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
     proudly
     receding

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 Poets.org, 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.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Analysis of "Peddler" by Sandra McPherson

Poem found here: "Peddler" by Sandra McPherson


The construction of the poem, quatrains with maybe couplet or alternating rhyme scheme, adds to this sense of lack of commitment the speaker has, maybe not has, but is the definite topic on the mind.  There are there actors in this poem, the peddler, the speaker, and this ubiquitous "other" which appears at the beginning and at the end of the poem.  As the peddler disappears to metaphor, and the speaker dredges more into the self -- it is the "we" or "the other" that caught me off guard with this poem.

So the first three stanzas follow a similar structure as far as content is concerned -- peddler description then self.  For example:

     The man vending needles at our door   [DJD1] 
     He looked poor but you acted needle-poor  
     Where I’d have said, I don’t need ...[DJD3] 





 [DJD1]Has an ominous appearance


 [DJD2]Diffused in the next line but, still the idea of “needles” have a different connotation to me.


 [DJD3]A point?  The trail off line questions more of the speaker.


The description is of a peddler selling needles door to door; and, to me, it's more of a drug related aspect which 70% is shifted with "was lucky to greet you."  The allusion for me is still there, personally, but the poem goes forward with the difference in reaction -- a firm empathetic response from the other; meanwhile, a trailing thought from the speaker.\

The next line, "He sells needles to prick your heart" turns the peddler and the needles into a metaphorical figure in which the speaker could bring the emotion, "Where my feelings are thin" to the forefront.  The speaker is looking deeper into the situation and is dredging up what this peddler and needles bring up for her -- this kind of uncommitted, fearful person.

Note, that the next stanza does demonstrate this:

     The old thread knitting together his many wools  
     Might last another trudge
     To our porch: he came last year but I
     Refused and barely looked him in the eye.

As the peddler utilizes the needles to create something which the purpose of his creation is expanded upon, "wools / Might last another trudge."  The speaker is reminiscing about a singular moment -- like a singular emotion with, "he came last year but I /Refused and barely looked him in the eye."  Now, remember the beginning of the poem where the speaker trailed off with a flat out refusal.  These lines foretell a shift in thought, at least for the speaker.

"I've lost how many needles since then?" Is a reminiscent rhetorical question directed at the speaker, but the next line brings this sentiment together with, "Besides he is mute" -- the peddler cannot answer her rhetorical question -- nor could the peddler represent more that just someone who sells needles, "And would see how dumb we are to buy / Three hundred needles for relief."

"But he supplied us to the end of life"  Note this doesn't say whose life or what life means -- in the context of the poem -- life could mean the literal life or some kind of metaphorical life.  And, to me, the metaphorical life of the couple comes into question with the next three lines, "I'll give away some, / And you might never use these points / That push through cloth, cut to be made one."  The most telling line is "cut to be made one" which could refer to the couple -- but, just like the poem, the speaker is unable to construct a consistent and committed structure, rhyme scheme, metaphor that dies, and a theoretically relationship that turned or always was theoretical.