Saturday, February 28, 2015

Analysis of "Bantams in Pine-Woods" by Wallace Stevens

Poem found here: "Bantams in Pine-Woods" by Wallace Stevens


This poem made me automatically search for analysis of it online.  I don't understand this poem at all.  Of course I'll put down my own thoughts, but this seems like a poem I could read from a L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet who plays with meaning and the technique to go against meaning and technique.  And I think the analysis on Wikipedia goes along those lines with:

The new world's "inchling" poets are defiant towards the traditional literary canon, and particularly defiant against the unnamed, arrogant, self-appointed gatekeeper of literary tradition; they are confident instead in their own free powers of innovation in the New World.

Sounds about right.

Anyway, the first couplet is a play on language moreso than a play on content, "Chieftain Iffucan of Azcan in caftan / of tan with henna hackles, halt!"  I think this is referring to the bantams in an overblown way -- the repetition of the "-an" sound and the "h" sounds.  Making the divine out of the trivial through technique.

"Damned universal cock, as if the sun / Was blackamoor to bear your blazing tail."  So, theoretically, this absurdity of a chicken is now compared to the sun -- "blackamoor" is an interesting description since it refers to a person -- more and more this poem is "politically incorrect" between a couple of races already.  I'm intrigued.

"Fat! Fat! Fat! Fat! I am the personal. / Your world is you. I am my world."  Here the separation is apparent and the parody as well with the repetition of "Fat" to lessen the seriousness of this poem.  If what wikipedia says is true then this poem feels as though Stevens is writing in the persona of the "ten foot poet" who dismisses other "New World" things as "inchlings" and "Fat" and to "begone."  I think the poem 's overboard nature does show the satire.

"Bristles, and points their Appalachian tangs, / And fears not portly Azcan nor his hoos."  Is the literary canon and all that defend it compared to by bantams.  More than likely.  But damn, this poem is viscerally satirical for those in the know.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Analysis of "Unusually Warm March Day, Leading to Storms" by Francesca Abbate

Poem found here: "Unusually Warm March Day, Leading to Storms" by Francesca Abbate


The content of this poem is a bit chaotic -- the nice day comes at the end of the storms in a sense.  However, the technique in this poem: the weight of similes, the conceptual conceit, interests me the most.

"Everything is half here"  is such a broad conceptual statement which is then followed by the simile of:

     like the marble head
     of the Roman emperor
     and the lean torso
     of his favorite

The simile, the other half, doesn't really compliment the concept; rather, they appear more at odds.  Not in the sense of one or the other, but rather the "marble head / of the Roman emperor" is taking either more or less space than the, "lean torso / of his favorite."  Nothing too visceral, nothing too extreme, just the question asked -- which half is more important.  

This idea follows through with a catastrophic scene of the funnel cloud which doesn't touch down but does flip "a few cars, a semi--" the casual tone of the speaker doesn't focus on an emotional appeal rather shows so the next couple of lines, "we learn to walk miles / above our bodies," is not so much emotional transcendence, but a grittier fact that needs to be done.

"The pig farms dissolve," has a similar impact to "Everything is half here" because the specificity of what is dissolving and the verb itself "dissolve."  The landscape is gone, but also the feel of the poem -- there isn't anything tangible to hold onto -- visually, emotionally, spiritually described by the next lines -- a simile:

     As in dreams fraught
     with irrevocable gestures,
     the ruined set seems larger

with these lines the slightly realistic landscape is gone and is replaced by "dreams" and "gestures" reminiscent of the stage as the poem states with, "How well / we remember the stage -- like actors gliding about."  To me, the speaker is tying in the catastrophe to the artifice without an emotional appeal.  To me, I get the sense of being there mentally, but not emotionally or physically.  So when even with the most hyperbolic simile, "Not wings or singing, / but a darkness fast as blood."  I feel it doesn't hold much weight unlike the next line of "It ended at our fingertips" -- I see this line regarding more than the blood, but the whole situation -- the whole train of thought from the "we" collective.

"the fence gave way / to the forest. / The world began."  This doesn't make sense to me, as in it's not graspable, but this is what makes the poem to me.  These lines, I think, are expected after the catastrophe stated in the beginning, but what I sense from these lines is not the wonderment, or the expectation, or even the fear for the world beginning -- rather the sense that it has to mentally regardless of how good or bad the world entered.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Analysis of "Marriage" by Lawrence Raab

Poem found here: "Marriage" by Lawrence Raab



This poem does transitions really well: from hypothetical to real, to male to female, to third to first person and so the content of the poem is more of a compliment to the form and vice versus; however, the content of the poem is quite contrasting.

