Emblematic “Prayer”

The way in which Jorie Graham’s “Prayer” devolves, in a sense, from heavily imaged sentences to a very minimalist structure seems to drive the poem in the direction of perception to revelation is dependent on content. The poem is introduced in the way of looking through a zoomed out lens, and in the second sentence the poem is immediately zoomed in by mention of specific images like “minuscule muscle.” Graham seems to introduce the poem by adjusting the lens within the first few sentences, then moving on to creating a series of chain reactions devised by the words that play on each other.

The emblematic structure resembles a two act play. The latter part of the poem, although it is the revelation defying the inital perception through the writer’s words, simplifies the imagery for the reader. In Graham’s “Prayer” the language becomes more colloquial as opposed to the flowery words of its predecessor. The importance of this shift brings the tool of change, and the word that Graham relies on to make that shift. After reading this, along with Frost’s “Design, I thought both poems showed great importance in the area of bending the poem itself based on content. Unlike the forms that adhere to certain structure based off word count, syllabics, etc it shifts by bridging the two prose blocks into a great narrative. Personally, I’d love to experiment with the emblem structure because he poses a great prompt for iniating a poem. For me, it’s relevance lies in the way it separates meditation from perception. Both of these ideas seem to tread on each other’s personal space in poetry, and while there is beauty in layering perception and revelation and entwining the two within a sentence or the same stanza, the emblem poem clarifies much of the revelation that is embedded within the detail.

5 Responses to “Emblematic “Prayer””

  1. Melissa Goodrich Says:

    What an interesting way of looking at it – as a two act play. In “Prayer” there is especially that change in diction almost out of necessity – it’s as if in the middle of her viewing Graham has a catharsis so moving, that she needs to shout out so badly, that her poetic language is abandoned for the sake of basic communication: “Nobody gets what they want,” “What you get is to be changed.”

  2. I think you are very correct in saying that Graham is adjusting her lens in “Prayer”– it reminds me of how with a camera (or even your eyes) you can focus on an object, so that it is clear and certain, or you can adjust the lens so that the object is blurry but the background is clear and certain. This adjustment of lens from object to context is very much what happens at Graham’s turn.

  3. “Personally, I’d love to experiment with the emblem structure”

    You know, I bet you have achieved the emblem structure in a poem without even realizing it! As I was reading the chapter in Structure & Surprise, I realized that this may even be my structure-of-choice–and I had no idea I was employing it.

  4. cmdrquack Says:

    That’s a good analysis. I knew there were more changes than just the grammatical going on to help the shift, but I was having trouble seeing clearly what they all were. This did a good job of helping to bring more aspects to light.

  5. karlakelsey Says:

    I also like the notion of “devolving”

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