Lack of remorse

Before I began thinking about this question I decided to do more research about the elegy. I find that Structure and Surprise can be informative, but sometimes it just doesn’t speak my language. I pulled the research paper “no no” and went on Wikipedia, which I think gives information in a much more common way. “It commonly describes a poem of mourning, from the Greek elegeia (derived from elegos)—a reflection on the death of someone or on a sorrow generally. As such, it may be classified as a form of lyric poetry.” When I started to get more of an idea about the basic definition of the elegy I went back to Structure and Surprise and looked at in more detail in relation to Brian Henry’s work in Quarantine.

Based on what I infer an elegy to be I find that at times Quarantine comes off as being somewhat unconventional. In Structure and Surprise, Powell writes that the elegy stems from a desire to bring the dead back from obscurity. Numerous times throughout the section of the book I have read the speaker does not seem to show much remorse for the death of his wife and son. Although he is dead now also, it appears that he was the last to go. The lack of remorse in his words leads me to believe that these poems fall into the category that Structure and Surprise describes as “surrender to the experience of loss.” One example of the surrender to the experience of loss can be found on page 6.

“My wife died with her eyes open

but her eyes were not on me

when she died I was not there

when she died”

Although it seems like there was tension between the speaker and his wife before her death, a normal reaction would be to dwell on the loss. The speaker was not there when his wife died, but he does not express that in a remorseful tone. I think that the way in which Henry writes makes the elegy new. The speaker in the book is so careless and at times appears to be heartless. He conforms to the mythic tradition that Structure and Surprise also describes as the speaker “refusing solace in a structure that signals the triumph of death,” but he does it in his own way. The overall tone of the speaker is something I have never seen in poetry before and the lack of punctuation really makes the elegy Henry’s own type of poetry.

~Donny

One Response to “Lack of remorse”

  1. I definitely agree that Henry’s poetry is unconventional in the way it reflects the elegy, especially through the definition you provided. If the elegy is supposed to echo death and mourn the loss of someone or something, I definitely feel as though Henry does not fall into that area. He does seem heartless because he does not appear upset or sorrow-filled about the loss of his wife or son really at all. So with that in mind, I almost feel like his poetry would be a new subset of the elegy due to it’s lack of orientation with the ideas I’ve been reading about the elegy. I do enjoy how Henry is emerging with his “own type of poetry” that you mention–it’s very evocative.

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