Archive for February, 2009

May 8th

Posted in Uncategorized on February 20, 2009 by exclamate

I feel that the poem “Dear May 8th” is probably based on some sort of very real truth. The content of the poem is very intimate and specific (“Why was the last kiss May seventh / and so shy? / Your tongue was skittish. / Your clavicle– / … / Your collarbone was hot snow to touch”). These are the kind of details that come from a real experience and probably mean a lot more to the author than they do to us. Even the title, “Dear May Eighth,” is so specific that one cannot help but think that the content is very true to a lived truth. Why chose that day, otherwise

However, I think this poem goes past that moment itself via the lush language. Without this language, this poem would be merely a recounting, something along the lines of:

Why were you so shy when you kissed me?

You seemed really nervous.

Your skin was hot.

I was committed to you.

You explained how I wasn’t aware of the things I grew up around.

Yo, why aren’t you in love with me?

You are many beautiful things and they have all lead to me kissing you.

You could show me how to live my life.



Obviously this is reductive and probably not a totally accurate interpretation of the poem, but the idea is that without the language, the poem is too sentimental, too true to life.  The language, the “clavicle / Dead bolt, little key,” the basin that makes the sky a bay” makes this poem bigger than a kiss, bigger than a question.  It allows the reader to not only read something specific but be able to read into something specific.

This pushing of poetry past literal experience is, to me, one of the reasons I write poetry.  Perhaps I am vain, but most of my poetry is about something that happened to me, or, something I wish would happen to me.  It’s realizing these moments are important and trying to convey that importance through language that is the struggle of poetry, for me.  Without this, I think poetry loses a lot of what made me love it so.


“Her Door” – Form/Universality/Structure as Doors to Greater Significance

Posted in Uncategorized on February 20, 2009 by tadros

Mary Leader’s “Her Door” (page 70-71) seems to extend beyond the diary-like, self-obsessed possibilities inherent to the retrospective-prospective structure and achieve greater meaning.  It definitely seems that Leader’s poem is rooted in lived/emotional truth; the bittersweet joy/pain of motherhood in watching a daughter go from girl to woman is believable in her piece.  She hits the expected emotional chords, especially when she reminisces about brushing her young daughter’s hair and bathing her in the third stanza and recalls that “Those days, to rock her was to say a prayer” in the fifth stanza.  She is not saccharinely sentimental, and thus, we believe her confession/recollection to be emotionally/literally true.

            I think a variety of factors contribute to this poem’s “push” beyond the author’s individual experience, mainly the form, the universality of the content, and the unique execution of structure. 

            First, as Yakich writes, the poem is a “variation on the villanelle” (71), characterized by a definite rhyme scheme.  This formal consistency certainly adds to the literary/artistic value of the piece, not just because it is in a form, but because it is a well-executed product of form; in this way the poem is an example both of good writing and of good form.  Leader adds to this formal unity/consistency in returning to the images of both the door and the speaker’s drawing.

            Second, the universality of the content – the idea of a daughter growing up and eventually leaving home – is accessible and thus takes the poem beyond the writer and the speaker, to the audience.  It is thus a piece that holds meaning for all those who can relate to it.

            Third, Leader takes the retrospective-prospective structure and, instead of using it to create two distinct parts – past and present – that follow each other in logical chronological order, she effects a retrospective-prospective turn in almost every stanza.  The third line of each stanza is a present transposition of the two lines previous in the past (with the exceptions of the third and fifth stanzas, which are all in the past).  This also seems to speak to the experience of motherhood, another feather in this poem’s cap, as a mother does not experience her daughter’s growing-up as something instantaneous.  This shift does not occur immediately, as from one stanza to the next, but happens instead gradually over time, with frequent indicators, steps forward and backward.  The poem actually serves as a good metaphor for what I imagine this experience is like.

