Structural Turns in “Inlay 7 (Franz Kafka)”

Although a turn toward the opposite of what the poem was previously stating is a common form, structural turns can happen in many other ways.  One such way is by examining an idea from a different angle, indeed turning it, so that the reader’s “view” is changed.  Donna Stonecipher uses this very tool in her poem “Inlay 7 (Franz Kafka).”  The specific concept she uses is location and language, and the affect of change on both.

Stonecipher begins working with the concept of changing location in the first part of her piece.  Part 1 (I am hesitant to call them stanzas although they may be as such) describes a man who has travelled to different parts of the world expecting to see something very indicative of that location’s culture.  In Japan, he expects geishas, in Kenya, giraffes.  The part ends with the hotel pool swallowing him “like a square blue mouth swallowing a sleeping pill” (Stonecipher 33).  It is clear because of its inclusion that this man’s frustration with not finding what he expected somehow lead to his drowning.  Stonecipher uses this section to show the reader one angle on locational change and its affect on an individual.

In the Part 3, the speaker describes people studying the language of a neighboring nation more powerful than their own.  This part in and of itself (not relating to the rest of the poem) has something of an ironic turn.  It is only two sentences in length.  The first reads, “Young people from the less powerful country came over to study the language of the more powerful neighboring country” (Stonecipher 33).  This seems forthright, until the reader reaches the second sentences, which reads, “The questionnaire found that, within a small margin of error, such-and-such percentage of women perfer to be on their knees while performing such-and-such sexual acts” (Stonecipher 33).  It seems at first as if the two are unrelated, but the reader soon sees that she is comparing the young people studying the language of a country capable of overtaking with women performing fellatio in a compromised position.

The young people come up again in a later part. This is how Stonecipher employs turn.  During the first mention, they are innocent, even disenfranchised.  The second mention of them, however, is more sinister.  Part 8 reads, “The young people from the less powerful country did not stop to admire the complicated beauty of their new language’s intricate grammar. They made neat vocabulary lists in cheap notebooks, and in their own language made fun of the professor’s hair, accent, glasses, clothing, shoes, and laugh” (Stonecipher 35).  Now, instead of admiring the language of a more powerful nation, instead of, indeed kneeling to its culture, the young people undercut it.  They are dismissive, and they hold on to their original language in order to form a bond and a division: us and them.  This is a very different way of seeing the young people.

Stonecipher comments on locational change at least once more in her piece. In Part 9, she writes, “In Paris the American girl speaking French begam almost impercitably to bat her eyelashes.  In St. Paul the German boy speaking English had the urge to fill silences almost before they began.  One of the most marvelous memories of her life, she said, was of having deja vu of having had deja vu” (Stonecipher 35).  This section once again focuses on changing language, but instead of making the person experiencing the change a victim or a villian, she comments simply on the possibility of change in a person caused by location.  Speaking French in a French city makes the girl flirtatious.  Speaking English in an American city makes the boy boistrous.  How does this comment on the cultures of those individual nations, and how does language illustrate this?

The turns in “The Cosmopolitan” are constantly surprising the reader.  Whether or not it is something I am capable of employing remains to be seen.  I think it’s a very complicated direction, and also somewhat manipulative of the reader.  Stonecipher’s ability to write about the same action or event in an entirely new light is exemplary.  I would hope that reading her work would have some impact on mine.

One Response to “Structural Turns in “Inlay 7 (Franz Kafka)””

  1. cmdrquack Says:

    I think that’s a pretty well done analysis. One of the things I’m still having a lot of trouble with, not only in Stonecipher’s poetry, but also in this type of poetry in general (and what is “this type”? Of that I’m also unsure) is how I should read it. Am I supposed to understand it? How much am I to find meaningful and how much can I simply look at and say “I don’t get it”?

    This is pretty frustrating at times because I find that I really enjoy Stonecipher’s poems, and I don’t like saying that I like something without being able to explain why.

    Your post and others have brought numerous things to light, most notably how complex these poems really are, and how many different forms its meanings may take. It’s a way of reading which I’m very unused to, and I’m still adjusting. So I really appreciate when I read something that allows me to better understand a piece of writing.

    -James

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