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.

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