Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Analysis of "Birds and Bees" by Faith Shearin

More about the Poet:  Faith Shearin



I love the awkwardness of preparing for a tough conversation since most of the conversation plays out in the head -- the internal monologue where the monologue can be as dramatic and hyperbolic as possible, but this internal struggle comes from an awkward question, "When my daughter starts asking I realize / I don't know which, if any, birds / have penises."  Ducks do by the way.

But that's not the point.  The question is the trigger -- the talk, the birds and the bees, literally here needs to be prepared for, " I can't picture how swans / do it.  I"m even confused about bees: that fat queen and her neurotic workers."  Note, how the speaker is thinking literally about using the idomatic animals as metaphors to discuss about sex in which the metaphors spirals out of the control, "I'm worried  / by turtles and snakes: their parts hidden in places I have never seen."  The structure of the poem with the colons interest me at this point as though the separation needs to put in place between the worry and the neurosis of the speaker and the actual metaphorical animals.

Then the poem transfers perspective solely to the speaker's past:

[...] Long ago, awash in collge 
boyfriends, I knew a little about sex.
I understood the dances and calls,
the pretty plumage.  Now, I am as ignorant 
as a child. 

My favorite part about this is the "Now,"  It's not like the speaker doesn't know about sex, but she's placing herself as her child's time frame, the time before she knew "ignorant as a child."  And the irony behind it is that she is now "ignorant as a child" on how to deal with the situation of sex -- how to destroy the plumage and find "places I have never seen."

So where does one start? "We have gone o the library / to find books though I know sex / is too wild for words."  Words are permanent, talking isn't.  An photograph is permanent, an image is not.  You know what else is fleeting, "The desire to be / kissed is the desire to live forever / in the mouth of pleasure."  Here is the hyperbole -- talking about sex leads to a life of wanting sex. Is it though? Okay maybe yes, but it's the definition behind it.  The daughter defined as a sexual being and nothing more beyond that at this moment, "My God / I can never tell my daughter the truth."

The last two stanzas utilize the same colon structure used previously, so note the colon serves as separation between the metaphor and reality.

Reality: "[The truth] is a secret / the way babies are a secret"
Metaphor: "hidden / by skin or egg, their bodies made of darkness"

Now it's a bit much, isn't it?  Once in indulgence, always in indulgence.  But this is the humor behind the poem.  It's not like the speaker doesn't want her child to grow up, but it's that the speaker is having a hard time seeing their child grow up -- to want, to desire, to have sex, to be more than just a child.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Analysis of "Posthumous" by Jean Nordhaus

Poem Found Here:  "Posthumous" by Jean Nordhaus
More about the poet: Jean Nordhaus



The first thing I wrote about this poem was, "humorous intro."  After rereading the poem a couple of times, I feel the strength of the poem is how humor is used: from the sarcastic, to the ironic, to the hyperbolic and beyond.  Yet, there's a tinge of sadness to the lines in which humor flits in and out of.

For example, "Would it surprise you to learn / that years beyond your longest winter / you still get letters from your bank,"  I find this funny.  I think it's the delivery with the first line.  I feel that the tone would be different if the first line was, "you still get letters from your bank."  What makes this humorous to me is the emotion, "surprise" playing with the idea of loss.

So the poem starts out with the image of letters still being addressed to the deceased.  The awkward syntax also adds to the humor, "Though it's been a long time since your face / interrupted the light in my door-frame." how hard is it to say it's been a while or for some time -- but the awkward syntax makes the line for me since it feels like it's a line the other would understand without losing me -- an inside joke within an internal monologue.

More humor comes with hyperbole.

[...] the last tremblings of your voice
have drained from my telephone wire,
from the lists of the likely, your name
is not missing  It circles in the shadow-world
of the machines.

I find the imagery humorous here -- probably it shouldn't be though.  "The shadow-world of machines" could be serious, but it fits for me as hyperbole spinning the images out of control for further disassociation.  Note, for an elegy, the emotional aspect, other than humor, isn't there -- there is no focus on the I speaker's emotion -- just observation of loss in a humorous way.

"Good credit / outlasts death" is just an exceptional line that sums up the humor in the poem for me -- outlasts death (posthumous).  What outlasts death but bills, messages for bills, and taxes?

The heartbreaking turn for me happens in the end.  Humor is used perfectly -- too perfectly.  Irony comes forward:

[...] Cancer and heart disease
are still counting on you for a cure.
B'nai Brith numbers you among the blessed.
They miss you.  They want you back.

There is no mention of how the other died, but at this point the implication to me is Cancer and/or heart disease.  The irony being that the other could've died of these disease and people are still asking the dead for help.

The heartbreaker for me is the "They miss you. They want you back."

In some ways, the speaker could be saying, "it's not me only, but others as well want you back" or something like, "they want you back for such humorous reasons, as for I..."  I don't know, there's a certain knife turning with the last line that skews the humor, but keeps it at the same time.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Analysis of "The Boarder" by Louis Simpson

Poem found here: "The Boarder" by Louis Simpson
Notes about the poet: Louis Simpson




There's two different versions of this poem, one that has adjustments on every other line, and then this one where it's left adjusted.  In either case, the inequity in lines seems purposeful.

But first, let there be light.  When? "The time is after dinner."  The first quatrain and the first half of the second quatrain focuses on different types of light: cigarette glow, TV sets, and the moon.  All these things illuminate, and add to an ambiance of a noisy romance "Glasses begin to tinkle." 

Then there's a change in the second half of the second quatrain, "love keeps her appointments--"  The dashes, to me, indicate a change.  Why?  It feels so different than the rest of the poem. 

If we look at the punctuation in the first stanza there are semi-colons which brings the individual images together for cohesiveness sake, and the dash, where it only appears there, creates a sense of distance from he pause and then we get the dialogue of "Harry's here!"  / "I'll be right down."

Then the image changes to "the pale stranger."  In my imagination, this is the boarder who is upstairs and the person coming down was someone he made love to in "the furnished room."  There is no concrete details that lead me to this conclusion, but it fits the narrative unlike him in this situation.

Oh no, the boarder, this pale stranger just lies on his back and juxtaposes two images, "paper roses, how they bloom," and "ceiling cracks."

There something romantic, but inauthentic with paper roses. The bloom part of the roses cuts since, if you believe in the in-authenticity of the paper roses, the idea of the always in bloom -- always in a forced perfect state goes along with the idea of a lover that, on paper, is perfect.

But it isn't.  "Love keeps her appointment" -- something distanced

The sound of the words, "ceilings crack" breaks the sound of the poem which felt soft with words, but note how there's only one crack in the ceiling.  One so obvious when looked at in another angle, one that won't be fixed if not seen.