader wouldn't be looking for what is named, but would look at the situation.  Again, the situations in this poem seem to lose gravity, another meaning, without the conceit.

For example stanza two:

           She'd scrub them
     with a brush, remove the beards, feed them cornmeal
     or something, discard the crap they produced.
     I think her name was watery: a naiad's maybe.

There's a poetic sense to these lines in the beginning with her making the meal -- a sense of alliteration with the "s" and the "b", the specific naming movement of the poem which is then taken away tonally with, "or something."  There seems to be a resistance to making this poetic, and furthermore, there's a resistance to making this personal, "I think her name was watery: a naiad's maybe."

I stated before that the conceit of this poem makes the poem -- the questioning of what's at stake, but there seems to be nothing at stake poetically or personally. "She added EVOO / and white wine and garlic and Herbes de provence,"  Note how specific these lines are, like the beginning of the previous stanzas, and how it goes further, "The mussels that didn't open were bad (meaning dead).  We chose linguine (little tongue) it was our little joke."  So the "little joke" seems to be personal, but isn't attached.

"We were complete slobs" -- in the final stanza the speaker somewhat arrives, "Her bed smelled like a harbor when we were done with it."  and then the memory of sex appears -- but it's not the act but rather the sense.

What's at stake happens in the last two lines, "And I must have called out her name a dozen times. / It flew off my tongue.  It seemed written in the stars."  This poem is not personal in the sense of attachment or emotion, rather personal in how it's composed -- a sense of meta-poetics.  The speaker reconstructs this scene "like a slob" through tonal miscues and breaks in flow, but the name, her name, or rather the lack of knowing her name is the thread in these poems creating an irony with "It seemed written in the stars."  Note that "it" refers to the name.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Analysis of "Natural Disasters" by Faith Shearin

Poem found on the May 5th Edition of "The Writer's Almanac"

This poem makes creates two comparative metaphors in which the focus changes from premise to action, and within that change two negatives exist.

The premise is first laid out in the first two lines, "During natural disasters two enemy animals / will call a truce."  Theoretically, there doesn't need to be examples except for the first which is simple enough, "so during a hurricane / an owl will share a tree with a mouse."  Here, we have the situation plus the two enemies able to coexist together.

But then the poem expands, not in existence or disparity in enemies, rather the actions the "predator" does.  "during an earthquake, you might find / a mongoose wilted and shivering / beside a snake." and "The bear will sit down / in a river and ignore the passing salmon."

However, the comparison that stands out the most is the last one, "just as the lion will allow the zebra to walk home without comment."  Here the turn has some anthropomorphism.  Here, the lines signal a shift when the "predator" is allowing the "prey" to leave with no comment.

I wrote down that this poem is an action focused poem.  Not in the sense of movement, but the subtle choice of verbs.  "At funerals and weddings," is a big event, but when "the aunts who never speak nod / politely to one another." This little action shows a sense of coexistence -- note not kinship just like how "When my mother /was sick even the prickly neighbors / left flowers and cakes at our door."

It's not the intent, nor is it the grandiose scale of kindness  --- just the action which the speaker states, "I love that there are exceptions."

Friday, March 13, 2015

Analysis of "Dark Matter and Dark Energy" by Alicia Ostriker

Poem found here:  "Dark Matter and Dark Energy" by Alicia Ostriker

This poem is a play on specific and the unspecific.  There's also play of what's stated and what's inferred.

This poem is written in tercets, and this plays a big part in the end of the poem, but the beginning of the poem deals with the specific confirmation: "My husband says dark matter is a reality / not just some theory invented by adolescent computers / he can prove it exists and is everywhere"  There's somewhat of emotional twinge with the first line "My husband says dark matter is a reality" as though the specific mentioning of the husband and what he can "prove" as real and it exist.  But the husband doesn't necessarily prove anything.

