Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Favorite Poem (2):

-Matsuo Basho

                  An old silent pond...

                  A frog jumps into the pond,

                  splash! Silence again.

This is my first Haiku, so hopefully I do this right.

This Haiku is a classic, in fact it is from this haiku as an example that I first learned how to make haiku poetry. I have always really liked this poem because it takes a very simple occurrence, a frog jumping into a pond, and magnifies its significance. I like haiku poems because they force the artist to really choose their syllables carefully, charging each one with it’s own individual importance. This makes this poem much more complex than many of the longer ones that we have read.

Basho mentions the pond as old and silent, almost dead even. He creates this imagery of an old decaying pond, quiet from disuse and negligence. And then the statement “A frog jumps into the pond” arises out of the “…” mentioned at the end of line 1. This adds the elements of surprise to the suspense of an empty pond. The frog makes his mark on this desolate pond, and creates his “splash!” But, the frog’s actions only amount to that transitory ripple, as soon after there is silence again.

I found this poem very existentialist, talking about the pond as the world, and how it is old and silent, unmarked. The frog jumps into the pond and makes his attempt to be remembered through his splash, but ultimately there is silence again and his splash is forgotten.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Favorite Poem (1): The Red Wheelbarrow

"the red wheelbarrow"
-William Carlos Williams

so much depends


a red wheel


glazed with rain


beside the white


I first read this poem when I was a freshman, and I remember I hated it. I didn’t believe that it was poetry because it didn’t fit my definition of a poem. But, coming across this again recently, I realize that it actually is the definition of a poem. Williams does an excellent job of describing the image of a flawless red wheelbarrow covered in enough water that it has a metallic sheen next to a flock of chickens. His scene contains no disorder, no evidence of anything out of place. It reminds me of movies that have a setting in which all the colors have no blemishes or mixtures of any kind. Everything in this poem creates the sensation of a perfect world, completely dependent on this perfection; hence “so much depends upon”. Williams is making the argument that we all strive for this level of flawlessness but in the end it just doesn’t visualize itself realistically.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

External Structure 1:Here I am

"Here I am"
-Roger McGough

            The most interesting aspect of this poem is it's very unusual shape. McGough uses a very odd shape for his poem that is not easily discernable as any particular object. I personally think that the shape resembles that of an hourglass, representing the time that the author has left in his life. The poem talks a lot about the many things that the author failed to accomplish in his life. The author is lamenting about the time he has wasted, but he realizes that his hourglass is not yet empty, hence the line “Here I am” in the center of the poem. The author realizes that he is still alive and still has time to redeem himself and do what he has yet to do. The author accepts how he has spent the first section of his hourglass. This is why the change from the top half of the hourglass to the bottom occurs at the second repetition of the line “Here I am”.  The shape does not fit this mold perfectly, but it is fairly close and the deviation from the mold may be a symbol that the poem is imperfect. It is the author’s acceptance of the fact that not everything can be accomplished, not everything can fit the ideal mold.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

External Structure 1:[I(a]

-EE Cummings

            I personally liked this poem due to its very odd structure. This poem truly does exemplify external structure and the importance it plays in a work’s overall meaning. The structure is a vertical poem, one in which all of the words are shown in a line going straight down, rather than the conventional straight across method. The poem spells out the phrase “l(a leaffa ll s)onel iness” which is essentially saying “l(a leaf falls)oneliness”. This phrase is using the phrase “a leaf falls” and placing it within the word “loneliness”. The parenthetical is cleverly placed so that numerous ideas relating to the theme of loneliness are displayed.

        First the “l” at the beginning looks much like the number 1, which is commonly and logically known as the loneliest number that there ever was. The poem continues through the parenthetical, not placing more than two letters in any one given line and placing the spaces irrationally. This serves to relate the loneliness of each line to an overall idea of disorder and chaos. This idea is contrary to the general beliefs that loneliness means a desolate and dejected solitude. After the parenthesis the poem finishes the word loneliness with the words one, l, and iness showing that loneliness is singularity and one-ness.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

External Structure(Sonnet) 2: Autumnal Sonnet

“Autumnal Sonnet”

-William Allingham


Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods,

And day by day the dead leaves fall and melt,

And night by night the monitory blast

Wails in the key-hold, telling how it pass'd

O'er empty fields, or upland solitudes,

Or grim wide wave; and now the power is felt

Of melancholy, tenderer in its moods

Than any joy indulgent summer dealt.

Dear friends, together in the glimmering eve,

Pensive and glad, with tones that recognise

The soft invisible dew in each one's eyes,

It may be, somewhat thus we shall have leave

To walk with memory,--when distant lies

Poor Earth, where we were wont to live and grieve.


This sonnet is in Petrarchan form. The poem, like my first choice, is split into two parts. The first being the initial eight lines of the poem, and the second being the final six lines.

The first section of this poem deals with autumn as a season and what comes with it. It discusses how with autumn the leaves fall and die and how the mood of the Earth shifts from the “indulgent summer” to a “melancholy, tenderer in its moods”. This section delineates autumn as a very negative time of year. This is odd as usually winter is the archetype for death, but here autumn is the source of all the despair and the dead leave’s melting. The speaker seems to be suggesting that the fear surrounding death is actually within the precursor to death and not death itself. It is knowing that death is coming that frightens us, and not death itself.

In the second part the speaker addresses his readers and talks about facing the horrors ahead (winter). He talks about the coming winter and how earth will not live through it. It is revealed that the earth is in its autumn, and that winter is around the corner. The speaker is trying to ready his audience so that they can be prepared for the end and “walk with memory”.

External Structure(Sonnet) 1: Mother Night

"Mother Night"

-James Weldon Johnson

Eternities before the first-born day,

Or ere the first sun fledged his wings of flame,

Calm Night, the everlasting and the same,

A brooding mother over chaos lay.

And whirling suns shall blaze and then decay,

Shall run their fiery courses and then claim

The haven of the darkness whence they came;

Back to Nirvanic peace shall grope their way.  


So when my feeble sun of life burns out,

And sounded is the hour for my long sleep,

I shall, full weary of the feverish light,

Welcome the darkness without fear or doubt,

And heavy-lidded, I shall softly creep

Into the quiet bosom of the Night.


This poem is a variation of the Italian sonnet form. It is split into two stanzas, an octet and a sestet. While in the octet the author describes the general existence of light and the stars and their course of living, in the sestet he delves into an analysis of his own “feeble sun”.

The first half or so of the octet set the scene for the rest of the poem. These lines discuss the beginning of time, before the suns and stars had shapes and forms. It talks about when there was merely light among a sea of chaos. The last half of the stanza discusses the death of these stars. It talks about how after stars have “run their fiery course”, they go into the night never to be seen again. This parallels the circle of life in how the stars, after coming out of the night, return to it with their death. In this way, the speaker shows how life passes through a structural metaphor of stars and suns. He then uses the next stanza to explain how he will face the last half of his octet.

The speaker now compares himself to the stars and suns in the sky and realizes that when it is his time to disappear into the night he will accept death as his destiny and return to whence he came. Actually, the "feverish light" that he mentions as his own life makes it seem that he will be tired and ready to go, “weary” from his long journey through the sky. The speaker is not afraid of death, but seemingly this is only in the context of having a full and satiating life.