Sunday, April 5, 2009

Free Verse

The Unknown Citizen by W. H. Auden

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

“The Unknown Citizen” is about a solider who was found dead and not identified. His tomb is memorialized as a representation of all of the dead citizens who were/are not identified when they die. The poem describes the typical working class hero, “He worked in a factory and never got fired.” He was a completely normal and respectable person. The swift in the poem comes in the last two lines:Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.By saying this Auden implies that freedom and happiness, two core American values, are irrelevant. This adds irony to the entire poem. Auden is saying that a man can be a “saint” by societal standards and not necessarily be happy or free because of our society. We are not free because of the constraints and responsibilities of society. His happiness is also irrelevant. This poem questions American values as well as the American lifestyle.


In a Station of the Metro By Ezra Pound

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

Petals on a wet, black bough.

“In a Station of the Metro” is a famous imagist poem. Its length of only fourteen exemplifies the importance of every word in the poem. The poem is also written in the haiku style. The poem compares the chaos of the metro station to nature. Imagist poetry is essentially a series of images just as “In a Station of the Metro” is. The first image is of the “faces in the crowd.” This first image is of a crowded subway station where unknown faces pass you by. The busy industrialized image is contrasted with the natural image of “petals on a wet, black bough.” Both of these images are created to compare and contrast between them. The contrast between them is the natural vs. artificial. However, they’re both the same in their feeling of anonymity.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


"Idea: Old Mazda Lamp, 50-100-150 W" By John Hollander

if you cant read this go to

"Idea: Old Mazda Lamp" by John Hollander is in the shape of a light bulb (obviously). The beginning of the poem discussed light and darkness, which connects with the light bulb either on or off. "Oh yes I see" is emphasizing because it is underlined.  This is emphasized because there is a shift. The poem goes from talking about concrete things (light, dark, daylight) to abstract ideas (the mind). The poem becomes more abstract and compares light and dark with dreams and sleeping with figurative language. The on/off switch of a light bulb is compared to having your eyes open or shut. Finally, the light bulb come to represent the "way minds look." The ending words are "there was light." Through the progression of the poem, the light bulb comes to represent thinking which began the world.


Six Words by Lloyd Schwartz





never . . .


yes no
maybe sometimes
always never.

In “Six Words” Schwartz uses only the words yes, no, maybe, sometimes, always and never to express the ambiguity of words. Tone is evoked through caesura and the placement of the words. The differentiated punctuation creates pauses and tone in the poem. The dashes and ellipses create pauses, while question marks create a questioning tone. In each stanza, the meaning of the 6 words changes because of context. The first stanza simply states the 6 words. The second stanza creates a dialogue where the first, third and fifth words are questions. The second, fourth and sixth words are the responses. The poem exemplifies how the context and punctuation of just a few words can drastically change their meaning.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spenserian Sonnet

Sonnet 1 by Edmund Spencer

Happy ye leaves whenas those lily hands,
Which hold my life in their dead doing might
Shall handle you and hold in love’s soft bands,
Lyke captives trembling at the victor’s sight.
And happy line, on which with starry light,
Those lamping eyes will design sometimes to look
and read the sorrows of my dying spright,
Written with tears in harts close bleeding book.
And happy rhymes bathed in the sacred brook,
Of Helicon whence she derived is,
When ye behold that Angels blessed look,
My souls long lacked food, my heavens bliss.
Leaves, lines, and rhymes, seek her please alone,
Whom if ye please, I care for other none.

In “Sonnet 1” Edmund Spencer uses figurative language to describe his love for a woman whom he loves but she torments him. He juxtaposes her “lily hands” with their “dead doing” might in lines 1 and 2. At her hands, he both is soothed and strangled simulations. In lines 3 and 4, he does the same thing by contrasting “love‘s soft bands” with “captives trembling.” This sets the tone of the poem. He loves this woman and she is his muse but she is also killing him because he loves her so much.
Though the tone is somewhat dismal, when it is read it has the feel of a love poem because of the soothing word choice or euphony. This further juxtaposes the message of the poem with the feel of the poem when it is read. In doing so, he once again presents his love for her and the pain that his love for her has created.
Spencer also alludes to “Helicon.” Helicon is the name of a huge mountain in ancient Greece. It was considered a sacred place because it was favored by the Gods and Goddess. However, it was particularly favored by the Muses. This allusion implies that the women whom this poem is written for is his muse. She inspires him to write. This is supported in the last lines where he dedicated this poem to her. “Leaves, lines, and rhymes, seek her peace alone/Whom if ye please, I care for other none” (lines 13-14).


Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

LUCKY: Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown but time will tell and suffers like the divine Miranda with those who for reasons unknown but time will tell are plunged in torment plunged in fire whose fire flames if that continues and who can doubt it will fire the firmament that is to say blast heaven to hell so blue still and calm so calm with a calm which even though intermittent is better than nothing but not so fast and considering what is more that as a result of the labours left unfinished crowned by the Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry of Essy-in-Possy of Testew and Cunard it is established beyond all doubt all other doubt than that which clings to the labours of men that as a result of the labours unfinished of Testew and Cunard it is established as hereinafter but not so fast for reasons unknown that as a result of the public works of Puncher and Wattmann it is established beyond all doubt that in view of the labours of Fartov and Belcher left unfinished for reasons unknown of Testew and Cunard left unfinished it is established what many deny that man in Possy of Testew and Cunard that man in Essy that man in short that man in brief in spite of the strides of alimentation and defecation is seen to waste and pine waste and pine and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the strides of physical culture the practice of sports such as tennis football running cycling swimming flying floating riding gliding conating camogie skating tennis of all kinds dying flying sports of all sorts autumn summer winter winter tennis of all kinds hockey of all sorts penicilline and succedanea in a word I resume and concurrently simultaneously for reasons unknown to shrink and dwindle in spite of the tennis I resume flying gliding golf over nine and eighteen holes tennis of all sorts in a word for reasons unknown in Feckham Peckham Fulham Clapham namely concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown but time will tell to shrink and dwindle I resume Fulham Clapham in a word the dead loss per caput since the death of Bishop Berkeley being to the tune of one inch four ounce per caput approximately by and large more or less to the nearest decimal good measure round figures stark naked in the stockinged feet in Connemara in a word for reasons unknown no matter what matter the facts are there and considering what is more much more grave that in the light of the labours lost of Steinweg and Peterman it appears what is more much more grave that in the light the light the light of the labours lost of Steinweg and Peterman that in the plains in the mountains by the seas by the rivers running water running fire the air is the same and than the earth namely the air and then the earth in the great cold the great dark the air and the earth abode of stones in the great cold alas alas in the year of their Lord six hundred and something the air the earth the sea the earth abode of stones in the great deeps the great cold an sea on land and in the air I resume for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis the facts are there but time will tell I resume alas alas on on in short in fine on on abode of stones who can doubt it I resume but not so fast I resume the skull to shrink and waste and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis on on the beard the flames the tears the stones so blue so calm alas alas on on the skull the skull the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the labours abandoned left unfinished graver still abode of stones in a word I resume alas alas abandoned unfinished the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the skull alas the stones Cunard tennis... the stones... so calm... Cunard... unfinished...

This might help a little bit:

This monologue is the only thing that Lucky says in “Waiting for Godot.” The entire monologue is two sentences long and it is 700 words. This monologue is a crazy example of enjambment because there is not punctuation or grammar use in correct places. I’m not going to pretend that this monologue makes sense because it doesn’t and that is the point of it. Part of the purpose of this monologue is to reveal, in obscurest fashion, the utter absurdity of life. However, this monologue does have some profound meaning with in it though it can be interpreted in millions of ways.
Lucky is an abused slave to one of the other characters. This monologue begins with the questioning of God. In essence he says if there is a God then why do all of these things happen. He makes many obscure allusions to places like Oise, the Seine and Bresse. These places were have connections with World War II. "Waiting for Godot" questions the meaning of life. The existential/ absurdist thought of the play was some what common in contemporary writing of the time period after World War II. World War II forced many people to come to terms with death. It also made many question God and life because of the horrors of war and also the autrocities that Hitler committed. In addition, he constantly repeats the phrase “for reasons unknown” exemplifying the unpredictable world and how little we as humans know about it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Stillbirth by Laure-Anne Bosselaar

On a platform, I heard someone call out your name:
No, Laetitia, no.
It wasn’t my train—the doors were closing,
but I rushed in, searching for your face.