Rather there's the expansion onto the unknowable, "forming invisible haloes around everything / and somehow because of gravity / holding everything loosely together"  The key with this poem is the inferences with specifics -- "invisible haloes" and "everything loosely" -- weirdly, the movement in this poem is dependent on the adjectives and adverbs since the nouns are so general, so undefinable.  And any attempt to be specific through nouns or even situations, well:

"the way a child wants to escape its parents / and doesn’t want to—what’s that— / we don’t know what it is but we know it is real"  The exclamation of the second like to the analogy -- the child to escape from the parents breaks away from something, "what's that" -- even the exclamation that breaks away is undirected, something is wrong but what.  "We don't know what it is but we know it is real.

"the way our mothers and fathers fondly / angrily followed fixed orbits around / each other like mice on a track"  The key with this stanza is paying attention to the adverbs, "fondly" and "angrily" which is trying to impose more of an emotional appeal -- or rather, to place meaning in this run around of no meaning meaning.

"the way every human and every atom / rushes through space wrapped in its invisible / halo, this big shadow—that’s dark dark matter"  Here there's the reference to the beginning definition of the poem which describes everything in a loop but there's nothing proven, but the important line is the next stanza, "sweetheart" which feels so forced and cynical in the context of the poem -- maybe perhaps a desperation for something real, "while the galaxies / in the wealth of their ferocious protective bubbles / stare at each other,"  again with the descriptors -- the adjectives -- there's an implied intent behind the personification of the galaxies, but nothing there.

The last three lines feel the most forced:

     unable to cease

it's the line lengths as well as the content.  This part is more dependent on the emotion rather than the action.  Here, the adverb of "proudly" goes with the galaxies -- both sides receding.  The line isn't meant to be a triumph for one side or another -- rather to be looked upon as harmatia -- that undefinable flaw that keeps both apart.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Analysis of "A Person of Limited Palette" by Ted Kooser

Poem Found Here:  "A Person of Limited Palette" by Ted Kooser

So this forlorn poem about what is needed plays with the definition of "Limited Palette."  One definition is that of an artist that only has a limited skill set which shifts to an artist with a limited thought process which shifts to an artists with limited possibilities to be in a different location.

The poem opens up with the focal point, "I would love to have lived out my years / in a cottage a few blocks from the sea,".  These lines think about an alternate end of life with the location first, then action, "and have spent my mornings painting / out in the cold, wet rocks," -- simple action.  Then there is a shift to being "known":

     [...] to be known
     as “a local artist,” a pleasant old man
     who “paints passably well, in a traditional
     manner,” though a person of limited
     talent, of limited palette:

The first is to be known as someone -- "local artist" or someone who "paints passably well".  Note how the speaker cares what people "say" about him through the quotes, but the underlying thought of him would have been, "a person of limited / talent, of limited palette."  Not that this is a negative, or is it?  The speaker doesn't delve much into judgement calls but what the speaker could possibly be:

     [...] earth tones
     and predictable blues, snap-brim cloth cap
     and cardigan, baggy old trousers
     and comfortable shoes,

The cumulative clothing adds on the speaker as though the physical could be real.  But note the adjectives of "comfortable" and more importantly "predictable."  To be predictable in a dream is to be grounded in a sense, to be more stable.  However, the speaker admits, "but none of this / shall come to pass, for every day / the possibilities grow fewer."  And usually there would be some sort of emotional pull at the end of the poem, but instead there's a hypothetical scenario, not so much a dream.

     [...] If you should come looking
     for me, you’ll find me here, in Nebraska,
     thirty miles south of the broad Platte River,
     right under the flyway of dreams.

The location is specific, Nebraska.  And then there's a somewhat pun of palette with "Platte River."  And the image at the end, "flyway of dreams" brings a metaphorical end of the poem.  But this is not important, what is important is this line, "If you should come looking / for me."  The line break begs the reader to follow along with the speaker, if only for a moment, towards such a specific place where he can/cannot escape.  There's an implication that no one is looking for him.  Not even himself.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Analysis of "The Blessing" by John Updike

Poem found here: "The Blessing" by John Updike

The poem is a response to "A Blessing" by James Wright, So the question being is how much can this poem compare to the other, or does this poem stand on its own.

