Archive for the ‘Andrew’ Category

Song for Autumn, by Mary Oliver

Monday, November 6th, 2006

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

i thought this poem was appropriate considering that it’s fall now and a lot of the leaves are really starting to change. i liked this poem because of the sense of anticipation, of fall coming to full bloom. i also liked the enjambment; the way it was crafted allows each line on its own to have significance, or simply to sound pleasant. also, the stanza arrangement (the hanging lines) helped to lend rhythm and keep the poem from being a solid block of text.

Living with Ballads: Sidna Allen

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

He mounted to the bar
with a pistol in his hand
and he sent Judge Massie
to the Promised Land:

the only mountain ballad
my mother ever sang
the years that she was raising me
on Pop Rocks and Tang,

and Grandmother thought secular
music miles beneath
her notice, so my mind is not
one Stith Thompson motif

after another, not a green
wood thick with noble felons,
no Gypsy Davies to seduce,
no Barbara Allens,

just local Sidna, late
in the murder song tradition,
coming at you straight
out of my mother’s kitchen.

i liked this poem mainly because of the rhyme. it’s kind of untraditional in that, as far as i can tell, only 2 out of the 4 lines of each stanza (with the exception of the last) rhyme with eachother. also, the rhyme scheme of the poem matched that of the italicized song lyrics that opened the poem, giving it the feel of a song which is very appropriate considering the subject matter and construction of the poem.

Lyrical, by Joseph Millar

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

The spaniel next door yaps at the sparrows,
he yaps at the crows and the mailman,
yaps at the compost pile and the sunflower,
yaps at the rain and the sky. He yaps
at the steps leading down to the creek
where the flax plants bloom high as my waist
and the blue flowers force their way up
through small stones the color of night. He
yaps at the garbage truck’s back-up beeper,
iron bell song of the priest and bridegroom,
song of the lone ship, song of the train,
song of the big waves rolling and breaking
over the western reefs. He yaps at the rosebush,
yaps at the fence, song for the sidewalk cracked
in half, the wine bottle resting against the curb,
the neighbor who doesn’t come home.


i liked this poem initially because i thought the subject matter was rather funny; everyone has been around a dog who barks at literally everything. also, the title “Lyrical” was initially funny as well, as most people wouldn’t necessarily think of a dog’s bark as having any “Lyrical” qualities. however, but the end of the poem, Millar breaks the pattern of “Yaps at…” and refers to the sound as “song” and then brings in the idea of a neighbor who has not come home. i was struck by the ambiguity, and rather serious nature of this last line when compared to the rest of the poem, which to that point, felt rather light-hearted. in an untraditional sort of way, assuming there is a neighbor who is missing, a dog’s bark could to some degree be seen as an elegy, or lyrical somehow. i also thought the ambiguous nature of the last line was intriguing and thought-provoking.

Adhesive Force (TT quote)

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

pg. 45:

“Connections are not stated, yet we know the three statements are connected. The are connected because the same poet wrote all three. That is, they are products of one vision that, along with style, becomes the adhesive force. This adhesive force will be your way of writing. Assume the next thing belongs because you put it there. The real reason may be clearer later.”

i think this is a very important thing to remember when reading and writing poetry. in putting together the various lines that make up a poem, it is to be assumed that the poet has an overarching idea that holds together all the lines and all the ideas; what Hugo calls the “adhesive force”. in reading a poem, we assume that all statements are related, and that by understanding their relation, we can understand the meaning/significance of the poem. it is important to remember that most readers will carry this assumption into reading the poem, thus we must make sure we have a unifying force running throughout our poem. obviously, we should have some kind of idea of the poem’s subject and theme, but i think it is also important to have consistent tone so that different elements don’t seem out of place and confuse the reader in his or her attempts to unlock the meaning of the piece.

Patrick Phillips, “What Happens”

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

What Happens


What happens never happens on its own.
The future and the past collide.

I’ve known a radio to go on playing
the song that it was playing

just before my father’s Pontiac began to slide—
the past so stubbornly persistent

even Jimi Hendrix would not stop wailing
just because my face was broken

and the rain was blowing
through what had been a windshield—

spot-lit figures clutching their knees
and sobbing in the grass

as Jimi shrieked and shrieked out of the past,
until finally I found the knob

I’d cranked in my euphoria, just before
the gods let loose their wrath.


And sometimes what happens
must happen more than once,

as when my friend died and the news
reached me in a cabin on a hillside,

where I presided over row
after row of sleeping campers.

The head counselor had whispered
through a moth-flecked screen,

then stood beside the stump
where I sat smoking and crying

and talking about what happened
until there was nothing left but sleep.

