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.

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