The initial image of "The room darkened, darkened until / our nakedness became a form of gray;" in more of a suffocating image while the James Wright poem seems to expand outward, but these lines have the same vulnerabilities that Wright's poem exposes when it goes into internal projection of the horses.

But here, here we have generalities:

     the rain came bursting,
     and we were sheltered, blessed,
     upheld in a world of elements
     that held us justified.

Note how the vulnerabilities are easily shored up with being "sheltered" versus the "A Blessing" again going outward and being further vulnerable.  However this poem is more straight forward about "love":

     In all the love I had felt for you before,
     in all that love,
     there was no love
     like that I felt when the rain began:

Four lines, three mentions of "love,"  but the interesting thing about the structure is the third line with "there was no love" in which the enjambment changes the meaning of the poem for a split second -- as though this was the real vulnerability internally which is then shifted as a "misunderstanding" by the simile, "like that I felt when the rain began" as to go back to the exterior -- the physical.

"dim room, enveloping rush / the slenderness of your throat, / the blessed slenderness."  So here's the thing with this poem -- the slender neck in "A Blessing" refers to the mare the speaker is infatuated and could "burst into blossom"; but, the speaker of that poem had to step outside his body to feel that.

The speaker of this poem returns back to the body.  There is no breaking and there is no blossom, just this reassertion of love -- of the physical, the conceptual, well, isn't it "justified" enough?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Analysis of "Current" by Alan Soldofsky

Poem found here: "Current" by Alan Soldofsky

Disclaimer:  So I've known Alan for years and when his poem popped up on the front page of, I wanted to analyze this.  I don't know if me announcing I know the guy matters at all except for I admit my bias.

So let's start, shall we?  The beginning line foreshadows the entire theme of the poem, "I'm careful where I step."  Not what's stated but the structure of the poem. Regardless of the beauty around, the speaker can't help but intrude in it, analyze it, and not be a part of the current.

As with the majority of Alan Soldofsky poems, a reader has to pay special attention to the verbs:

[...] Water ripples
greenish blue against hot sand; pebbles mixed
with quartz grains and pine needles, sharp
amid the duff, blown down from the
upper stories of the sugar pines
clumped along the beach. Kids falling off
paddle boards into the cold lake, voices
like stretched brake linings in the dry air. [Emphasis mine]

With the exception of ripples (which could refer to the speaker himself), the other verbs "blown down" and "falling off" are descent verbs that are placed in the scene.  Out of all the current views, the speaker decides to focus on how things get taken down.  The simile in the end breaks the nature imagery enough to re-examine the language usage, but still be somewhat in the poem -- the connection between the current and the speaker gets stretched.

"A geometric rim of mountains in the / near distance. A few geese / float detached on the current."  In the description of the poem, Alan Soldofsky said he's interested in puns -- well here's the first one, but also note that the concept of "blown down" and "falling off" is in the verb "detached" here as well adds to the sense of disassociation.  "Beside / us a family under a mesh canopy / speaks English and Russian."  These seem like innocuous lines, but note the introduction to the "us" and the separation of language.

The speaker then intrudes in on the scene to state, "I love the present" and further punctuates this notion with:

     I want to stay here endlessly,
     standing at the convergence of sand and water
     while we watch them sequestered
     under the clutter of branches, breathing
     suntan lotion. I dread the future, yet it arrives

The adverb here is tricky, but I think it's set up by the separation.  This feels like a inevitable line and so does the contrast of "I dread the future."

Realize that this poem isn't a nature poem, but has nature elements in this; also, this poem isn't a purely existential poem, but has existential elements in it.  The "Current" which is described in the end builds off the idea of disappearing molecule by molecule -- what is left behind?  "Where red ants crawl in their columns across / rotting earth, leaving no more / than a trail of resin behind."  So the "rotting earth" is a big and somewhat overblown contrast to the rest of the poem, but the idea of a trail left behind coalesces the idea of a current from what is left.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Analysis of "The Oldest Living Thing in L.A." by Larry Levis

Poem found here: "The Oldest Living Thing in L.A." by Larry Levis

This narrative poem starts out very close to the subject, the opossum, in a distant manner.  The physical description is on point as the setting of after hours bar scene and the reactions.  Then in some point in the poem, there's a literary expanse that redirects the poems point of view -- as though the speaker wants this to mean more.  By wanting this moment to mean more, the speaker then projects what everyone else's wants.

