Imagery in The Fish

I enjoyed reading The Fish for this week. The poem was easy enough to read at the basic level, so getting through does not feel like a tall task, but has a lot meaning underlying the simple description of a fish for further reflection. I feel that this type of poetry is my favorite, as I can connect best with it.

Through my first read, I was impressed by the way the description really brought the fish to life in a way that built sympathy towards the fish. While there are plenty of ways to make a reader sympathetic towards an animal that has just been caught, I thought Elizabeth Bishop really angled towards that impression in a ton of different ways, such as her use of specific adjectives, and even just picking parts of the fishes body to describe. For example, talking about the lower lip of the fish made me think of the trembling lower lip of a “sullen” individual.

Additionally, I found the description of the fish’s lip as being “weaponlike” was very interesting. She goes on to say that it hung five old pieces of fish line with their hooks still growing in its mouth. In addition to being unbearably painful for the fish, this makes the fish seem like a real survivor, which adds to that sympathetic feel. I wonder if that survivor concept is a place where she is trying to give even more significance to the fish, but can’t quite figure out what she would mean by it. The next part where she describes the lines hanging from its mouth as “medals with their ribbons frayed and wavering” makes the fish seem like an old war survivor.

All of this culminates in the great ending line, “And I let the fish go”, which although seemingly corny and not very surprising, is still a great way to end the poem.

Trouble understanding the connection of the argument

While I thought that the subject matter of Barbara Johnson’s critical essay on Apostrophe, Animation, and Abortion was interesting, I had a lot of trouble understanding the flow of her argument. This became especially tricky for me when she began referencing Baudelaire and quoting a lot of examples of apostrophes. My understanding of the argument being made is that the interpretation of rhetoric plays a much larger role, not only in poetry, but in all types of written work than one initially would think. For example, in military documents, it happens to be written in a way to justify more precise violence. In fact, it seems to be purposefully written in such a matter. This is interesting, because you can really see the way in which political and legal documents would be written with purposefully vague language to justify certain loopholes due to distinctions in rhetorical interpretation. Interpretation plays a large role in our culture in general and is used in many different matters.

My confusion becomes pronounced because I don’t quite understand how all of the specific apostrophes that she cites back up this argument. Additionally, she seems to jump from one cite to the next almost by the sentence without really explaining what the point of her quote was. At one point, she writes two questions to defend her point, “Is Agatha really a stone? Does the poem express the Orphic hope of getting a stone to talk?” I’m still trying to puzzle over what those have to do with the original argument from the military document example and how it all ties together.

My confusion aside, I like the criticism’s focus on the duality of interpretation being an important thing to consider as it aligns with my own opinion.

Interesting imagery in “The Second Coming”

“The Second Coming” feels to me like a poem that goes from 0 to 100 within the first two sentences. The poem begins with the image of falcon spiraling out of control. For some reason this image reminded me of the bald eagles mating ritual, where two eagles lock talons and spiral uncontrollably out of the sky until the last moment. This image is perhaps because I recently listened to an interesting lecture on birding, a hobby for which I have no personal interest, but that is immensely enjoyable to hear others discuss. Then it immediately broadens to anarchy being loosed on the world. Often times in this poem, I have difficulty visualizing why things occur. The only definitive picture I can keep in my mind is that of the falcon, because many of the other images are entirely too abstract for me. For example, the shape with “lion body and the head of a man” appears out of seemingly nowhere.

 

While the images themselves are hard to conceptualize, the emotions elicited are very easy to connect to. The language that W.B. Yeats uses paints a dark and almost cynical view of a world that is heading to destruction, and the enhancement of language in a chaotic direction makes me think of the increasing entropy of the universe. I may be missing the point, but I don’t quite understand the Bethlehem reference at the end. I also don’t know why the Second Coming would be a destructive.

 

I often enjoy dark and descriptive poetry and short stories, so this poem was fun to read.

Interesting Punctuation in Dickinson

Reading Dickinson was an extremely interesting and enjoyable experience, especially in contrast with the long, extremely complex, poems that we have been reading these past few weeks. I noticed a few interesting things with Emily Dickinson’s writing style that confused me.

The first thing that I noticed, was her use of “-“s in almost arbitrary locations. At first, I thought it was meant as a way to end the line, because in 314, there are dashes at the end of almost every line, except for the 2nd to last line in both the 2nd and 3rd stanzas. However, this does not completely make sense, as in addition to those two exceptions, there are many dashes in other locations throughout the poem. In 320, there are dashes surrounding the word “Any” in line 9. My thoughts on this are that the dashes are either meant to put emphasis on certain transitions, or to create extra pauses throughout the piece. I attempted to read with pauses in those locations, but it did not seem to flow as well so I am not certain if that is truly the case.

