Monday, March 28, 2005

A Step Away from Modernism

We have been talking in tutorial lately that the response to modernist poetry has been a reverting back to the type of poetry that involves more of a distinct rhyming scheme, balanced meter and consistency within its format. Also, more conventional and positive subjects are being desired as opposed to the negativity found within such poems like Elliot's "The Wasteland." One such 'post-modern' poem, if I may call it that, which I have found to fit this 'change of heart' is Wendy Cope's "Flowers."


Some men never think of it.
You did. You'd come along
And say you'd nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.

The shop was closed. Or you had doubts--
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want you flowers.

It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

What I found interesting about this poem, in comparison to modern poetry, is that there is a distinct positivity about it. Unlike, for example, Wilfred Owen's poetry that tends to lack idealization or romanticization of things, this poem seems to idealize the subject (the man) because he is always thinking about buying his love interest flowers. Although he never does, the narrator idealizes the fact that it is the thought that counts, for the flowers that he had always thought about buying would theoretically last forever, unlike real flowers.

While there is not consistency with the meter of this poem, there is a rhyming scheme which should be noted. Nowadays, I think that younger people in particular associate poetry with rhyming. In this poem, the author has a distinct rhyming scheme. in each of the three quatrains of this poem, lines 1 and 4 rhyme (along/wrong; ours/flowers; smile/while), giving the poem a rhythm that the reader can easily identify. There is also a consistency within the format of this poem. This is seen through the existence of the three quatrains, unlike in Wallace Stevens' poem "The Idea of Order at Key West," where a total of six sections make up the poem and are each of a different number of lines. With "Flowers," however, there is almost a symetry within the structure. This can further be seen when looking at the number of syllables in lines 1 and 4 of each quatrain. In each of these lines, there are six syllables, which helps to emphasize the rhyming scheme: 'You did. You'd come along/But something had gone wrong; The sort that minds like ours/I might not want your flowers; Now I can only smile/Have lasted all this while'.

This poem stands out in my mind as very different from Modernist poetry, for example, and epitmoizes what poetry is to me. And besides, I think this poem is quite clever!!!

Monday, March 14, 2005

"So Much Depends Upon" the Little Things

The Red Wheelbarrow
by William Carlos Williamson

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

While this poem by William Carlos Williams may well seem 'simple' in its very nature, in reality, there is much complexity within its lines. What I feel is important to first emphasize, is the emphatic nature of the first two lines: "So much depends / upon". While this line is literally talking about how much depends upon the wheelbarrow, in essense it is intended to draw attention to the fact that the simple things in life can be so overlooked regardless of the significant role that they can play in our lives. As much as we consider the wheelbarrow to be just a WHEELBARROW, it has so much use, and without it, people might find it difficult to adjust to its absense after becoming so dependent on its uses.

Furthermore, I feel that this poem is just as much about the red wheelbarrow as it is about the white chickens--the chickens, like the wheelbarrow, are often taken for granted for the role that they play in our lives. For many of us, the chicken represents food; food which is often assumed will always be at our disposal. In mentioning the chickens with the wheelbarrow, it serves to emphasize the fact that each is important in its own right.

Lastly, I wanted to reiterate the attempt of the poem to emphasize the "simple" (for lack of a better term, because I don't feel that these things are at all simple in their very nature, but are labelled as such because individuals tend to deem them as being insignificant) by looking at the fact that this one-sentence poem does not start with a capitalized word like a formal, gramatically correct sentence should. What this lack of capitalization serves to do is to emphasize the neglect that the poem is trying to articulate--in other words, it is implying that these objects are so 'ordinary' or 'simple' that their being a subject of a poem does not warrent the construction of a propper sentence. There is a real hap-hazardness trying to be expressed as a way of drawing attention to the absurdity of peoples' calous approach to the 'simple' things in life.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Song of Songs

I just thought I'd share with you one of THE MOST beautiful love poems of all time. It comes from the book "Song of Songs (Solomon)" in the bible. These poems were written to express the great joys that God has given us through romantic love. I have decided to look at chapter 3:1-5 and analyze the beauty behind the words:

1 All night long on my bed
I looked for the one my heart loves;
I looked for him but did not find him.
2 I will get up now and go about the city,
through its streets and squares;
I will search for the one my heart loves.
So I looked for him but did not find him.
3 The watchmen found me
as they made their rounds in the city.
"Have you seen the one my heart loves?"
4 Scarcely had I passed them
when I found the one my heart loves.
I held him and would not let him go
till I had brought him to my mother's house,
to the room of the one who conceived me.
5 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires.

This is a beautiful poem about true and lasting love between God's intended partners: man and woman. The words fo this poem are spoken by the 'Beloved' to her 'lover' and exude much passion and longing. The poem opens by talking about "All night long," which is undoubtedly symbolic of the freedom that night allows from the confines and distractions of the day. At night, one can be completely focussed on their lover without being distracted by other things. This poem sets up a scenario where the beloved is searching desparately for her lover. It gives the impression that there is a deep longing to be reunited with him in order to quench her burning desires to see him again. In verses 2 & 3, we see that the beloved searches high and low for her lover, asking people she meets if they know of his whereabouts. One can almost feel her desparation when she asks the watchmen: "Have you seen the one my heart loves?" What ensues in this poem is the announcement of the beloved that she has finally found her lover. As such, she embraces him (and from the tone of the poem, we can no doubt assume that this was a rather passionate reunion - "I held him and would not let him go"). What this poem tries to do is to let God communicate to us that love is a beautiful thing. It is not something to scorn or shy away from - it is God's gift to the married couple. But what is particularly important about this poem is the warning that it poses at the end: "Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you/by the gazelles and the does of the field:/Do not arouse or awaken love/until it so desires." Here we see the warning of one woman to many other women: while love is a wonderful thing, do not be quick to become entangled in it. Wait to arouse love until it is appropriate.

What is futher interesting about this poem is the way that it is structured. The entirety of the poem is written in free verse, which in my mind, serves to emphasize the freeing nature of romantic love. While there are rules set forth by God pertaining to love, this poem serves to emphasize that in the godly relationship, love is indeed freeing. Furthermore, now this might be a stretch, but to me, this poem slightly resembles a sonnet because of the last stanza of the poem which serves as a warning. In the sonnet, the last couplet often poses a reality to its reader, and I think that that is what this portion of the poem from Song of Songs is doing. It is warning women not to be quick to engage in love, but to wait for it.

Now this is the kind of love that we should all aspire too!!!!!