But first, where are we? "At Wilshire & Santa Monica" -- I haven't been there personally, but it's probably somewhere in L.A. -- does that mean that this poem is dependent on place?  No and Yes.  The poem does go universal in some places, but I feel this poem is specifically talking about what it's like in LA -- the "opossum / Trying to cross the street" becoming more of a symbol based on reaction.
And this is what the opossum is trying to do:

     [...]  It was late, the street  
     Was brightly lit, the opossum would take
     A few steps forward, then back away from the breath  
     Of moving traffic. [...]

There is literally a road dilemma here -- the opossum, for some unknown reason, wants to cross the street and is aware of the surroundings.  Just as the bar patrons are aware "would approach as if to help it somehow."  The simile here is important here for two reasons: 1) The simile implies the actions of the people rather than stating their purpose 2) This shows a separation between the people and the opossum.

The reaction the opossum gives has in depth physical detail which expands to bigger analogous concepts:

     The reddened gums, the long rows of incisors,  
     Teeth that went all the way back beyond  
     The flames of Troy & Carthage, beyond sheep  
     Grazing rock-strewn hills, fragments of ruins  
     In the grass at San Vitale [...]

Note the analogy refers to "the reddened" gums the opossum has -- in which the in the opossum defense or offense is comparable to the burning of Troy and Carthage and the ruins of San Vitale.  These scenes and places are old an archaic which ties in to the oldest living thing in L.A., but who is placing this ideal onto the opossum (especially the gums) -- the speaker.  Here, this is where the speaker allows the sort of reporter language in the beginning of the poem go towards a more poetic language of interpretation and expansion.  "It could mangle someone's hand / In twenty seconds.  Mangle it for good.  It could / Sever it completely from the wrist."  The opossum is going to attack whatever tries to help it -- the interpretation of exposing reddened gums.

These lines are more of a set-up to the long "who then" lines at the end of the poem.

     There was nothing to be done for it.  Someone  
     Or other probably called the LAPD , who then  
     Called Animal Control, who woke a driver, who  
     Then dressed in mailed gloves, the kind of thing  
     Small knights once wore into battle, who gathered  
     Together his pole with a noose on the end,
     A light steel net to snare it with, someone who hoped  
     The thing would have vanished by the time he got there.

This is a huge portion of the poem to quote, but these lines tie in together -- these are repercussion lines.  Lines that respond to the threat of the opossum, remember, the oldest living thing in L.A.  The responsibility is shifted from LAPD to Animal Control. And then we, as the readers, are shown what actions the person has to do, "then dressed in mailed gloves, the kind of thing /Small knights once wore into battle" humorous, yes, but note how the actions keep referring to the past.  And instead of big battles like the burning of Troy or San Vitale -- this refers to an opossum which represents the oldest living this in L.A. -- something that wants to do things a certain way versus someone who is obligated to do something a certain way.

This is where hope comes in -- the hope that "The thing would have vanished by the time he got there."  Yes, the speaker is including purpose with the actions, but the focus is the lack of conflict here -- just the preparation, just to have things be done separately but acknowledged.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Analysis of "I allow myself" by Dorthea Grossman

Poem found here: "I allow myself" by Dorthea Grossman

"I allow myself / the luxury of breakfast" brought me into the poem.  There's so many ways that this poem could go based on these lines: maybe a discussion about the self, maybe a discussion on poverty, maybe an overzealous poem about food.  Yes.

But the following line, "(I am no nun, for Christ's sake)" overly states through understatement that this poem is tongue-in-cheek with references to religious concepts and the divine.  Isn't breakfast a bit conceptual just like religion?