            I think it’s essential to push poems beyond personal experience for them to reach full potential beyond catharsis for the writer.  I’m not sure that I always achieve this, as nine times out of ten I find what I’m writing is rooted at least somewhat in the realm of lived experience, but it’s certainly my goal to push beyond “confession,” and maybe examining more closely what I’m doing with structure is one avenue for achieving this.  I definitely don’t think there’s any one prescribed way to push beyond the personal to give it greater significance.  

Blog Group B: Post 2: Retrospective-Prospective: Beyond Confession

Posted in Uncategorized on February 19, 2009 by karlakelsey

The writer of our article on the “retrospective-prospective” structure gives us permission to construct the poem from the fabric of our own lives. Yakich says that “if the first part of the retrospective-prospective structure deals with the past, it would seem obvious that our individual memories of past events would offer much material for composition. From Web sites…to Oprah, we seem to be a society that enjoys talking about itself as a means of self-promotion, self-obsession, catharsis, and penitence” (62). At the same time, we want to make sure our poems go beyond the confession of a diary entry to become literary art. Select a poem from the essay that you think might be grounded in emotional or lived “truth.” How does the author push this beyond work that feels to be “only” confession? How does the structure of the poem play into this push? How thoroughly do you believe that it is important to push your work beyond the materials of your everyday life (or are you by nature skeptical of this demand)?

On “On Sentimentality”

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2009 by Melissa Goodrich

Andrew Hudgins’ “On Sentimentality” begins as what sounds like a film critique, and his tone implies he is taking the unpopular positions of “it didn’t move me” (about as dangerous a thing to say about Twilight now-a-days). This puts the speaker in a place of vulnerability (he has chosen to make public his dislike for what is widely accepted), a decision which is risky in that it can lose its readership (if the reader is, say, a fan of Limelight). However, for the agreeing reader, the one who nods his head (I know exactly how you feel, Hudgins; Tereza was absolutely over the top), he is in for quite a surprise by line 10 where the acknowledgement is made, “But life doesn’t scruple at anything.”

This is why it’s essential to read an entire poem as a whole. The poet is addressing the complexity of not merely a realistic reaction, but the concept of “earning” the right to a certain emotion. There is almost a note of envy in the line, “Because she isn’t real/ she’ll do everything I did and do it better” and despair in, “We’re real, we cannot do it for ourselves.” This poem addresses authenticity and even the authenticity of art (such as a movie) – does art have the right to be more authentic than reality? Would he dare criticize a real Tereza screaming in the doorway? And what does it say of the speaker, who has himself experienced a similar tragedy (or is it because he has had the experience that he’s offended at the dramatization)?

Especially in experiences of vulnerability, it seems that people tend to push away – and this poem shows that kind of pushing (“it didn’t move me,” “I thought the scream was too much, sentimental”), begging the question of why. It appears like self-defense, once the speaker reveals he, too, has shared Tereza’s experience. Having made that connection, the speaker goes one step further and reconsiders Tereza and her scream (“The second time I saw Tereza there…”). The concessional structure is fundamental because it allows an entry into the sometimes reactionary defense a poem presents itself with. It allows for a transformation, for a revealing of different layers…for instance, the speaker at the beginning of this poem is self-sufficient, indifferent, and unmoved; by the end, he is in distress and helpless (“we cannot do it for ourselves”). This is achieved by peeling layers; each concession makes the initial statement more complicated and complicates the speaker’s feelings and point as a whole. Maybe the beauty of the concessional is that it gives a mode to those subjects which are the most difficult to discuss, for the subject is supposed to be approached from many considerations and because the mode is so fundamentally honest.

Addressing the Concessional Structure in “Mare Incognito”

Posted in Uncategorized on February 11, 2009 by alc215

The poem I looked at to work with was “Mare Incognito” by Larissa Szporluk. I was really drawn to this as a concessional poem because the lines were so concise and vivid, and Szporluk doesn’t really dance around what she wants to say. The narrator of the poem, obviously at the beginning of the poem, is trying to cope with the loss of her son. So that is the complexity that we see emerge, this emotion of trying to deal with loss and just being infinitely lost in disbelief. She makes it truly feel like the world is mourning with her from the way her son is lost to a “brighter world” and how the “trees turn blue from drag;/leaves, like minnows, in reverse.” I can really feel this strong sense of loss and longing for this person back without accepting that they’re gone. It seems as though this event just occurred and the narrator herself, is actually musing over this idea along with the readers.

