Sunday, May 1, 2011

Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith (Make-up blog)

When I read this poem, it made me think of all the poor souls in the world who suffer every day, who cry out for help and receive none, and who end up being unnecessarily lost. Whether it is from depression or some other problem, they exude apparently silent pleas for help, and no one responds, so they continue to drown in their problems and are eventually consumed by them.

"Nobody heard him, the dead man, but still he lay moaning: I was much further out than you thought and not waving but drowning." Nobody realized what he was going through. Everyone misconstrued his calls for help for something less important, perhaps just a need for attention or a lousy attitude, when really he was already past the point that he could be saved. "Poor chap, he always loved larking and now he's dead it must have been too cold for him his heart gave way, they said." Everyone thought he was happy and content with life, and that one day life just got too overwhelming for him and, naturally, it overcame him as it would anyone else. "Oh, no no no, it was too cold always (Still the dead one lay moaning) I was much too far out all my life and not waving but drowning." He says that life has always been "too cold," but no one ever saw it. He had always been consumed by his problems, and people refused to see it for what it really was. To me, it seems to say that he never really had a chance of rescue, because he had always been drowning, never waving as everyone thought, so no one would have ever thought to rescue him, because what was there to rescue him from? And still no one sees it and the situation remains as hopeless and trifling as ever.

Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney

It took a little while for me to realize it, but this might just be the saddest poem I've ever read. It's so solemn and blunt and emotionless at the beginning that, initially, I didn't quite know what was going on. But as the story progressed, I began to understand. I didn't really make the connection between anything past the first stanza with the title. I mean, "Mid-Term Break" is a rather misleading title for such a depressing poem. I thought it was just going to be about some college kid who was bummed out about being sick during a break from school, but no. It's about death and loss, as usual. The tone is so nonchalant, as if it is just a description of another average day in this kid's life, that it ended up seeming like the narrator was emotionally trying to detach himself from the situation. Of course, that is a perfectly natural reaction to the death of a loved one, although not really a healthy one. There is even what appears to be some subtle sarcasm in the line "In the porch I met my father crying-- he had always taken funerals in his stride," and such normal descriptions that I didn't quite know what to make of everything. I thought maybe he was just going to the funeral of someone he hadn't known very well. He refers to the deceased as "the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses," and apparently hadn't seen it for six weeks.

"Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple, he lay in the four foot box as in his cot. No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear. A four foot box, a foot for every year."

Followed by much confusion, shock, and agitation on my part.

WHY?? What would posess anyone to write about such a mortifying and disheartening subject? A poor little four year old boy is dead, hit by a car. Not mutilated or scarred, just a bruise on his head. But still dead! And then I remembered how messed up and depressed so many poets and writers are, and that they have more sources of...inspiration...for their writing than normal people. I usually find poetry beautiful and meaningful, despite the topics it discusses, and I'm sure Heaney had very good reasons for writing this poem, (his little brother did die when he was 3 or 4), but this is just something I did not handle well. Just thinking about it was almost enough to make me cry, as pathetic as that may be. And Heaney makes a very good point of singling out the last line, which reveals how old the poor boy was, which made an even bigger impact on me than it otherwise might have. IN CONCLUSION, I think this was a very moving and purposeful poem, but I think I need to lay off the poetry for a while before it starts to get to me.