     Charmed as I am
     by the sputter of bacon,
     and the eye-opening properties
     of eggs,

So I feel this is a play on those informative shorts that say why breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially with the "eye-opening properties of eggs" -- yes, we can deconstruct the symbol of the egg based on eye-opening properties.  It's about rebirth, or hunger, or yellow, or life, or pre-death.  Whatever.  But the poem is playing with multiple interpretation to the point where it's more personalized for the speaker and too broad for the audience.

For example the line, "it's the coffee / that's really sacramental" is a bait line that could mean something more, but, in context, doesn't really have to mean anything even to the speaker.

"In the old days, / I spread fires and floods and pestilence / on my toast."  The line break between "pestilence" and "on my toast" is another example of a bait.  The two lines build up to something that could be a twist but is only applicable to the toast.

"Nowadays, I'm more selective, / I only read my horoscope / by the quiet glow of the marmalade."  The switch of the ultimate divine to the concept of horoscopes.  Nothing against horoscopes and those who believe -- but the dramatic switch from "sacramental" to "horoscopes" based on breakfast spreads takes away all gravity in this poem.

Can't we allow ourselves to let go of gravity for a minute?  At least at breakfast time.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Analysis of "Morning Sun" by Cathy Park Hong

Poem Found Here:  "Morning Sun" by Cathy Park Hong

It's the structure of the poem that resonates with me at the end.  Yes, everything in between seems like a fast zig zag of voice, person, character, subject matter, seriousness, play, and so forth, but the first two lines sets up how this poem is read for me, "Raised on a cozy diet of conditional love, / I learned to emoji from teevee"

There are two conceptual things in play here 1) the diminishing of emotional connection between self, situation, and action and 2) the portraying of scenes, regardless of gravity, as colloquial and distant as possible.  For example the first scene:

       Now I’m hounded by gripes before my time.
      Twisted in my genome is this thorn,
                    and all I see are feuds,
      even swans got boxing gloves for heads.

plays with the surreal with "swans got boxing gloves for heads" but is tempered with the conceptual of "Now I'm hounded by gripes before my time. / Twisted in my genome is this thorn." If looked deeper, the thorn in the genome could represent an intrinsic pain -- but this train of thought is derailed by the surreal image.  It's as if the poem keeps undercuts itself from being too anything and is playing with how far the extremes could be and staying nuetral.

"— Ah Ketty-San, why so mori? Maybe you need upgrade / of person?"  Here I took this more phonetically, but now I'm looking at the language of "mori" as a place holder -- something to be translated to be more but the speaker is unable to do so and just reads, "upgrade of a person"

And in response the speaker brings up something globally horrific that just turns out into a joke in the end:

     History shat on every household.
     Cop cruisers wand their infrared along bludgeoned homes,
     demanding boys to spread your cheeks,
                    lift your sac —
     Now, here’s an alcopop to dull that throb,
     hide your ugly feelings.

The language of "shat" kind of diminishes the scene, but the next line of, "Cop cruisers wand their infrared along bludgeoned homes. / demanding boys to spread your cheeks."  The mismanagement of language here makes this theoretical rape scene comical especially punctuate with, "lift your sac --"  It's like the line is coming from a bad gay porno (probably) so the gravity that could be about cops, homes, intrusion, penetration -- is pretty much gone by the speaker's hand -- "hide your ugly feelings"

The next stanza seems the most graspable conceptually, but the key is the word "slapped" and how the word should be looked at, not so much the action:

     I want to love, yes, yet afraid to love
     since I will be slapped, yet
     what’s this itch? A fire ant burning to a warring,
     boiling froth of lust: Slap me, harder,
     slap me again!