The concession comes when Szporluk writes, “In human terms, in human terms,” finally giving in to the idea that in human terms, her son no longer exists. This was a powerful moment because I could really feel the thought process of coming to this realization with the repetition of the phrase twice. I think part of the reason that this line was so powerful is that, even if you are unaware of the concessional structure you can really see the author coming to terms with what happened and the poem really turn. The concessional structure becomes necessary though because there is this sort of forfeit to whatever resistance is employs at first to the death of the narrator’s son. And then the poem shifts to this nice feeling that, “he is totally filled with God.” So, even though she cannot think of her son in human terms anymore, she can think of him filled with God, and accept his absence in going to a “better place.”

On another note, after really discussing the concessional structure, I’m finding it a really hard structure to both work with and identify when it comes to finding where the poem concedes. I found “Mare Incognito” most relatable and easier to understand in comparison to the others. I really enjoyed it where as some of the other poems were less enjoyable because I had a hard time placing their parts in proper terms.  


Concessional Reality

Posted in Uncategorized on February 11, 2009 by Jess Gross

I chose to anaylize the poem “On Senimentality” by Andrew Hudgins. This poem is about the narrator’s first time he saw the movie “Limelight,” and how he thought that when Tereza screamed over her significant other (?) leaving, it seemed superficial. He then finds himself in the same position as her, and doesn’t scream. When he sees the movie again, he finds himself in her, and realizes that, because she isn’t real, she can do what he could not. He says, “Because she isn’t real, she’ll do everything I did and do it better.”

This is an interesting concept, and one I had to grapple with in my head for a little bit. This is the same process the narrator is going through. One cannot plan what they are going to think, and so this poem possesses a natural progression. It seems real. And that is why this poem goes beyond being just a strategic tactic.

The Happening Happens

Posted in Uncategorized on February 11, 2009 by bennett89

After thinking about the different types of concessions, I came to realize things are a lot more complicated than originally thinking. And go figure, because that is the feeling I get when reading through Sophie Cabot Black’s “In Light of All”.

Black starts out with the words “In light of all that has happened,” which seems to a common phrased used by someone who has been through a lot of hard times and just trying to deal. It presents the thoughts of a terrible world to live in. Seriously, who would want to live in a world that one has to constantly suffer through? Through the rest of the poem Black plays off this idea until the very end, when she states ” While the light in which all that happened / Happened in so many ways that finally the light / Became what happened.” These final lines give the reader a sense of peace and tranquility. It is like the popular saying, “something good will always come from something bad.”

The complexity of this poem comes from the feeling of it being a single stream of thought. The speaker begins by stating a problem, mussing over it for a few stanzas, and then concluding with a positive out-look. One of the main reasons why I see this poem as a single stream of thought is because the word (or variations of) “happen” is used over ten times. When editing a poem one normally tried to avoid using the same word over and over again (or at least I know I do that), but the fact that Black uses this same word over and over is a very strong strategic approach. It gets the reader to focus on what is going on, and not the full bigger picture.  There are many lines in this poem that if removed would seem very plain and boring, but because they are placed in this ‘though’ (most with something “happening”) they add to this poem.

I feel it is important to point out how I am reading this poem (and to see if anyone agrees/disagrees). The first stanza presents the issue of something happening that one did not want to happen. The poem then moves to the possibility of this event happening, the importance of it happening, sharing what happened, and then reflection on it; seeing what happened as a bigger picture and not a single, small event. I feel like the writer is trying to persuade the reader to not fret about something that may go wrong (because this poem is so broad and doesn’t pinpoint an exact event).