But no Laetitia. No.
No one in that car could have been you,
but I rushed in, searching for your face:
no longer an infant. A woman now, blond, thirty-two.

No one in that car could have been you.
Laetitia-Marie was the name I had chosen.
No longer an infant. A woman now, blond, thirty-two:
I sometimes go months without remembering you.

Laetitia-Marie was the name I had chosen:
I was told not to look. Not to get attached—
I sometimes go months without remembering you.
Some griefs bless us that way, not asking much space.

I was told not to look. Not to get attached.
It wasn’t my train—the doors were closing.
Some griefs bless us that way, not asking much space.
On a platform, I heard someone calling your name.

“Stillbirth” by Laure-Anne Bosselaar is a poem about a woman who lost a child as an infant. When I began reading this poem I expected it to be about a stillbirth, like the title suggests. The line “No longer an infant. A woman now, blond, thirty-two” made me think that either this is the author imagining that her child had grown up or that the child was possibly still alive. In line 14, when she says, “I was told not to look. Not to get attached—” I began thinking that the author had actually given her child up for adoption. Now she is haunted by her choice. When she hears the name Laetita she runs into the train searching for the face of her child.

I also think that the train is a use of extended metaphor or conceit. The train is a symbol of her loss of her daughter. Her getting on the train and looking for Laeititia shows that she wants to go back and see her daughter. However, it is not her train. In other words it is not her place. Because of this she is unable to find her daughter.

Her use of caesura is also very important in this poem. The dashes create a dramatic pause in the poem. The dashes are used after “It wasn’t my train” and “Not to get attached.” These two statements are two of the most profound within the poem. When she says “It wasn‘t my train” it portrays her hope that she will see her daughter again though these hopes are futile. She will never see her daughter because it is not her train and as I mentioned before it is as though it is not her place. “Not to get attached” is significant because she is incredibly emotionally attached to her child, still, after 32 years. However, she is conflicted because she was warned against being emotionally attached.

“Stillbirth” is a beautiful poem. I am sure there are far more levels to it than I have dissected because I have never been in that kind of situation. The grief that she talks about so simply in this poem is actually an enormous grief that I can only imagine.


Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night - Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had worked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright,
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying light.

Wild men who caught and sang in the sun inflight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas is a poem about fighting death. Thomas’ message is that you cannot just “gently” except death but you must “rage against” it. The repetition in this villanelle puts emphasis on the first and third lines of the first tercet. The emphasized lines are: “Do not go gentle into that good night” (line 1) and “Rage, rage against the dying of light” (line 3). He keeps repeating these two lines to emphasize that you should not just let your life slip away and you must fight death.

Thomas also uses literary devices to achieve his purpose. The “good night” is a metaphor for death in this poem and “light” is symbolic of life. Thomas uses metonymy in “Old age should burn and rave” (line 2). After doing some research I discovered that this poem was written while Dylan Thomas’ father was dying. This further illuminates the meaning of the poem. The first five stanzas exist to persuade the audience of the poem not to die. He tries to persuade his listener to “rage against the dying light.” In the last stanza, the intended listener is established as his father. He directly addresses his father saying, “And you, my father…”(line 16). “Do Not Go Gentle Into the Good Night” is an attempt at convincing his dying father to hold on to his life. This message is achieved through his use of literary devices and villanelle.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Elm by Sylvia Plath

I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap root:
It is what you fear.
I do not fear it: I have been there.

Is it the sea you hear in me,
Its dissatisfactions?
Or the voice of nothing, that was your madness?

Love is a shadow.
How you lie and cry after it
Listen: these are its hooves: it has gone off, like a horse.

All night I shall gallop thus, impetuously,
Till your head is a stone, your pillow a little turf,
Echoing, echoing.

Or shall I bring you the sound of poisons?
This is rain now, this big hush.
And this is the fruit of it: tin-white, like arsenic.