The speaker refers to the self which makes the poem a little more empathetic -- I can experience what the speaker goes through, "I want love, yes, yet afraid to love / since I will be slapped," which is an inference of domestic violence which is then turned with, "yet, what's this itch?"  The metaphor of the "itch" (predictably) expands to lust with, "A fire ant burning to a warring / boiling froth of lust."  However, the key is the "Slap me, harder, / slap me again."  Yes the actions are the same but the context of is different - slap of love and slap of lust play different roles here -- just like the speaker and the voice, "— Ketty-San, so Sado Masakumi, so much / Sodami Hari Kuri."  Once again no translation and this one I took more phonetically with "Sado" being "Sad" and "Hari Kuri" sounding like "Harikiri" of suicide -- it's more of a chance of misinterpretation which this poem plays with.  I think the poem gets away with it thought with these lines.

And the last line of "I sorry" is not about the the meaning but the construction -- what's missing is a verb to show time frame -- "am" now, "was" before.

Here the "I sorry" seems like an overly efficient definition of the self going away from being human.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Analysis of "To the Mannequins" by Howard Nemerov

Poem found here: "To the Mannequins" by Howard Nemerov

"Mannequins," I feel, automatically hold a symbolic quality -- aren't they just the physical representation of a human being to show something off?  So when I read this poem, I automatically was trying to figure out what the "mannequins" represented and in what context.  The first stanza's shift in perspective brings the idea of symbol to the forefront.

"Adorable images, / Plaster of Paris / Lilies of the field" Note how these descriptions start out general "adorable images" then to something put on a higher level, "Lilies of the field" -- but these are just another names for mannequins which are promptly brought down with the concept of, "You are not alive, therefore / Pathos will be out of place."  Emotion -- we look at these figures without them and just look at them physically, but also note if we go along this thought train, should we look at these figures through the lens of ethos?  Is ethics involved here?

These philosophical ruminations have to wait since the speaker ordains the self as an oracle, "But I have learned / A strange fact about your fate, / And it is this"  I'm not sure about the last line punctuating the point of knowing a mannequin's fate, but this is a set-up that brings a narrative component to the poem:

     After you go out of fashion
     Beneath your many fashions,
     Or when your elbows and knees
     Have been bruised powdery white,
     So that you are no good to anybody—

     They will take away your gowns,
     Your sables and bathing suits,
     Leaving exposed before all men
     Your inaccessible bellies
     And pointless nubilities.

     Movers will come by night
     And load you all into trucks
     And take you away to the Camps,
     Where soldiers, or the State Police,
     Will use you as targets
     For small-arms practice,

I quoted both stanzas since this is the core of the poem as it is the conceit for the final lines, so it's very hard for me to separate them as far as continuity is concerned.  The first stanza sets up more of how these mannequins are discarded along with a judgment call.  Note that the play on words with "fashion" adds more of a humorous quality to the reason and the "or" is the huge pivot towards something more human, "when your elbows and knees / Have been bruised powder white" this changes the perception of the mannequins to something a little more human physically by labeling parts.  And so when the judgement comes, "So that you are no good to anybody" then there's a small hit.

With the next stanza the key is "exposing" -- and what acts are done to do so.  Note that the speaker is focusing mostly on the physical clothing, "They will take away your gowns, / Your sables and bathing suits," which seems to reference women mannequins.  This might be a "duh" point, but note how this contrasts with, "Leaving exposed before all men / Your inaccessible bellies / And pointless nubilities" the men who see them.  This could easily be a poem that can be analyzed in the gender manner.

However, for me, the violent political force comes to play with the stanza after with, "Movers will come by night / And load you all into trucks / And take you away to the Camps."  Maybe the analogy is a little overblown.  But this depends, in my opinion, on how seriously you take the conceit that the Mannequins are symbolic for something more.  "Camps" definitely have serious implications along with what happens to the Mannequins, "Where soldiers, or the State Police, / Will use you as targets / For small arms practice,"  but I think the rumination the poem is making isn't the connection between this situation and violence like the holocaust or exposing to the male gaze.  Rather the last three line brings a different spin to such analogies: "Leading me to inquire, / Since pathos is out of place, /
What it is that they are practicing."