The second interesting part of her poems is the randomly capitalized words throughout. Often it is the nouns that are capitalized, which could be an attempt to capitalize words that are important. The capitalization, however, is used so often that it almost ceases to draw my attention as I read through her work. I could not determine any other reason for this capitalization, so my assumption is that the intended effect is still emphasis.

I enjoyed how she uses these various methods for providing “texture” to her poems, because it makes it very fun to read.

Allusion and new types of footnotes

The poems this week came along with a similar overwhelming amount of footnotes as last weeks. The biggest difference for me, was that the overwhelming amount of footnotes this week was extremely plainly written and made things that could have been complex, quite a bit simpler.

This is especially true in the case of finding allusion. Much of Cranes work makes references that I would not have if I were reading by myself. For example, the footnote number 4 explained that the imagery may have been taken to be a ladder between earth and heaven from Genesis 28:11-12. I merely noted the interesting use of older language, but never made that next connection when I read on my own.

Additionally, the footnotes helped clarify a lot of the language like “rip-tooth” and “Down Wall”, which could have otherwise thrown me off quite a bit.

I think that I am slowly developing better techniques by which to read poems with extensive footnotes, but sometimes still feel a little overwhelmed when reading a poem with more than half a page of footnotes for 3-4 small stanzas of poetry. It almost feels as though the footnotes are a literary review of the poem rather than helpful side comments to help you understand what is going on as you read. It may have been easier if some of this analysis was presented in a review written on the side, and then only some of the more necessary word explanations/definitions were left in as actual footnotes.

The poem “To Brooklyn Bridge” was not very long, but I believe the footnotes made it feel much longer than it actually was. If you take the poem and read it through at once, it feels quite manageable.

How to read the footnotes?

The number of footnotes in the wasteland was quite a shock. When I opened up to page 866 in our book, I was thrown because it seemed as though half the page was just footnotes, an amount that seemed to increase as the poem went on. I attempted to follow along with the poem and look at the footnotes every time I got to the place in the poem where it was referenced. This turned out to be an awful idea, as it led to me forgetting what I was reading about in the poem and just concentrating on the sometimes paragraph length footnote.

As I made my way through the poem, extremely confused, I decided that this approach was a rather silly one, and transitioned to reading all the footnotes at once in the beginning and then reading the page all the way through. Unfortunately, as the footnote does not include the word it is referencing, it is hard to mentally keep track of what you should tie the footnote too, and I ended up needing to reread the footnotes as I got to the place in the text. Additionally, because there were so many allusions, I had a tough time remembering the context with which I should be reading the words.

In the end, I compromised and read the poem twice. The first time through, I decided to simply read the poem and enjoy the language. I thought it was a beautifully written poem, although was a little thrown by the lack of rhyme or any discernable unifying measure of the piece. This was only a minor issue however. The second time I read through the poem, I focused on the footnotes, reading through them at the end of each page and trying to discern what it was exactly that I had just read. This method was time consuming, but well worth it in the end.

 

In Memoriam A.H.H. – Why is it so touching

“In Memoriam A.H.H.” was an incredibly touching poem. It had a very personal feel that made the authors emotions come through very clearly. Why I felt that this was an interesting poem this week was that I wanted to determine what exactly about this poem made it seem so touching.

The poem followed the author through the death of his close friend and his ensuing grief, until he eventually found peace. I believe that this progression of events as the poem went on made it seem more real to me than “Lycidas”, which was just more of the same Greek allusions and romanticizing of a death that I have seen so much of with other poets. The language shift was particularly interesting, especially because some of the lines really caught my eye. First in section 2, there is a stanza:

The seasons bring the flowers again,

            And bring the firstling to the flock

            And in the dusk of thee, the clock

            Beats out the little lives of men.”

This stanza is both depressing and incredibly interesting. I think the rhyme scheme adds a lot to the morbid and almost cynical feel of the poem here, which is awesome, because that same rhyme scheme adds to the more uplifting feeling towards the end. I liked how consistent it was. Then towards the end, the last stanza goes:

“Far off thou art, but never nigh;

 I have thee still and I rejoice;

             I prosper, circled with thy voice;

             I shall not lose thee though I die.”

This is probably him becoming at peace with his friend’s death, but that rhyme scheme works to keep the poem hopeful and uplifting here as opposed to morbid and cynical. Word choice was clearly the determining factor, but it is interesting how different the stanzas are because of it.