I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets.
Scorched to the root
My red filaments burn and stand, a hand of wires.

Now I break up in pieces that fly about like clubs.
A wind of such violence
Will tolerate no bystanding: I must shriek.

The moon, also, is merciless: she would drag me
Cruelly, being barren.
Her radiance scathes me. Or perhaps I have caught her.

I let her go. I let her go
Diminished and flat, as after radical surgery.
How your bad dreams possess and endow me.

I am inhabited by a cry.
Nightly it flaps out
Looking, with its hooks, for something to love.

I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.

Clouds pass and disperse.
Are those the faces of love, those pale irretrievables?
Is it for such I agitate my heart?

I am incapable of more knowledge.
What is this, this face
So murderous in its strangle of branches? -

Its snaky acids hiss.
It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults
That kill, that kill, that kill.

“Elm” by Sylvia Plath is one of my favorite poems. I think her use of nature in this poem is incredible effective. She connects images that everyone knows (trees, water, clouds, etc) with emotions that everyone also feels. The beginning line “I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap root” shows the depth both physically and emotionally of this poem. Roots stretch deep into the ground just as emotions penetrate every person. This connects the reader to the depth that this woman feels.

The next stanza refers to the turbulent sea and “Its dissatisfactions.” This stanza reminds me of the “to be or not to be” speech in Hamlet because it connects discusses the sea and madness. The second stanza refers to the sound of the sea as dissatisfied. This made me think of the “sea of troubles” in the “to be or not to be” speech. However, she goes on to say that the cause of madness could also be the voice of nothing. Madness is either caused by dissatisfactions or by nothingness according to this poem. The voice of nothingness is just as maddening as the dissatisfactions. This made me once again think of Hamlet and his choice that he either had to deal with the sea of troubles or to enter the unknown nothingness of death. The second stanza introduces the morbidity of this poem and the contemplation of death.

The third stanza addresses love. According to Sylvia Plath, love is intangible, like a shadow, and cannot be attained, like trying to catch a running horse. The forth stanza states that she will go on chasing love but ultimately it is something she will never find. In the fifth stanza she continues to comment on love. Love is frequently compared to a fruit (the fruit of love). Plath begins to use this metaphor and then compares the fruit to arsenic, a deadly poison.

The sixth stanza begins with “I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets.” I thought that this was a beautiful and interesting use of imagery. Sunsets are typically thought to be beautiful however they signify the end. This stanza comments on her past relationships and how they have hurt her, “Scorched to the root.” She has obviously been badly hurt by love in the past. The next stanza comments on her inability to be a bystander to this. She “must shriek.”

The eight stanza makes reference to another piece of nature, the moon. The moon is a symbol of the night. To Plath the moon is merciless because she drags her into the night. Night is a common symbol for Plath’s depression and contemplation of suicide. The next stanza starts with “I let her go” this is representative of Plath’s perpetual struggle with depression, mental illness and suicide. Stanza eleven states “I am terrified by this dark thing/ that sleeps in me” once again referring to her suicidal thoughts that she cannot control. During the day it is malignant, meaning it is spreading like a cancer.

In the last stanzas she brings together her contemplation with death and love. She asks, “Are those the faces of love, those pale irretrievables?” At this part of the poem it becomes clear that part of her madness and depression is based off of her inability to find love. This once again connects with Hamlet because arguably part of his madness was his unreturned love for Ophelia. Just as Shakespeare comments in Hamlet, Sylvia Plath says in “Elm,” in conjunction with other things (like depression or self hatred), love can make you mad enough to kill.

youtube clip about e.e.cummings -

to find the actual form of the poem go to this website:

"i have found what you are like" by E. E. Cummings

i have found what you are like
the rain,

(Who feathers frightened fields
with the superior dust-of-sleep. wields

easily the pale club of the wind
and swirled justly souls of flower strike

the air in utterable coolness

deeds of green thrilling light
with thinned

newfragile yellows


-in the woods


And the coolness of your smile is
stirringofbirds between my arms;but
i should rather than anything
have(almost when hugeness will shut
your kiss

