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.

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