Cream of the Confusing Variety?

The Emperor of Ice-Cream immediately caught my attention with its title. It made me think of two things: ice cream (which I have always loved) and the old disney movie The Emperor’s New Groove with the llama. So with the image of delicious dairy treats, cartoon llamas, and evil queens trying to steal a throne I started reading this poem. Krishma and I texted about how this title sounds like it’ll be a very fun childish poem. We were surprised to find that the poem was confusing and nothing like what the title had us imagining. I wonder if the title was just there to catch our attention because it definitely did that job very well. Would I have been as eager had the title given me a heads up about the confusion? It really should be the Emperor of Confusion to show how it’s quite confusing. Emperor also is a strong word that implies dominance and assertive leadership while ice cream reminds me of lazy summer days and fun leisure time to lounge and frolic. The contrast in the word choice and how it makes you feel or think just in the title alone is one that I would love to explore. Maybe the poem is meant to leave one feeling confused and wondering about the intentions behind these chosen words. This reminded me of the saying about how it feels to be expecting water out of a water fountain and getting milk instead.




In Wallace Stevens “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” I originally felt like I was reading a haiku. The style and numbering were similar to the haiku we read earlier in the semester by Richard Wright. The stanzas are short and concise. When reading Richard Wright’s haiku, I felt like I was watching a short film of scenes from different places all over the world. The stanzas did not really flow with each other. However, with Stevens’ poem I tried to picture each stanza and they flow like a picture frame.


Also, in one stanza, I have one interpretation of the blackbird and then in another stanza, I will have a different interpretation of the blackbird. For example, in stanza four, the blackbird is representing a man and a woman as one, but then in any other stanza, this idea does not resonate. In the other stanzas, the blackbird does not seem to be representing anything. The poem just seems to be about a blackbird. The blackbird’s motions are described, so there is more basic imagery rather than poetic symbolization (at least from what I could decipher). I felt that this poem was very straightforward. I just pictured what the blackbird was doing in every descriptive stanza. I didn’t think too much of it meaning-wise. However, this also seems to happen when I just do not understand the poem. I could just be incapable of deciphering what Stevens is actually trying to symbolize with the blackbird (very likely).

Diction and Word Repetition in “The Emperor of Ice-Cream”

I chose to write about “The Emperor of Ice-Cream” mostly because the title reminded me that I just bought some from the SAAC.  As I was eating ice cream and reading the poem, I was kind of disappointed that the whole poem was not really about ice cream 🙁

Aside from that, I had a difficult time with the diction, and I was confused by why words with sexual connotations were chosen, such as “concupiscent, wenches,” and “horny”.  I had to look up what “concupiscent” meant and learned that it meant “lustful,” but I did not know why the word “lustful” was paired with “curds.”  How can curds be lustful?

I was also confused about why there were two “be”s in line 7: “Let be be finale of seem.”  I thought it could potentially be a typo, but I looked up a copy of the poem online, and it is not a typo.  I had no idea what this meant, but I slept (napped) on it and then returned to the poem.  I thought that maybe the first “be” could be a noun and the second “be” could be a verb.  Grammatically, that made sense to me, but I still am not sure what it means.

I think the best way to approach this poem would be to read it over and over again while looking up words that are difficult.  Maybe even take a break from the poem and return to it to try to get more insight.  I also think background research on the author might be helpful as well because I learned that the poem could be set in the Key West in Florida because Wallace Stevens spent a lot of time there.  There are a lot of cigar factories in the Key West, and Stevens mentions cigars in the poem.

Why Ice Cream?

Both Emily Dickenson and Wallace Stevens seem to generously explore the use of metaphors in their poems. Like most readings, some metaphors were easier to decode than others.