I think this poem is beautiful because of its use of internal and external structure. E. E. Cummings is a master of playing with and manipulating structure.
The beginning of the poem states the point of the poem. “I have found what you are like/the rain.” After that has been stated, the next line opens with a parenthesis, which gives this part the feeling that it is a side note. However, the parenthesis never closes so it becomes an indefinite side note. I think this is a really interesting use of internal structure because he has already stated his point that the subject of the poem is like the rain. The rest of the poem describes the love that he has for the subject of the poem. He also uses parentheses again with “(almost when hugeness will shut/quietly).” He uses this to describe the overwhelming feeling he has when he is with the subject of the poem. Again he manipulates diction by running words together. For example he combines “newfraile,” “stirringof birds,” and “arms;but.” His combination of words rushes the pace of the poem. “Stirringofbirds” creates the same feeling that birds stirring in a tree creates. The internal form of this poem is unique and effective.
I like the use of external form in the poem. The way the lines “-in the woods/which/stutter/and/sing” fall in a way mimicking the falling rain. I also like the way that the last line “your kiss” is emphasized because it is indented. Both the external and the internal structure of this poem are unconventional but interesting and effective.

Monday, January 19, 2009


beware: do not read this poem by Ishmael Reed (pg 1040-1041)

“beware: do not read this poem” has an interesting and unconventional form. The syntax is manipulated by the placement of the punctuation. Each punctuation mark has a space before and after it. This contrasts from the conventional use of punctuation. Usually there is no space between the last word and the punctuation but there is a space after the punctuation. This use of punctuation slows the pace of the poem and makes clear where there should be pauses in pace. The unusual spacing of the poem is clarified by the last lines of the poem, “…over 100,000 people disappeared/leaving no solid clues/nor trace only/ a space in the lives of their friends” (lines 45-48). These last lines show that the spacing of the poem represents the spaces left in the lives of those who have lost love ones.

In addition, the author uses no capital letters which gives every word the same emphasis. The author also uses frequent abbreviations for example “abt,” “w /,” and “yr.” These abbreviations give the poem a slightly rushed tone like its message is urgent. The external form of the poems greatly effects tone, pace and message of the poem.

[Buffalo Bill 's] by E. E. Cummings (pg 1044)

This poem is similar to “beware: do not read this poem” because of its unusual spacing. However, [Buffalo Bill ‘s] does not use any punctuation and instead uses spaces as punctuation. The format of the words helps the reader to read the poem; some words do not have spaces between them and others are spaced far apart. The spacing, similar to the previous poem, controls the pace of the poem. The words “onetwothreefourfive” and “pigeonsjustlikethat” run together this shows the fast pace of this section of the poem. This contrasts with “Jesus” which is spaced all the way to the right and it is the only word on line 7. This depicts the isolation of God within this poem. The external form of this poem dictates the pace and meaning of the poem.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

External Structure (Sonnets)

Joy Sonnet in a Random Universe by Helen Chasin

“Joy Sonnet in a Random Universe” is questionably a sonnet. Its structure is 14 lines long, the typical sonnet length. It is printed as one stanza, as sonnets are typically printed. However, there is no rhyme scheme and the poem is not broken into either English or Italian form. This poem would only be considered a sonnet by its number of lines and its one stanza structure.

Sonnet 29 - When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes by William Shakespeare

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;

For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings

“Sonnet 29” is a 4-4-4-2 sonnet, otherwise known as English or Shakespearian (surprise, surprise since it was written by him). The first four lines address the disgrace and loneliness of this ostracized man. “I all alone beweep in my outcast state” (line 2). The next four lines discuss the man’s envy of other men who have better luck. “Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope” (line 7). The poem turns at line 9 when he realizes his despair and become introspective. “Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising” (line 9). In the penultimate stanza (lines 9-12) his thoughts become uplifting because he has thought of another person and finds his situation more fortunate. “Like to the lark at break of day arising” (line 11). His language changes to nature. He mentions larks, the earth, and heaven. The last two lines wrap up the whole poem. He says that remembering love is what makes him happy but that his current state with kings is making him depressed.