The last line should be a rhetorical question but is punctuated as a rhetorical statement.  What is it that they are practicing if pathos is out of place.  If there is no emotion appeal to the conceit and the situation could they just be using mannequins as they were designed to do?  Could there be a bigger inference there?  It's up to the reader.  There are some strong images and ideas here, but the speaker, as the oracle, shows his interpretation then begs the question with his statement.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Analysis of "My Brother's Insomnia" by Eric Pankey

Poem found here: "My Brother's Insomnia" by Eric Pankey

This poem is innocuous from beginning to end, and that's the appeal of this poem for me.  It's not that there can't be a a bigger grandiose meaning from the poem, but, also, this poem isn't overly accessible.  This poem just attempts to get into the mindset of the brother going through insomnia.

The poem is written in couplets, but the structure and the content don't necessarily correspond until the end of the poem.  The beginning of the poem focuses on what the "brother" goes through, "A boy ties (but will not remember how) / An intricate knot that slips at the slightest tug,"  Note that the parenthetical just releases the tension in the poem a bit.  The question of "does the boy still have this insomnia" is vaguely answered with "will not remember how" making this poem more of a time piece rather than a progression.

"He remembers reading that drops of blood / From Medusa's lopped head bred cobra and asps."  Here I noted that the fear comes from real physical things, but, the blood is what the brother read.  Also I noted how the real imagery expands outward to imagination where the fear begins to accumulate with, "The recluse spider is his least favorite."  Okay, not so much fear, but things that the brother doesn't like.

"Some nights in bed he holds his breath and is dead. / Some nights in bed he holds his breath and listens."  This couplet is the most has the most impact.  Not only does it utilize the couplet form and tie in together technique (repetition) and content, but also the slight switch in words brings in a sense of gravity to the poem -- just like a slight sound of, "To wind rattle the unlocked front door."  The other half of the couplet, "To time rustle and scratch tin the attic like mice" is innocuous in the second part -- attic like mice, but the first "To time rustle" has some bigger implications which is then looked into.

"He cannot remember if it is summer / or winter, if sleet or wren pecks the window."  Note how the time frame is in the present.  But even then, the insomnia is based on things that seem not to matter or directly affect the brother -- but also the passage of time (even though inversed) the difference between a wren or sleet seems more melancholy rather than remorseful.

This poem doesn't try to overblow an issue, just explain it as though these things happen, and they do.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Analysis of "Containment" by A. E. Stallings

Poem found here: "Containment" by A. E. Stallings

The poem is fourteen lines, but not a sonnet, but acts like one.  There's no definite rhyme scheme or iambic pentameter, but there seems to be a volta in the poem like an Italian sonnet.  But then again, this poem plays out as a narrative -- a slightly humorous, retrospective narrative.

Why state this is humorous?  I've reread this poem many times trying to grasp it, but I didn't give it time to sink in.  The aspect of this poem that caught my eye was how overblown the simile is:

     So long I have been carrying myself
     Carefully, carefully, like a small child
     With too much water in a real glass
     Clasped in two hands, across a space as vast
     As living rooms,

The poem first introduces the speaker self carrying this sort of burden.  What, we don't know, and this adds to the humorous aspect.  Then the simile comes in of "a small child / With too much water in a real glass / Clasped in two hands."  First, the internal rhyme scheme of "glass" and "clasped" and the special attention that the child is holding a "real" glass brings an overly detailed aspect -- perhaps referring to a paranoia which becomes overblown in the next couple of lines 

     [...] across a space as vast 
     as living rooms, while gazes watch the waves 
     That start to rile the little inland sea
     And slap against its cliffs' and transparency.

Note that the rhymes come fast and punctuated, "glass" and "vast," and "sea" and "transparency."  It seems like the speaker is trying to keep it together the most simplistic way possible.  Also note it's just a "real" glass filled with water being referred to here -- not so much a big storm.  But this is the point, I think, in the poem -- is that the speaker is aware of this as humorous and the actual core of the poem is in the eighth and ninth line "Revise and meet, double their amplitude, / Harmonizing doubt from many ifs."  