For example, it can be implied in “The Emperor of Ice-Cream” that Stevens uses ice cream as a metaphor for something, but it confuses me as to why he uses such an interesting title for the metaphor and what the metaphor is referring to. Calling someone the “emperor” of something as trivial as ice cream sounds humorous and frivolous, but it seems that the poem has a much deeper meaning than what it appears. In the first stanza Stevens mentions many superficial aspects of life like “big cigars,” “dress,” “flowers in last month’s newspapers,” and ends with the “emperor of ice-cream.” However, the images in the second stanza were more detailed and made them appear more delicate like the “three glass knobs” and “embroidered fantails.” I tried to final a common theme among these distinctly different images, but the more I thought about them, the more confused I became. Why did Stevens pick these specific images? I then thought about the characteristics of ice cream – sweet, decadent and ephemeral once left out for too long. Maybe Stevens is comparing the lavish things in life like cigars, flowers and fancy details to ice cream because they share many of the same qualities? After reading the poem several times, this seems to make sense.

As to why Stevens uses the term the “emperor,” my theory is that it refers to someone who ceases every opportunity to take advantage of the things being considered “ice cream,” since emperor implies someone who is supreme at something. My overall impression of the poem changed slightly after making this connection, but I still wonder why Stevens chose this unexpected metaphor for such a serious topic.

Apparently I’m Dead

Wallace Stevens’ “The Snow Man” is both beautiful and tragic at the same time. I realize that I must be biased here because personally, I love the winter and everything that comes with it, but in “The Snow Man” it seems that Stevens and I don’t share that sentiment.

The imagery in “The Snow Man” is stunning. Stevens writes about /pine-trees crusted with snow/ and /the spruces rough in the distant glitter/Of the January sun/. For me, these images evoke a sense of beauty and calm and peace. However, despite the fact that Stevens uses very positive language describing the scene, he doesn’t actually seem to enjoy these things. The way he talks about all of the things regarding winter is upsetting. Stevens says that to be able to enjoy the winter, one must have a mind of winter and have been cold for a long time. What he’s basically saying is that the person who enjoys winter is cold and bare and nothing – that you can’t appreciate the beauty of the season unless you yourself have turned cold. I can see what he’s implying, but I’m also personally offended because, like I said, I love the winter and I wouldn’t exactly call myself a cold and bitter person, but I guess that my feelings here aren’t really relevant.

Another thing that struck me with this poem is that oftentimes poets equate seasons with other things – spring with new life, and winter with death. That got me wondering – does that mean that when Stevens says the person who enjoys the stillness of winter is not just cold, but actually dead? Spooky.

Where’s the ice cream?

I chose to do my blog on The Emperor of Ice-Cream before even reading any of the poems simply because of its title. Ice cream is one of my most favorite things to eat, and reading the title the emperor of ice cream immediately put images of an episode of a Saturday morning cartoon I used to watch when I was younger. I do not remember the name of the cartoon, but I do remember that the main character in one of its episodes ended up at a different land made out of ice cream. Therefore, the title gave me a mental image of an emperor sitting in his castle made completely out of ice cream eating from a giant bowl filled with different ice creams. I was disappointed to find that the poem did not provide any support for the mental imagery I had made up. Instead, I actually was not even sure what the mental imagery I was suppose to have in my head was suppose to be. I read it a few times, but was just as confused when I read it the last time as I had been the first time. What the main focus and what was happening completely eluded me. I could not understand any symbolism, or even figure out the slightest form of a topic. There were too many things being discussed in a very short poem that made it extremely difficult to understand.

I believe one of the best ways to read this poem would be to do research on the poet. Maybe this will give some sort of information as to why the poet chose this particular title as well as what everything in the poem may mean. Reading other poems by the poet could also help in figuring out what is going on. Overall, I am very confused and look forward to discussing the poem in class so I can get some insight on why ice cream is even included.

Dickinson 340: Following the Train of Thought

Dickinson seems to particularly like expanding on either a symbol or a metaphor that each poem revolves around. Most of these short poems have relatively straightforward ideas; for example, in 314, Dickinson uses the bird as a physical manifestation of “hope”.

