Poetry Postings

Letter with pen and glasses.

I’ve always loved to read stories. Growing up all I ever spent my money on were books and kids magazines. I never really got introduced to poetry, except in school when we did a few poems each year. Back then I didn’t patronize the internet like I do today, and neither did I know how. So, I never explored poetry and didn’t know about poetry and poets as much as I knew about stories and writers. I never aspired to be a poet either, my first poem, an Ode to Despair was written in grade 8 (25th February, 2008) during a lunch break and it went something like this:

Despair is flying off with the wind of time,
that despair which was mine.
Slowly the wind twists and turns,
the despair, it burns! Oh it burns!
Trying hard to persuade that it won’t hurt,
the way it did to the lonely Clerk.

Energy released like the burst of a star,
won’t go far! Won’t go far..
The wind shrieks, its heart it pours out,
Only a little more, Despair pouts.
The ride of the Wind, the ride of Thine,
the ride of Wings, With the speed of time.
Persuasion! Desperation! Oh Despair!
The energy was lost, of a Pair!

blah blah blah and so on…

******

My god. So depressing. I think we’d studied a Frost poem that day and I was inspired to be poetic or something. I wrote a few poems after that (in the years to follow) but nothing that I actually like.

I think one of the reasons I never got introduced to poetry is the complete lack of poetry collections in the bookstores here. I don’t understand why there should be a limitation but there is one and it’s absolutely sad because the artistic side of the people is being deprived. That is not always true because my brother writes poetry all the time and has written hundreds of them. Which reminds me of an interesting fact about e.e. cummings who wrote a poem every day from the age of 8-23 (or 22). In case you’re wondering why I so habitually ignore capitalization while writing his name is that it’s generally written that way as a symbol for his complete indifference towards grammar.

I am fascinated by all kinds of poetry but I love contemporary poetry the most, especially e.e. cummings, Pablo Neruda, Charles Bukowski, Robert Lowell, Carl Sandberg, amongst many others. John Keats, Arthur Rimbaud, Poe  and Sylvia Plath are also some of my favorites.

This semester at Uni I took an Intro to Poetry class that introduced me to a lot of different ways in which we interpret poetry and understand it. It seriously gave me a new way to look at the written words. One of the ways to understand a poem better is to read it out loud. I personally had never tried this so when I incorporated that method into my poetry readings, I understood the concept and style of the poem much better than before. The poetry class also introduced me to a lot of poets whom I’d heard of before but had never really read.

Without further blabber, I’ll talk about the poem that’s really on my mind these days. It’s a poem called “To Speak The Woe That Is In Marriage”, it was written by Robert Lowell in 1976 (a year before his death). I did a close reading (poetry analysis) of this poem as an assignment for my poetry class and I decided it will be a good idea to share my analysis here. In fact, I might do poetry analysis on a weekly basis in the future.

To Speak The Woe That Is In Marriage

The hot night makes us keep our bedroom windows open.

Our magnolia blossoms. Life begins to happen.

My hopped up husband drops his home disputes,

and hits the streets to cruise for prostitutes,

free-lancing out along the razor’s edge.

This screwball might kill his wife, then take the pledge.

Oh the monotonous meanness of his lust. . .

It’s the injustice . . . he is so unjust–

whiskey-blind, swaggering home at five.

My only thought is how to keep alive.

What makes him tick?Each night now I tie

ten dollars and his car key to my thigh. . . .

Gored by the climacteric of his want,

he stalls above me like an elephant.

Definitely not the kind of sonnet you’d use as a wedding vow. A little background about Lowell – He suffered from depression and anxiety and he knew it was affecting his relationships. He married three times and the first two marriages failed terribly. It’s really interesting to read about his life, as is also the case with most artists, so I recommend that you check out his biographies and interviews about him.

The sonnet is a beautifully written awful portrait of a modern failing marriage. The poem/sonnet is written from the wife’s point of view and in my opinion it gives the message of the guilt that Lowell was perhaps facing regarding his treatment towards his previous wives. The title of the poem was taken from Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, which is a story about a woman who is extremely independent, a free thinker and someone who does exactly as she pleases. She suffered in her marriages but eventually controlled the situation and her husbands. She married 5 times which was extremely rare for that time period. (a little after 11th century or so). It’s intriguing that Lowell chose the title from Wife of Bath, maybe it represents irony but in my opinion it is a perfect representation because as we’ve seen in the sonnet, the wife is prepared and ready to control the situation.

Another interesting aspect of the linguistic and diction is the transition from the use of “us” to the use of “I” and “him”. This perfectly represents the gradual separation that occurs in failing marriages. The marriage begins with the couple seeing their future together and then eventually as things take a turn, their collective perspective turns to a more individual and self-based one.

I’ll be analyzing the poem in couplets.

The hot night makes us keep our bedroom windows open.

Our magnolia blossoms. Life begins to happen.

The opening couplet is misleadingly optimistic. The lines represent the idea of sex without acting using the word or directly stating it. The “hot night” and “open” windows, along with “magnolia blossoms” all direct to the idea of “night activities” and the concept of beginning of life – which is exactly what the second half of the second line is.

My hopped up husband drops his home disputes,

and hits the streets to cruise for prostitutes,

free-lancing out along the razor’s edge.

The problems in their marriage is known to the public because the husband “hits the streets” looking for prostitutes. He is also indifferent towards the marital problems and is escaping from them. The husband is in a dilemma when it comes to choosing the prostitutes and the line “free-lancing out along the razor’s edge” also indicates that he may be hiring multiples of them.

This screwball might kill his wife, then take the pledge.

Oh the monotonous meanness of his lust. . .

It’s the injustice . . . he is so unjust–

whiskey-blind, swaggering home at five.

This is where the first hint or foreshadowing of him hitting the wife occurs “This screwball might kill his wife”, and then “then take the pledge” shows that he probably feels a little guilt after he hits his wife because he blames the alcohol and decides to abstain from it. The interesting and abundant use of punctuations delivers the wife’s speechlessness due to her disgust towards her husband’s drunk attitude. This shows that despite taking pledges to be better the husband continues the abuse. The lines above also refer to both the violent meanness and lack of love between the two.

My only thought is how to keep alive.

What makes him tick? Each night now I tie

ten dollars and his car key to my thigh. . . .

The wife is unable to understand the husband’s behavior and what causes him to be the way he is. She fears for herself and her safety is endangered. This is the part where the connection between Chaucer’s Wife of Bath and the wife in this poem might be. She prepares herself to take control of the situation. This also shows that she has barely any empathy left towards her marriage because she is ready to escape.

Gored by the climacteric of his want,

he stalls above me like an elephant.

The violence in the marriage becomes more apparent in the last two lines. What I found most interesting is the exact contrast between the first two and last two lines. The first two lines are positive, and soft in nature whereas the last two lines convey violence and a lot of negativity. What is also interesting is how the lines 3 and 4 show the husband’s indifference towards the marriage and the lines 11 and 12 show the wife’s indifference towards the marriage. (“Gored” is the synonym for wounded). The use of the word elephant might also symbolize the ugly nature of the husband or his tyranny towards the wife.

That’s pretty much it. The ending is open-ended as we don’t know what happens to the wife and the marriage. Personally, I hope she stabs him and runs away.

 

 

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