Sunday, January 30, 2011

It Was a Dream by Lucille Clifton

The first thing I noticed about this poem was that the actual poem is a continuation of the title. Clifton makes this more prominent by keeping the first letter of the first line lower case, but even without that it would be very noticeable, and I feel like the poem just doesn't flow unless you read it correctly. I also noticed the repetition Clifton used to emphasize a few of her ideas: she repeated the phrase-opening word "and" for three of the last lines, and she ends her poem with the line "This. This. This." Personally, I like to use both repetition and parallelism as techniques in my writing because I feel like they make more of an impact on the reader, so I really like the fact that Clifton used them.

As for the content of this poem, I thought that Clifton's idea was one that many of us have to face occasionally. My interpretation was that, in her dream, Clifton was confronted by her "greater self," livid and raging at her about what she had done with her life. Clifton asked herself what else she could have done, and the response was more screaming and generally insane behavior. The last line of "This. This. This." sounded to me like Clifton's "greater self" was screaming at her the things she could have done, in response to the question.

I thought it was interesting how Clifton referred to her dream self as her "greater self," because I thought it implied that she subconsciously agreed that she had made some sort of mistake and ended up in the wrong place in life. I also thought the phrase, "accusing me of my life," was intriguing: I never actually thought of this kind of abusive self-criticism as a type of accusation, but it's very true if you think about it. She is not necessarily accusing herself of being alive, although she would obviously be guilty of that, but of making the wrong choices during her life. I am sure we have all been guilty of this at some point or another, and there is really no escaping it. But it is interesting the way that Clifton chose to address it, through the description of a dream. Perhaps it really was a dream she had, but it seems more likely that she meant "dream" as more of a thought which expanded upon itself and turned into a self-argument which led her to visualize herself as a sort of crazy, monstrous terror who could do nothing but berate her.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Of Mere Being by Wallace Stevens

Stevens' poem had an other-wordly feel to me. This world seemed to exist, as Stevens put it, "beyond the last thought" of human imaginings. I interpreted this as a place past the subconscious in the human mind, a world where reasons are unimportant, all that matters is what actually is. It almost seemed like a part of our deepest imagination which does not conform to the outside existence of the world. Where what we have learned to think as humans never penetrates. Especially considering the bird in the palm, and its song as described in the second stanza: "without human meaning, without human feeling, a foreign song." And, according to Stevens, the reason the bird is singing is insignificant to how we feel, it is the fact that "The bird sings" and "Its feathers shine" that affects our emotions. I took this to mean that, subconsciously, it does not matter to us the reason something happens, but only that it happened. I thought this sounded a lot like what people say when they know they have no control over a situation and are essentially only affected by the fact that they experienced the situation, whether good or bad. The last stanza I saw as more description of the strange world; the palm is mentioned again, on the edge of both the mind and space and, as Stevens put these parallel to each other, it made me think that he saw them both as the same thing; the slow-moving wind in the branches added to the peaceful environment; and, once again, the bird with the golden, "fire-fangled" feathers is mentioned, yet another indication of an unfamiliar world.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Heritage by James Still

This was such a confusing, yet clearly meaningful poem. It seemed to me to be rather morose at first, but at the same time, when I had finished reading it and had time to process what he was saying, Still may have been content with his home.

In the first stanza, I felt like Still was regretting the fact that he was trapped in the "prisoning hills" of Kentucky. Yet he must have felt truly connected with this place because he states that, "Though [the hills] topple their barren heads to level earth and the forests slide uprooted out of the sky," though the lakes and rivers overflow and drown out the cities, and, "Though the sun-ball breaks the ridges into dust and burns its strength into the blistered rock," he still would not be able to leave his home. He basically uses complex and eloquent language to state that, even if the world was going into a nearly apocolyptic chaos, he would have to remain where he was. I was confused as to why anyone would feel such a strong association with a place, even if it was falling to pieces. However, the second stanza helped a little in giving me an insight into Still's feelings.

Still further establishes the strong connection he has with his surrounding environment in the second stanza. He uses the phrase "Being of these hills," twice, at the beginning and ending of the stanza. He also repeats the phrase, "being one with," multiple times to get his point across. I found it odd that he made connections both with living creatures, a fox, a foal, an ox, and a man, and death, since constrasting ideas are brought forth with each. I thought that this implied that he was attached to this place, even when he was surrounded by and subjected to both life and death. I felt that this particular connection was why he had named his poem Heritage : he is one with the place, and he has figuratively inherited his surroundings over time, and will pass them on to future generations.

The last line of Still's poem is, "Being of these hills I cannot pass beyond." I can see how this could be taken both literally and figuratively: either Still cannot leave his home, passing the great mountains which serve as barriers to him, or he is such a part of his environment that no matter where he goes he will always be there, or both. I also felt that "pass beyond" sounded a lot like a reference to death, possibly meaning that he thought his soul would always be a part of his current home. I could not completely understand whether it was Still's feelings of entrapment or his deep connection with the place which caused his obscure identification with his home, but the relationship was, nevertheless, intriguing.