In 340, Dickinson focuses on “a Funeral” as a metaphor, but the meaning is not quite clear. The first question I asked myself was, why was there a funeral inside the speaker’s Brain? There were a couple distinct possibilities. The Funeral could be a reality and the speaker really is mourning the loss of some other person, or, the Funeral could be for the speaker herself, which would suggest a more psychological struggle.

Perhaps understanding what the speaker is describing at the funeral, through a close reading, can provide some hints to the theme. Dickinson describes “Mourners” (2) moving back and forth. Such a description hints at insanity – a ceaseless repetition of grief. But we are left with a hopeful outlook it seems at the end of the stanza: “Sense was breaking through” (4). The “Sense” is capitalized, suggesting that “Sense” is a force out of the speaker’s control.

There is a striking difference between the physical and the psychological in this poem. At some points, the speaker refers to her “Brain” but at other times, her “mind”. The difference between the Brain and the Mind is that one is the physical structure whereas the other is the functionality of the object. I find that the rest of the poem came much more easily after I applied a close reading of the poem. Dickinson likes to make connections between different subject; I attempted to follow that train of thought and interpret what I could.

The main difficulty, then, lies in understanding the connection between the metaphor and the subject and then what she does with the metaphor, a problem that could be solved with close reading.

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.

Why the hyphen?

Refreshing to read, the Dickinson poems proved to puzzle me not because of its language but because of technical details. Starting with the titles, or the lack thereof, I wanted to know what the numbers meant as well as why she never named her poems. I feel like titles always give you a hint to the overarching themes, images, and/or symbols of the poem. Structurally, I noticed that Dickinson hyphenates her lines in many of her poems such as in 314, 320, 340, and 409. I am not positive, but I believe that she uses hyphens to demonstrate the strict way that the poem must be read. With the aid of the hyphen, she indicates where exactly to pause and emphasizes certain points. A simple hyphen makes reading the poem much more complex, in its reading. I found myself trying to see how images fit together from hyphen to hyphen and not stanza to stanza like I usually do.

Stevens, on the other hand, such as with “The Snow Man” uses a combination of semi-colons periods, and enjambments throughout the works we read. His poem “The Snowman” seemed less “broken.” The lack of any hyphens such as in Dickinson’s poems seemed to make his image of winter flow more fluidly from stanza to stanza. I saw Stevens how he interweaves the image of winter and the Snow man to speak of greater themes of existence, particularly in the last stanza. He invokes the image of “nothing” which bares great contrast to the images described in previous stanzas of winter. Without hyphens and use of enjambments, as readers it seem that we understand that the ideas in each stanza are linked together more clearly.


manipulation of phenomena(?)

It felt strange to be reading poems this week that had little to no footnotes. I didn’t miss them, but it would have been helpful for interpretation purposes, but then again it’s more rewarding to connect the dots on your own, a point I have yet to arrive at when reading Dickinson and Stevens this week. I felt a sense of distance reading the poems, like I couldn’t connect with them because it was unclear what I would be connecting to. Most of the poems seemed to be about death or signs of death. I found Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird difficult to read – the language felt jagged, I’m not quite sure how to describe it. I didn’t expect the words that followed to be the ones written. It didn’t read naturally to me, it was contrived in its simplicity and sparsity. In section VIII: “But I know, too,/That the blackbird is involved/In what I know.” Though Dickinson’s poems were easier to read they too seemed cold, and left me with a hollow feeling. Is this the effect of obliquity? Opacity is what more readily comes to mind, being unable to see through. There must be a through, though. Otherwise we wouldn’t be spending the time reading and dissecting these works. It always amazes me, and frustrates me, how poets can be so beautifully obscure in conveying aspects of universality – in Blackbird, to look, to watch, to know, and with Dickinson’s lyrics, pain, tenderness and the tension between the two, perhaps. Is what is achieved then a manipulation of phenomena?

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