Sunday, February 23, 2020

Analysis of "That was the summer" by Ellen Doré Watson

More about the poet: Ellen Doré Watson
(Unfortunately, can't find poem on verse daily)



A personal time piece poem.  After rereading the poem and my notes, I think I was overthinking the poem.  This poem is specific, but vague.  There's no direct flow from one idea to the next, but there is a connection with all the events.  This is a poem where the speaker has to buy into this ride of untamed experience.

And that's where the title comes in, "That was the summer" which feels like a retelling of an event in a casual.  You know, "That was the summer when [...]"  but for the speaker, the summer started out where "real life go loud."

Oh okay, I get it.  Loud -- probably a metaphor of big life changing events.  But the poem continues with "peonies, squirrels, teapots screaming / in my ear."  The image contrasts sounds so innocuous on the outside, but personal loudness in the inside."  From here, I'm thinking to myself, "okay, small things are loud type of poem, sure."  But then the sentence ends with, "though I knew it was the work of trickster / brain." Now I don't know what's going to happen, but I trust the speakers to show me something which I can't predict.  The line drop between "trickster/ brain" differentiates outside influence or inside.  It's as though the speaker is looking back at the self through the self and acknowledges the past, present, outside, and inside self as separate entities.  Confused? So is the reader?  So is the speaker. 

"Next, bird-smack on the slider, slammed thing / plopped off-kilter, cat come running to the glass, blood-guttural in her throat."  This is actual, literal where a bird just slams into the glass door which becomes off-kilter, unaligned, and a cat coming to see.  The word choice of "blood-guttural" adds more violence to a small scene.

The violence continues in small ways, "And my uterus wildly trying to make / more if itself.  What were my cells murmuring? Ignore"  At first I thought this was an abortion, but the replication feels more cancer.  I do think it matters what the images refer to, but I'm more fascinated with the lead up of violence -- small and becoming personal that travels to the physical body to me wondering about the mental state of the speaker.  Ignore other voices, right?  But the line drop once again deflects the continuation of a thought, "Ignore / the parade."  The parade of cells and "keep to your quiet subtraction."  Concrete images and actions that make sense when thought about from a readers perspective, but from the speaker perspective seems terrifying to piece together.

"Knit, purl, clip, file, cry" this list of verbs feels quick as though time passes to try to accept what is going on.  A coping mechanism which leads to two clear sentences, "Unravel the scarf of what you think / remains to you.  A bit of good dumb human yarn."  Again the enjambment points to one meaning, the metaphor of a scarf unraveling the mess of a thought process, but this time adds to the next line rather than deflecting. 

The metaphor continues with "dumb human yarn" with the pun being "yarn" (line to create or story) as it seems like the speaker is trying to bring back normalcy, back to where the beginnings make sense. Even though something seems well put together isn't complete and for the speaker.

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