But by the time I was awakened
I’d forgotten, and for an hour

he was alive somewhere.
And I was showered, shaved,

and halfway down the mountain
when a twig snapped, and he died.

And sometimes what happens
doesn’t even happen,

like when it was time
for my wife to push

and she pushed so hard
the screen flatlined.

So hard the heart stopped
and the whole room began

to flash and beep, like on TV.
Nurses streamed through doors

and in an instant we were childless.
We wandered through our days.

The doctors worked and worked
and nothing happened.

And it was then I knew for sure
that nothing cares for us.

And I was changed.
And I have never been the same

though I’ve learned
to pretend I do not know

what can happen and un-happen
in no more time than it would take

an angel or a devil to descend into my wife,
and pass through her into my son,

who was miraculously born into this world,
where everywhere and always

hearts are stopping for no reason.
and for no reason, starting up again.


i found this poem very powerful, especially in the first section. i was pulled in by the lines “even Jimi Hendrix would not stop wailing / just because my face was broken”. the entire poem has a certain bluntness about it, but i think this line is particularly striking because of the idea of a broken face. this general, ambiguous description is far more effective and jarring than pinpointing a particular facial injury, and becomes all the more effective when the catastrophe of the crash is paired with the persistence of the radio in spite of the destruction and trauma. the rest of the poem adds to the tone set in the first section, and by the end, it becomes a very succesful reflection on the transcience of life and also of death. one aspect that somewhat distracted me however, was the pairing of the two lines together. i can understand how this technique is used to lend rhythm to the poem, but i can’t decide whether or not it would have been better without this sort of sing-songy rhthym. as is, i think it helps the flow, and makes certain lines and elements of the narrative stick out, however, i can’t help but think that for the subject matter, it would be much more dramatic without this division. but maybe the only reason it’s dramatic at all is because of this juxtaposition?

Waterfall at Journey’s End, by Neil Shepard

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Yet another metamorphic
swimming hole, waterfall
where language fails.

Gneiss, schist, slate.
You can hear nouns meta-
morphose to verbs, gnarl, shiver, split,

then strip down, tumble
in granitic kettle-holes
and camouflage themselves

in green water, green
because pines hang
above the fault line

and shade language
from blue-blank sky where some-
body’s watching, listening

to the syllables of delight.
This is the place of pre-
delight, before the light

blinked on in our fore-
brains and pained us with fore-
knowing. No, this place

delivers a hiss, a wordless
rush through gray clefts,
the high chattering scream

of being submerged in momentary
cold so cold the body knows
undeniably, indelibly,

these are the high walls
of journey’s end, of anaerobic
last-gasp, body-turning

blue. And tongues become
like limbs trying to climb
the high cliffs of death

to clutch a purchase
on exposed outcrops
where words can sink

their cleats, pitons,
grappling hooks, inventions
that turn humans pre-

human: moss-crawler, rock-clasper,
some thing attached to cold stone
that owns no language—

micaceous, gneiss-spark,
fissile schist, granite-fault—

that goes on climbing

as if it were stone-dumb,
attached by its tongue
to the thing, the very thing.

I really liked this poem because it reminded me of the British Romantics, and their penchant for nature and appreciation of its power over imagination. I also like writing about nature and using language to try to capture and express the majesty of simple things, such as the waterfall in Shepard’s poem. The part of the poem that really was the hook for me was in the first stanza where he in describing the spot he has found, writes: “where language fails”. I thought this was an excellent description. Sometimes in a scene, especially a great spectacle of nature, there is just too much good going on to even put it into words. All you can do is drink it in. Along with this, the lines: “This is the place of pre-/ delight, before the light / blinked on in our fore- / brains and pained us with fore- / knowing.” also struck me. I found it very effective to classify a place this way, as so serene yet powerful that it takes us out of our own minds almost, and gives a glimpse the world untarnished by our own expectations.

Triggering Town

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

“I find words beautiful that ring with psychic truth and sound meant. If such a choice were possible, I would far rather mean what I say that say what I mean. To use language well requires self-sacrifice, even giving up pet ideas.”

I definitely agree with this idea. Several times, when trying to write a poem, I might come up with a phrase I like or have a good idea, but later, I will realize that either the phrase really just doesn’t fit, or that the idea isn’t actually what i need to be saying. I think it’s important, as students of poetic compostion, to remember that, as Hugo says, sometimes sacrafices are necessary and also, that it is important to remember that an important part of poetry is the basic aesthetics of the language. We must remember this even when it necessitates abandoning ideas that very much appealed to us.