Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Analysis of "Burlesque" by Amaud Jamaul Johnson

Poem found here: "Burlesque" by Amaud Jamaul Johnson


Written in quatrians, the poem undresses this anonymous hymn.  The shift in tone throughout the poem creates a sense of awkwardness, but also transformative as well.

"Watch the fire undress him / how flame fingers each button,"  Note how intimate the first two lines are and how the metaphor of the fire has more action versus the "him" with inaction -- the fire is the one, "rolls back his collar, unzips him / without sweet talk or mystery."  Now the fire has anthropomorphized action, but also intent from the speaker.  The idea of "sweet talk" and "mystery" are gone.  There is this singular action of undresses to undress him.  And what does completely undressing him expose:

     See how the skin begins to gather
     at his ankles, how it slips into
     the embers, how it shimmers
     beneath him, unshapen, iridescent

The body of the male is undressed -- note how the skin kind of gathers at the bottom like pants, but its not stated what is stated, again, is how the fire undresses him -- the embers shimmers, unshapens and is iridescent then the metaphor of, "as candleight on a dark negligee.

Completely undressed physically, the speaker addresses the audience making the scene more voyeuristic, "Come, look at him, at all his goods, / how his whole body becomes song, and aria of light, a psalm's kaleidoscope."  These lines hinge on the definition of "good"?  "Good" calms down the tone a bit from the image of a man on fire to someone that is exposed and wanted.  How is good defined?  An aria of light, a psalm's kaleidoscope -- the light (fire) and the dark (body) combine to make something beautiful, grandiose, maybe not so metaphorical, but rather play on this feeling.

     Listen as he lets loose an opus,
     night's national anthem, the tune
     you can't name, but can't stop humming,
     There, he burn brilliant as a blue note

This stanza, for me, has a mixed emotion, in the end the alliteration of the "b" makes the blue note seem to stand out -- his burning.  But then the song that the man sings is something known but not known.  It's not what the exposed man says.  It's that the man that is exposed that is the focus of attention.

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