The Minuscule Muscle

In Jorie Graham’s “Prayer”, I find the structure easily understood and simple to point out the change, where exactly the poems shift comes into play. Like we had discussed in class with “The Chambered Nautilus”, the structure is more of a description of the surroundings at first and then it takes a turn into more thought then physical. I love her description in the beginning of the poem and how it sets up the mood for the descriptive part of the piece. She give lines such as “…making of themselves a / visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by/ minutest fractions the water’s downdrafts and upswirls…” Such great imagery and physical description really places the reader into the place of the poet and what they are supposed to be observing.

Her turn isn’t an ‘all of a sudden turn’ either. It is clearly defined by the phrase “…arrowing/ motion that forces change–/ this is freedom.” Right in that spot it can be clearly seen that the dash creates the jump. It is not done suddenly in my opinion, but more or less eases the reader into the transition with the dash. I don’t know if it would have been effective without it, but I know from reading this myself that it works.

This transition from the physical to the thought and philosophical part of the poem can also be told in her words. Such concrete words like ‘minnows’ and even ‘dock’ or ‘boat’ are mostly used in the first part of the poem, before the turn. After, only words with somewhat of an abstract meaning start to come into the poem. Word like ‘ freedom’, ‘pure’, and ‘infinity’ are casually used and can be seen as her thought process on the very physical terms used just a couple of lines before. She may use lines like “Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through/ in the wind…”, but they are more contemplative meanings that can be seen as a reference to time through the imagery of the sand. So in that sense the imagery in the beginning is more geared toward creating an image and, after the turn, the imagery is more seen as references to abstract ideas.

In working with the emblem poems, I believe that this turn is more effective then the turn that we had seen in “The Chambered Nautilus”. I could barely pick out the turn in that, probably because it was one of the older ones, but more or less because I had to find it amoungst the words of the poem and it barely helped whether or not I payed attention to the punctuation or even the form of the poem itself. I like that Graham points it out as if to say “This is what I see!” and that she doesn’t leave the reader wondering where the turn was or what even took place in the poem itself. I think this is a very effective way of trying the emblem poetry on my own as well. Her poem makes an easy path to start off trying this type of structure. I think it would be easier as well to jump from physical to mental with a dash or two then having to try to work it in any other way.

2 Responses to “The Minuscule Muscle”

  1. Melissa Goodrich Says:

    It’s certainly helpful to have the punctuation point out the “jump;” in Dickinson’s poem, the use of the dash may not have been the best indicator. 😉

  2. karlakelsey Says:

    I really like your reading of the DASH, M-K. Vis-a-vis Dickinson and the dash, perhaps the dash both turns us and connects us, quite a lever.

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