Sunday, March 29, 2020

Analysis of "Stranger by Night" by Edward Hirsch

Poem found here: "Stranger by Night" by Edward Hirsch


There's a lot going on in the title.  When I researched this poem, I this is also the title of collection coming out in February 11, 2020.  I've learned to queue up posts, so I'm writing this post on January 13, 2020 and this should come out in March 29, 2020.

In any case, there's a lot going on in the title because the poem plays with the idea of "stranger" and "night" throughout.  However, note the form of the poem: short lines and a bit long, but could be read.  This idea plays itself out in the first couple of lines, "After I lost / my peripheral vision / I stated getting side swiped by pedestrians cutting / in front of me [...]"

The form of the poem plays with this lack of peripheral vision, something narrow can only be seen.  The form mimics this experience and too the reader, like the speaker, can only see what in from of them.  The "night" being played with is the lack of vision -- this sort of white space (or dark space) where nothing registers.

This feeling of losing is further compounded with the simile, "almost randomly like memories / I couldn't see coming / as I left the building / at twilight."  The forgetting of the memory triggers the memories of how the speaker now has to live his life: or stepped gingerly / off the curb / or even just crossed / the wet pavement / to the stairs descending / precipitously / into the subway station."

Careful.  This is how the speaker is dealing with the loss of sight and memory -- careful remembering of small moments.  Like big moments are too complicated to remember or to wonder what is gone.

Careful of being a bother, "and I apologized / to every one / of those stranger / jostling me / in a world that had grown / stranger by night."  This is where the play of the "stranger" comes in.  Of course the strangers that jostle him are there, but the speaker feels like a obstacle in their way of where they need to go, back to being strangers with their own lives.

But this world that the speaker experiences now feels like he's trying to navigate around like he's a stranger in his own life now.  The world is strange, the people are strange, the situation is strange, the speaker has become strange when circumstances change.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Analysis of "One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII" by Pablo Neruda

Poem found here: "One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII" by Pablo Neruda


Love poems.  When do they become too cute and too saccharine, or when does one past the test of time and mean something more.  Does this matter?  Love poems are definitely a mood poem to me.  Not the type to return to when I'm not into love poems -- like after a fight with a loved one or missing the loved one after a long departure, but even then it can go back and forth emotionally.

For this poem, the images and thoughts are what brings me back to this poem.  This is not simply a declaration of love in verse, but something more deeper, maybe soulful.

"I don't love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz, / or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:"  No hyperbole or outward expanse of love.  At least that's what I take from these lines.  The images in the poem are in negation -- don't love, and I don't know if salt, topaz, or arrow of carnations have a bigger symbolic meaning.  It probably does, but that's not the the point.

The point comes with the next two lines, "I love you as one loves certain obscure things, / secretly, between the shadow and the soul."  Deep and intimate.  Between conceptual darkness and light.  So inward hyperbole.  "Secretly" in this context seems romantic to me, but, again taste level.  This could be read as creepy if taken literally and there's no buy in for the initial metaphor.

So how does someone love obscurely, " I love you as that plant that doesn't bloom but carries / the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,"  The potential.  Because from potential there is something bright and blooming, something the speaker enjoys and would be the one to see the growth.

"And thanks to your love that tight aroma that rose /from the earth lives dimly in my body."  A kept secret as significant and insignificant as a smell.  "tight aroma" is an interesting adjective/noun combination...what is a tight smell?

"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where, / I love you directly without problem or pride: I love you like this because I don't know any other way to love you,"  swept up in the language.  The anaphora of "I love you" like a chant, and the lack of reason and more to emotional conclusion -- the love is the only way that feels right that I can.

"except in this form in which I am not nor are you, / so close that your hand upon my chest is mine, / so close that your eyes close with my dreams."  The line having the other chest as the speakers is a nice line that represents a oneness created through love.  The last line is an expected end for me, but why not.  In reality, in dreams, in shadow, and soul -- the speaker loves this way.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Analysis of "I Didn't Go to Church Today" by Ogden Nash

Poem found here:  "I Didn't Go to Church Today" by Ogden Nash



I think this poem is pretty self explanatory.  Please Lord, forgive me for not going to church since we die anyways.  We'll be together forever.  

However, this poem can be read further and deeper than just the surface level forgiveness.  But should I?  Why not.

"I didn't go to church today, / I trust the Lord to understand," and why wouldn't the Lord understand.  Isn't forgiveness of sin part of the doctrine.  The speaker must have a good reason though: family emergency, personal crisis, maybe perhaps even something as plausible as his car breaking down.  

But no, the next few lines isn't an excuse, it's what actually happened,  "The surf was swirling blue and white, / The children swirling on the sand."  Yes, if I want to go deep enough I can say this is a biblical allusion to Moses trials of parting the sea and he and his children wandering the desert for 40 year before finding their place.              