The poem is a narrative which starts off with the background that "years later" -- more like an afterthought.  The narrative starts out with the husband asking hypothetical questions?

     What if
     I hadn’t phoned, he says, that morning?
     What if you’d been out,
     as you were when I tried three times
     the night before?

Note that this is the only lines the husband have -- he is the one that brings in the doubt in the relationship.  Or rather, by instigating the questioning he's awaiting a response (there is no response from the husband later on in the poem.  The transition then is to the woman who "tells him a secret."

"She's been there all evening"  -- dun dun dunn.  She was there all along able to take his call.  So the implied question is why.   Note that the end of two lines end with "knew" and "felt" as though she had a premonition of what was going to come "her life would change."  This idea is key to the poem because this phrase, although general, draws in an emotional confusion which the language does propose.

"I was afraid"  -- for some reason, I would apply this phrase to the "now" since she's revealing a secret.  Note how the phrase turns to the first person here to "I was afraid" and, by doing so, makes it feel that the poem is more personal with the resolution being:

     I also knew it was you, but I just
     answered the phone
     the way anyone
     answers a phone when it starts to ring,
     not thinking you have a choice.

She did pick up the phone knowing it was him, knowing it was life changing.  But note how she dismisses the overall gut feelings she had in the beginning.  She just answered the phone -- not thinking you have a choice.  There's implications of fate versus destiny.  But the significant part of this poem is it ends where it ends.  This is a narrative poem not a narrative.  Note there is no judgement calls, just the situation explained and the silence we, as readers, have to take.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Analysis of "The Darkling Thrush" by Thomas Hardy

Poem Found Here: "The Darkling Thrush" by Thomas Hardy



I remember doing an analysis of this poem when I was in college, and even though it has been a while, I think my analysis is still the same.  Well, not really.

In my past analysis, I focused on how the thrush was the focus of the poem -- the poem is titled as such and the big "event" in this poem centers around the thrush.  However, my interpretation now is that the thrush, like it's song, is just a ruse.

But the form first.  The poem is written in an alternate rhyme scheme (ababcdcd) in four octaves -- there's some balance at play here between the speaker, the landscape and the thrush.  The introduction though focuses on the speaker and the landscape, "I leant upon a coppice gate / When Frost was spectre gray,"  Note that introduction of the speaker is interacting with the landscape which opens up to the season, "And Winter's dregs made desolate / The weakening eye of day."  And then the transition to the expansive analogy between the divine, "The tangled bine-stems scored the sky / Like strings of a broken lyres," and then all of man, "And all mankind that haunted nigh / Had sought their household fires."  Note that the lines have no inclusive pact between the divine and mankind -- rather one trying to cope with the scenery.

This couplet brings more of a commentary which I don't know where it's pointed to, "The land's sharp features seemed to me / The Century's corpse outleant."  Sure, I could look up the analysis on other website, but all I looked up was the time frame of the poem -- 1900.  I'm not too sure about what historical event(s) that this could refer to.  But let's take this couplet as stand alone -- the land and the century adds a sense of lingering time to the poem -- as though this bleak type of weather and emotion will continue on being "outlent,"

The next couple lines hyperbolize the weather and the landscape to further exacerbate the bleakness:

     Its crypt the cloudy canopy,
     The wind its death-lament,
     The ancient pulse of germ and birth
     Was shrunken hard and dry,
     And every spirit upon earth
     Seemed fervorless as I.

What's important here is the transition of this "death-lament" "shrunken" "hard" and "dry" description to not only the speaker, but also "every spirit upon earth."  This is what the speaker sees and can only see.

Yet there's a shift and I'll quote the whole stanza:

     At once a voice arose among
     The bleak twigs overhead,
     In a full-hearted evensong
     of joy illimited
     An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
     With blast-beruffled plume,
     Had chosen thus to fling his soul
     Upon the growing gloom

Now what the speaker hears is the song -- note this is the first sonic imagery in the poem (the lyres in the beginning were broken).  And the break of scenery is described as "full-hearted" and "joy illimited" but visually, "An aged thrush, frail, guant and small,"  which goes against the "glowing gloom" -- it's not the description it's the transition.  For that split second, the speaker was able to experience something other than depression out there, but is then falls back due to the visual.