Overall this poem seemed like it brought grief to a level that I could empathize with, which is something that I appreciated and what made this poem so much easier to connect with.

Stanza Length/Stanza 3 and Enjambment in “Lines…”

Lines puzzled me a bit as a poem initially. I feel like the poem almost repeated itself in its discussion of the landscape. While I understand that Wordsworth is describing the landscape in the most detailed way he can to help invoke the same emotion in the reader that he himself experienced, it felt that he might have overdone it in this poem.

The length of the third stanza was also quite interesting. I am unsure as to why he decided to make it so much shorter than the other four, but it stood out since it was so different. The subject material of that third stanza also seemed to be different from the rest of the poem. While he was praising the landscape in all the others, it is a little more difficult to understand the connection between his words here and the image that is being described through the rest of the poem. The line:

…when the fretful stir,

Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,

Is especially confusing to me. What exactly is he saying is “unprofitable” and how does this fit into the rest of the poem?

Regardless, I did enjoy how this poem was easier to comprehend and therefore a much smoother read for me than last week’s poems. After puzzling over the third stanza for a bit, I noticed something else interesting in this poem. There was an extensive use of enjambment throughout. I began to see portions of the poem where every line would use enjambment, and then others where there would be a large section without it, often in different stanzas. I tried to piece together the reason for this difference, and assume he is using the dialectic method to try and help the flow of the poem. This is especially useful, because it is quite a long and dense poem, so this helped me read along.

Antiquated language and odd rhyme scheme in Epithalamion

Epithalamion was quite a difficult to poem to understand in totality. I thoroughly enjoyed the word choice and the way the sounds blended together, especially the refrain:

“So I unto my selfe alone will sing,

            The woods shall to me answer and my echo ring”

Unfortunately due to a select few characteristics of the poem, I had more difficulty than I expected in capturing the full meaning of the poem.

 

First, and most obviously, was the difficulty aroused by the antiquated vocabulary that was used. While the words individually were not all that difficult to translate, attempting to get a feel for the flow of the poem while reading was extremely difficult because I had to stop quite often to think about a particular line for awhile to parse out it’s meaning, for example: “. This is true of many poems however even those written in modern day English. So what makes this so much tougher? I believe that the length of the poem relative to many of the other poems we have read thus far contributed to the aforementioned difficulty of understanding. 433 lines and 24 stanzas is no easy task when the English itself is not familiar. My solution to both of these issues was to read the poem multiple times, however I still failed in my mind to grasp the complete context of the poem.

 

I then tried to look at rhyme scheme to gain more understanding of the poem. I looked at the rhyme scheme of each stanza, ABABCCDCDEEFGGFFGG. I am still unsure as to how the writer picked this particular rhyme scheme, but it only served to confuse me further, because it did not help put any perspective on the poem. My theory is that the rhyme scheme started more chaotic with a line of separation between the rhyming pairs, and then towards the refrain, became more concise with the pairs in consecutive lines. This gave the stanza a feeling of conclusion, which in conjunction with the repeating last line helped provide placeholders in the poem.

Breaks in the rhyme scheme/melody of The Weary Blues

A difficult point in the reading for me was during “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes. It was not in understanding the meaning of the piece or even identifying rhyme where I had trouble, but rather in certain breaks in the “melody” of the poem. While reading the poem the initial rhyme made the piece seem quite like a song to me, with a definitive and fast moving rhythm. However, various breaks in the rhyming distracted me from the flow of the poem.

 

For example, the poem follows the rhyme scheme AABCCBBDEE for the first 10 lines. The B rhymes seem to slow down the pace of the poem, which I could understand some reason for, but I don’t understand the purpose of the lone D. My only theory for this is that this end word of “blues” is something that is then repeated two more times, when Hughes makes lines 11 and 16 “O blues!” Even so, it seems out of place in line 8, and is a full-length line rather than the short interruptions we see in 11 and 16.

 

Additionally, the two sections (lines 19-22 and 25-30) where Hughes brings out the voice of the man singing the weary blues, the rhyme scheme is changed completely. The first section goes ABCB and the second has repeating end words of “blues” and “satisfied” for the first 4 lines and then a line with no rhyme followed by “died” to rhyme with “satisfied”. I do not understand either the use of the repeating word or his reasoning for this rhyme scheme. My only theory is that the difference in rhyming, from couplets to this, is to highlight that is a new voice that is “speaking” in this part of the poem. Even so, I don’t quite see the purpose in how the rhyme scheme was set.

 

All of the above interruptions and changes in the rhyme scheme made the poem seem choppy and made it difficult to read.