But no, let's not go there, why?  This poem's tone is jovial, not to be over thought because, "He knows, He knows how brief my stay, / How brief this spell of summer weather,"

Up front, this is all forgiven anyways, so why hide it.    Why look deeper at reasoning or purpose when it's all planned out.  

And the speaker is genuine with this emotion, "He knows when I am said and done / We'll have plenty of time together."    So what's one day?  What's that one line to say you're a believer or not and who is to judge.  Not man.  The lord knows.                                                                                                                         

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Analysis of "Last Hill in a Vista" by Louise Bogan

Poem found here: "Last Hill in a Vista" by Louise Bogan

Collective poverty.  These sestets have very harsh and obvious rhyme schemes as well.  I think it's obvious to deflect the harsh reality with some humor.

"Come, let us tell the weeds in ditches / How we are poor, who once had riches,"  When I read this part, I questioned why the weeds.  "We" is already in a low place and the "weeds" parallel not only their circumstance but the place they are at.  This reads like it's from the Great Depression or some sort of economic downturn.

"And lie out in the sparse and sodden / Pastures that the cows have trodden,"  these lines reminds me of the Romantics and how a greater purpose could be found in the sublime through nature.  But with the rhyme scheme and the circumstance, this ideal seems to be jabbed at more so than idealized, but the lines are sincere with the mood still being light in the next two lines, "The while an autumn nigh seal down / the comforts of the wooden town."

The first sestet feels like an exposition.  The collective "we" is poor and find comforts in nature and small towns.  Me, as a reader, is trying to find cynicism in these lines, but the first stanza is has a genuine tone.  And what throws me off is the first two lines in the second stanza, "Come, let us counsel some cold stranger / How we sought safety, but loved danger." 

I want to find blame in outside sources in this poem, but it's not there with those two lines.  In fact, the reasons turn inward with "sought safety, but loved danger."  It's as though the collective speaker is turning inwards for the change in circumstance, "So, with stiff walls about us, we / Chose this more fragile boundary:"

So why choose this fragile boundary?  Maybe it's for the love of danger and taking responsibilities of loving danger -- lack of stability, lack of money, but not a lack of place, "Hills, where light poplars, the firm oak, / Loosen into a little smoke."  The first line goes back to this pastoral romanticism which makes sense in the context of the poem, but the last line has more of an ominous image of  "little smoke."  A part of me wants it to be a fire, but based on the poem, I'm not sure.  The smoke could be innocuous, can't we be poor, love danger and have nothing?



Sunday, March 1, 2020

Analysis of "Coming to This" by Mark Strand

Poem Found Here: "Coming to This" by Mark Strand


Dead bedroom.  Staying for the kids.  This is what the poem feels like do to he lines, images, and tone of the poem.  This poem does take a different approach to the middle-aged old problem.

"We have done what we wanted. / We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry / of each other [...]" With two lines there a build up of regret with the first line -- all that was wanted was already done.  But not done in the sense of beginning and finishing it, rather of letting go, "discarding dreams." and making a resolution to each other and that takes work like heavy industry.  Work, but not enjoyment.

"and we have welcomed grief / and called ruin the impossible habit to break."

Note the usage of "and" in the first stanza.  There's three instances of "and."  I feel this is on purpose to elongate the sentence to parallel this elongated relationship.  Furthermore, the "and" adds to a series of events just happening.  Grief happens and then ruin happen.  Like people becoming friends after surviving a traumatic incident.  It seems their relationship is quite traumatic.

"And now we are here."

I'll just let this sit there.  What is here isn't surprising, "The dinner is ready and we cannot eat. / The meat sits in the white lake of its dish. / the wine waits."   Ruin is thinking you want out of this same habit of grief, but no answer is there -- dinner is just dinner, meat is just mean, wine is just wine.  Images aren't answers.  These images serve as reminder of monotony.  I find the attempt to be metaphorical "meat sits in the white lake of its dish" as something the speaker attempts to do to give more meaning to the bland sentence which parallels my perceived notion of the relationships bland life.

But the last stanza has the turn, and an enjambment which is less definite than the end-stopped lines in the second stanza, "Coming to this / has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away."  Note here how dead bedrooms is limbo.  No promises that things will change, but also nothing is taken away.  This is classic sunk-cost fallacy thinking which is further indicated with the last two lines, "We have no heart or saving grace, / no place to go, no reason to remain." 

To me the last two lines are too on point, too on the nose.  Dead lines.  But I think this is the point of the lines.  Emphasizing having no heart or saving grace, no place to go, no reason to remain -- this constant stream of no, no, no, no.  No to change, don't think no further.  Stay just to remain.