But, this makes the speaker think (but note not judge) about the song, "So little cause for carolings / Of such ecstatic sound / Was written on terrestrial things"  The key here is terrestrial.  When the speaker is going through a spiritual crisis, he downplays the effect to "terrestrial" things so the last lines, "Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew, / and I was unaware" refocuses the poem to a more internal stryfe with the external being a backdrop -- recognizing happiness without feeling it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Analysis of "A Person Protests to Fate" by Jane Hirshfield

Poem Found Here: "A Person Protests to Fate" by Jane Hirshfield



This poem has a very didactic/koanic feel about it. The flow of the poem is very straightforward: the exposition, the insight to extremes then to "the long middle,"   but the very last sentence of the poem confuses me, but not like a koan, but grammatically.

First, the general person asking a large statement:

     A person protests to fate:

     "The things you have caused
     me most to want
     are those that furthest elude me."

Very straightforward and telegraphed.  The protest is clear of not getting what they want the person wants.  This statement will be the core of the poem since "Fate" responds "Fate nods. / Fate is sympathetic."

Then there's a situation showing want:

     To tie the shoes, button a shirt,
     are triumphs
     for only the very young,
     the very old

Note two things -- yes, these lines are easily comprehended, but note the tone of the speaker crafting a slyness with the drop down line of concepts (young and old); furthermore, how the speaker talks about shoe tying and shirt buttoning as triumphs -- or rather places hyperbolic judgement on simple tasks -- extremes.

But "During the long middle":

     conjugating a rivet
     mastering tango
     training a cat to stay off the table
     preserving a single moment longer than this one
     continuing to wake whatever has happened the day before

Everything in "the long middle" starts off with an action.  The most confusing first, "conjugating a rivet" which has no physical tangibility to the exciting for the mundane "mastering tango" to the mundane "training the cat to stay off the table." and ends with the sentimental, "preserving a single moment longer than this one / continuing to wake whatever has happened the day before" kind of like self-help sayings being explained out.

And in this momentum ends with confusion, "and the penmanships love practices inside the body"  syntactically this doesn't make sense.  Is penmanships the direct noun? Does this mean there's an anthropomorphized concept here that "loves" the actions of "practices inside the body."  What practices?  Redoing what?

If the assumption is the redoing of the last two things on the list above, then the poem has become overly sentimental to me.  However, if the line is meant to be by itself, it doesn't make sense to me.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Analysis of "The Wine" by Michael Metivier

Poem found here: "The Wine" by Michael Metivier


This poem is a one sentence narrative and has a "koanic" effect on the outside, but really there's a feeling of a "if/then" proposition placed in.

So the exposition:

     When the townspeople
     gave teenaged Buddha
     a glass of wine
     so delicious he grew
     to an unthinkable size

Now the key terms in these lines are the adjectives.  "Teenaged" representing a younger Buddha -- maybe not so experienced and still on his way to enlightenment is specified in the poem; however, Buddha's physical change to an "unthinkable" size changes perspective.  "Unthinkable" is an adjective that relies on the readers and observers to create the image, and, in this sense, the poem plants a seed on the difference between what is observed to what actually changes.

     and froze into a blue statue
     that shielded the town
     from a wave that broke
     upon his back
     and would have swept away
     the town if he'd not tasted
     the wine

yes the actions of the waves are devastating, but here is the "if/then proposition" I wrote about earlier.  If Buddha had not tasted the wine would he still save the village?  The question of capability or willingness comes into question; however, the point is somewhat moot due since the question isn't asked -- rather the poem shifts to the "people [that] were overjoyed / and said they would do good deed"

What type of good deeds? "Carpool their children to school / more often and plant lettuce / everywhere"  The initial alliteration sets off a sense of the ridiculous here in the poem and is punctuated with the worldly mundane notion of "planting lettuce everywhere."  Remember these are just intentions that show what the people want to do and also what the people weren't doing before -- a state of mental nothingness.

Meanwhile, "the Buddha / melted into water and receded / into the calm sane sea."  Yes, the "sane" is a little telling in this poem, but compliments the physical change of the Buddha although metaphorical shows a current change at least.