The symbols are revealed -- doubt and the revision of doubt adding up.  I don't know if this refers to the actions or the end result of "carrying myself."  in any case, the speaker adds tension with the lines. "Distant frowns like clouds begin to brood. / Soon there is overbrimming.  Soon the child."  With these lines, the speaker is deflating his own imagery -- as though to let go of the anxiety as the simile of the child's narrative ends with:

     [...] Soon the child
     Looks up to find a face to match the scolding,
     And just as he does, the vessel he was holding
     Is almost set down safely on the bookshelf.

To me, there's a lot going on with these lines that are heartbreaking.  First, to reassure the speaker, the metaphorical child finds something -- which is actually a someone -- that scolds him as much as the speaker seems to scold the self.  The second is the last line with the key word being "almost" -- by "almost" setting down the glass safely on the bookshelf, it seems that the doubt or paranoia is assuaged for now.  Until it rises up like the waves that start to rile the little inland sea.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Analysis of "Helen" by H.D.

Poem found here: "Helen" by H.D.

There repetition in here drew me in.  There are two styles of repetition that interest me here.  The first having the perspective of  "Greece" start off the judgement in the beginning of the stanzas as though to set up the contrast to the description of Helen.  The second is the reoccurring image of "white" as though to set up Helen as the direct opposite.

But first, "All Greece hates"  -- note that this line doesn't automatically go towards Helen, but the overall emotion and feeling lingers, and then the specific, "the still eyes in the white face."  This is the first instance of "white" in the poem as it encompasses the physical appearance of Helen along with rest of the lines, "the lustre as of olives / where she stands, / and the white hands."  Note the white face and hands indicate, to me, a certain innocence, but, more importantly, sets Helen as just a figure -- nothing else.

"All Greece reviles" another notch of hatred, but specifically for, "the wan face when she smiles," Now, either the Greece or the speaker projects an emotion onto Helen, "wan" is another way to state "weak."  For Greece, this projection enhances such frailties enamoring, "remembering past enchantments / and past ills."  For the speaker, this projection helps add another layer to the metaphor of "white" with the figure of Helen not being able to control herself being further, "wan and white."

And at the end of the poem, Greece's feelings wash away a bit with, "Greece sees unmoved," versus the speaker's overblown description, "God's daughter, born of love, / the beauty of cool feet / and slenderest knees"  Note that this is still attentive to the physical features of Helen -- not anything else -- but could one control physical features to this limitation?

The last line works as a rhetorical statement with:

     could love indeed the maid,
     only if she were laid,
     white ash amid funeral cypresses

The question for me is the idea of "love" here.  Yes, the Greece stated here can only hate until Helen is dead -- then the love of her death and what she was.  But in another sense, doesn't the speaker love her only in her death -- the representation of only the physical made up in the mind -- down to the slenderest hands and the white hands.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Analysis of "Bavaria" by Mary Ruefle

Poem found here: "Bavaria" by Mary Ruefle

"umlaut of a cloud" is what drew me to this poem.  Not only is it an interesting visual but also made me want to look up the concept of an umlaut in which I was looking for a symbol.  And then I ran into this sentence about the description about an umlaut: "Umlaut is a form of assimilation"

Now I know I'm overstretching as far as analysis is concerned, but I would like to think that the "umlaut of a cloud" brings a sense of assimilation to the village below and the clear skies above.  It's just this cloud that is different.  

After this sentence, it feels that it should be a semi-colon to attach the next part to the first, but actually, the "separation" of ideas is more important here, "The little girl wore yellow gloves"  A simple sentence but it stands out -- should it?  There's a sense of defiance based in color I guess.  But the last three lines make the poem for me:

     She looked in the peephole and saw
     a stack of unused marionettes.
     Yet, she wondered.

There's more of a focused view with the girl looking through a peephole -- which is like one part of the umlaut (at least that's how my mind works) and the "unused marionettes" adds to the sense of assimilation -- physical assimilation regardless of use.

"Yet" is the key word here.  It a conjunction that indicates some sort of shift but only slightly -- not as hard a turn as "or" or "but."   Here the wonderment is controlled and slight, but could be so much more.  I'm looking too much into this.