JScays

Sunday, February 27, 2005

John Hollander's "Swan and Shadow"

For this week's blog, I thought I'd take a look at John Hollander's "Swan and Shadow." This is a very interesting and unique poem--unlike any other I've read before. The first unique quality to note about this poem is the way that it is structured, in the physical sense. That is to say, the poem is in the shape of a picture:


Dusk
Above the
Water hang the
loud
flies
Here
O so
gray
then
What A pale signal will appear
When Soon before its shadow fades
Where Here in this pool of opened eye
In us No Upon us As at the very edges
of where we take shape in the dark air
this object bares its image awakening
ripples of recognition that will
brush darkness up into light
even after this bird this hour both drift by atop the perfect sad instant now
already passing out of sight
toward yet-untroubled reflection
this image bears its object darkening
into memorial shades Scattered bits of
light No of water Or something across
water Breaking up No being regathered
soon Yet by then a swan will have
gone Yes out of mind into what
vast
pale
hush
of a
place
past
sudden dark as
if a swan
sang

Another element which struck me as strange was the fact that there is absolutely no
punctuation in the entirety of the poem. All of the author's thoughts and reflections bleed into one-another, like a shadow grows out of its object. This gives the reader the notion that the poem was written in the James Joyce style of stream of consciousness. This can prove very discouraging for the reader because one has trouble differenciating between the author's thoughts.

Furthermore, upone reading the title of the poem, ("Swan and Shadow") I thought that there would have been more relective aspects to the 2 'parts' of the poem because a shadow is a mirrow image. Rather, I found several aspects that failed to support the title. One such instance occurs with the syllabic structure of the poem.. The two sections that make up Hollander's work while syllabically equal in the sense that they are both 89 syllables, does not

give the reader the sense of syllabic equality from line to line of the poem. The bottom half of
the poem, while it reflects the top physically, it does not shadow it syllabically:

1
3
4
1
1
1
2
1
1
8
8
9
13
9
11
9
7
- 20 -
8
9
10
11
10
10
8
8
1
1
1
2
1
1
4
3
1

Is is that perhaps what this poem is trying to represent is that even though a shawod is a reflection of an object, it is merely a sylloette (a dark, detail-less reflection) and can thus be an incomplete representation of the actual primary image?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Romanticism

To some of us, this past lecture has almost seemed like a refreshing break. "Now this is what poetry is supposed to be like," I found myself saying. 'I wandered lonely as a cloud,' had never been so refreshing to my ears until now. I have really enjoyed our discussion of the romantics ( I only wish we had studied the Highwayman, but alas, we can't do everything), I was enthralled by the history behind the evolutionary change in poetry. I had never really considered it until Prof. Kuin brought it up, that romanticism was not only about getting back to nature in the sense of 'the great outdoors,' but also about getting back to the innocent nature of childhood. I particularly liked Joanna Baillie's poem "A Mother to her Waking Infant," (p. 696-697). I find that this poem really tries to capture the innocence of infancy. This poem details the detachment that a child has from the world. They do not know love; they do not know sensitivity; they do not know sadness. I think that in this poem, the narrator is looking longingly on her child, noting how their innocence will eventually fade away into a life of taking care of its mother and having a life of their won. If you've ever held a newborn baby in your arms, I'm sure you know the feeling you get when you look at this little person. They have no concept of life, love, you or me. They are the most natural form of life because it is the stage in life that is untainted by worldly things, and are the epitome of what the romantics longed for.