Monday, January 26, 2009


by Galway Kinnell

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.

I really like poem because of its profound philosophy on life expressed in 14 words. Not to mention the use of the word “is” three times in a row and still having the poem make sense. I remember reading this poem over several times, figuring out the correct places to place stress. Kinnell says that “whatever happens” will happen, with or without a reason or for a purpose or not. The next line makes sense when read the right way, “what is”, or in other words the present, “is”. And that is what he wants. He is content and accepts this fact. Furthermore, he expresses that he wants “only that” although it is something that he cannot control.

The only contrast within the flow of the poem seems to be the word “but”. It seems as if Kinnell wants to say more, or maybe even contradict himself. The poem seems incomplete in a way, but I think “but” reinforces the meaning of the poem. Simply, just let everything happen the way it should.

the red wheelbarrow

The Red Wheelbarrow
by William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

William Carlos Williams is definitely one of my favorite poets, considering this is the third poem of his that I’ve chosen. Anyways, I really enjoy the simplicity and imagery of his poems. His writing is almost photographic, describing every little detail and how they all combine together, forming a clear picture. His choice of words is so succinct and elementary that almost anyone can appreciate his poetry. I can see that rain washed wheelbarrow as clearly as if it was sitting in front of me, and I can hear the chickens clucking as they peck at the soil in search of food. I am there, savoring that moment along with Williams, and I am grateful that he preserved it for us with these 16 powerful words.

In all of Williams’ poems, a deeper meaning can be debated. But I can appreciate the surface, or the unexpected beauty found in the simplest and most inconsequential things. Sometimes something that is absolutely ordinary can be stunningly beautiful. I think Williams is trying to say that we must cherish these rare moments, if only for a fleeting moment.

evening news

Evening News
by David Ferry (p1048)

We have been there
..............................and seen nothing
Nothing has been there
..............................for us to see
In what a beautiful silence
..............................the death is inflicted
In a dazzling distance the fresh dews
And morning lights radiantly
In the glistening
..............................the village is wasted.
It is by such sights
..............................the eye is instructed

*... represent spaces

Ferry’s poem splits the voice and sight in this poem through the use of two columns. His voice appears to be on the right and leads the reader through what he views: a “wasted” village. The right column confirms what his voice has already explained and paints a picture for the reader’s eyes. The shape of the poem also looks like a step ladder with events deteriorating as it reaches the bottom. The poem starts innocently with “We have been there/ and seen nothing” and later on says “the village is wasted”.

Also, it is interesting that there are only two punctuation marks throughout the entire poem. He spends a large majority of the poem on the first sentence: the occurrence. Then finally the last two lines complete the second sentence: the lesson. I think Ferry is trying to say that we become swayed by what is fed to us through the media. We listen and digest with blind faith, often missing the small but important details.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

ars poetica

Ars Poetica
by Archibald MacLeish (p1041)
A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown--

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,
Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind--

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.

A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea--

A poem should not mean
But be
Translated to “The Art of Poetry”, Ars Poetica is a poem that expresses its meaning implicitly. In the initial lines of the poem, MacLeish bluntly states that a poem is like a “globed fruit” and “dumb”. He voices to the reader how poems should be taken: in a simplistic manner. Also, he says “a poem should be wordless” which further reinforces the idea of simplicity, as if nothing is there.

In the next stanzas, MacLeish compares poems to the moon, being “motionless in time”. The moon appears every night, something we pay little attention to. Same concept applies to poems, they simply exist to be read. Also, he emphasizes that a poem may be difficult to understand, “behind winter leaves”, but it doesn’t matter. He repeats the lines “motionless in time” to show that being confused by a poem is natural and normal.

Finally, the last stanzas reflect the theme of the poem once more. The ideas of simplicity and stillness allow a poem to “not mean but be”. Instead of having profound meaning, every poem simply exists to be read. A poem is a poem.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

joy sonnet in a random universe

Joy Sonnet in a Random Universe
by Helen Chasin (p1035)

Sometimes I'm happy: la la la la la la la
la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
la la la la. Tum tum ti tum. La la la la la
la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la.
Hey nonny nonny. La la la la la la la la
la la la la la la la la la la la. Vo do di o do.
Poo poo pi doo. la la la la la la la la la la
la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
la la. Whack a do. La la la la la la la la. Sh-
boom, sh-boom. La la la la la la la la la la
la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
la la. Dum di dum. La la la la la la la la.
la la la la la la la la. Tra la la. Tra la la
la la la la la la la la la la. Yeah yeah yeah.

This poem immediately caught my attention and I couldn’t help but write about it. Chasin definitely conveys to the reader her joy, excitement, and spontaneity through her poem. Her lines are just a random assortment of sounds that somehow fill 14 lines. However, I would not consider her poem to be a sonnet. Though it is by far the one of the most abstract sonnets or even poems, the only sonnet guideline it follows are the 14 lines. There is no clear rhyme scheme since most of the lines end with “la” and also no apparent flow or rhythm. The only other aspect this poem qualifies as a sonnet is the title, “Joy Sonnet in a Random Universe”. Though not a “sonnet”, this poem is nonetheless expresses “joy” and is in its own “random universe”.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

first dance. then fiddle.

First Fight. Then Fiddle.
by Gwendolyn Brooks (p1026)

First fight. Then fiddle. Ply the slipping string
With feathery sorcery; muzzle the note
With hurting love; the music that they wrote
Bewitch, bewilder. Qualify to sing
Threadwise. Devise no salt, no hempen thing
For the dear instrument to bear. Devote
The bow to silks and honey. Be remote
A while from malice and from murdering.
But first to arms, to armor. Carry hate
In front of you and harmony behind.
Be deaf to music and to beauty blind.
Win war. Rise bloody, maybe not too late
For having first to civilize a space
Wherein to play your violin with grace.

Brooks mixes both the Shakespearean sonnet and the Italian sonnet. After doing some research online, I learned that a Shakespearean sonnet's rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef gg. On the other hand an Italian sonnet has an octet first, with the rhyme scheme abbaabba and then a sextet that can be any rhyme scheme without ending as a couplet. However, Brook does not follow either tradition in her sonnet, but rather invents her own style.

This sonnet discusses the aspects of war and peace. The speaker expresses an indifference to society’s conflicts but emphasizes the need to “be remote” or in other words, united. She comments on society’s cyclical nature of instigating war, “but first to arms”, and then establishing peace, “civilize a space…with grace”. Finally, Brook creates a paradox where a society seeks greatness but ends up doing the opposite.