{{on a side-note: I am sorry if this doesn’t make much sense. I am quite sick and am on a lot of medications. My head isn’t really in the right place right now}}

CS vs IS

Posted in Uncategorized on February 11, 2009 by Silvana

<!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>

Concessional structure stood out to me as a relative of the ironic structure. The poem is expository, and the central focus seems to rely on the last one or two lines. The concessional structure is a confessional structure. Such as in, Marianne Moore’s “Poetry” in which she condemns the art itself-at first-and then deems it quality literature. The text tells me that she “gives us permission to free ourselves of similar pretensions.” I’m unsure as to how to interpret this form; the ironic structure, though similarly based I think, is a little more straightforward. The supplemental poems in this chapter illustrate a subtle turn. The surprise is evident but the turn itself is ambiguous. “Undone” by Emily Wilson, is indicative of the disenchantment with the previous text. “Was that heaven” is epiphanous, yet still unsure. This, for me, was the line that deemed “Undone” a concessional poem. Although the text’s discussion of how confidence plays a fairly important role in that structure, the poem/poet is unsure of itself/herself.

The Concession of “Saints”

Posted in Uncategorized on February 11, 2009 by VV

In “Saints” Amy Gerstler begins with an odd juxtaposition of details about the peopls she describes, to odd effect. “Hair-shirted wonder workers. Shirkers of the soggy soggy earth.” The mix tends to obscure or blur the connotations of the details into something neither positive nor negative, but more toward tragic. The picture she draws here is at once both humble and elevated, perhaps elevated because of being humble.

“All over the world, a few humans are born each decade with a great talent for suffering. They have gifts that enable them to sleep through their mistreatment: the sleep of the uncomplaining just, the sleep of the incomplete.”

One isn’t quite sure what to make of this description. There doesn’t seem to be an argument present, as in many of the other examples of Concessional Structure. The focus is more on exploratory description. Phrases like “the uncomplaining just” are tinged with an attitude of rebuke for whatever causes these people to suffer, but in the end that does not add up to an argument.

The final line of the poem shifts into more cryptic territory:

“Our relationship to them is the same as our relationship to trees: what they exhale, we breathe.”

The way I read this line, Gerstler is making a philosophical commentary: You cannot have an easy life unless someone else is having a hard one. Easy is only easy when compared to difficult. Such an assertion could also be social rather than philosophical.

The best summary I can give of what concession Gerstler makes is “True, saints are not perfect. But their acceptance of this is what makes them so.” But even this seems to go beyond what is one the page, making her poem a much subtler and more understated version of the Concessional Structure.


Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2009 by Allyson

The concessional poem that I decided to dissect was “Mare Incognito” written by Larissa Szporluk:

The moon makes my son go silent.
It sucks the fight from his mind,
leaving him hollow in my arms,
like a final piece of tunnel
diminished between lights.
I lose him to the brighter world;
the dark one vibrates with alarm,
as if the storm about to come
had sprung upon its axis.
Trees turn blue from drag;
leaves, like minnows, in reverse,
breaking for the shallows.
In human terms, in human terms,
their flesh is being stolen.
Long bone shadows slam into the ground.

His head is cold all over.
Its curves extend forever.
In the high winds, in the high key of heaven,
he is totally filled with God.

I felt that the complexity being addressed here was a very real one: a mother having difficulty accepting the fact that her son has died, leaving her to be with God in heaven. She started by saying that her son was gone and hollow and lingers on this fact, ending it with a turn to her son being full of God.

I felt that this form worked best for this complex idea because it best describes inner torment, at least that is my opinion. When an individual is having difficulty understanding something, they argue it in their heads. I at least, fully state one side of an argument and then debate it with the other one. So, I guess, I really related to this poem because it felt like an argument that I would have.

The only way I’ve personally noticed that a Concessional poem moves beyond a simple strategic tactic is via believability. A speaker has to sound completely sure of everything and gain a reader’s trust before making an outrageous turn. That way, a reader doesn’t finish the poem and think “Why the hell did I just read this?” and instead still believes the speaker.