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Alphabet Soup

Alphabet soup!

The further we read into the book, the more technical it gets. In Chapter 10, we got into closed forms. Among the forms covered in the chapter, my favorite form would have to be either the epigram or the sestina.

The reason that I really liked the sestina is that it reminded me of being a kid armed with boredom and alphabet soup. The constraints require that “in six six-line stanzas, the poet repeats six end-words, then reintroduces the six repeated words (in any order). (Kennedy 200)” A kid with an alphabet soup is able to make words based on the letters that were assigned. Similarly, a poet is able to create a poem based on the carefully chosen six end-words. This restriction seems to me as a really fun way to play a game.

However, an epigram appeals to me because of the way they are designed. They are brief and to the point. This is one thing that I really like — whether it be in mathematical theorems, programming syntax or communication. Furthermore, epigrams remind me of punch-lines. They are to terse and packed with meaning that one can’t help but admire the clever use of words.

I feel that if haiku are combined with epigrams, then they can be extraordinary; It can be poetry filled with depth and wisdom. (Not to say that it’s not)

The poem “Sestina” by Elizabeth Bishop is what the title claims. Reading this poem, I couldn’t help that the closed form helped emphasize the grandmother’s emotions. Because the form is closed and has to use the last six end words repeatedly, it feels as if the poet needs to “make due with what they got.” Much like the poet, the grandmother has to deal with the lack of something/someone, and just live in the moment. She finds it incredibly difficult, which is why at the end she cries. I couldn’t help but feel that the grandmother was trying the best she can to stay optimistic, but everything just kind-of came back to haunt her (in the drawings of the child).


4re eel

A couple of teenage rebels

The assigned reading covered the important topic of rhythm in poetry. The material was a bit technical as well as non-technical. Most of the concepts that were covered had to do with rhythmic stress and meter. As I was reading about this, I remembered how I mentioned that Eminem seemed to manipulate his writing to somewhat “force” a rime; Eminem cleverly arranged his lyrics to accentuate the words. As a result, I sort-of kept “Lose Yourself” in the back of my mind as I was going through this chapter.

Early on in the chapter, Kennedy/Gioia throw one of my favorite poems: “We Real Cool” by Gwendelyn Brooks. Prior to reading this chapter, I thought of the poem a little differently. When I read it, I thought of this poem as just what it is — a poem about youth that submits to their vices. After gaining a little insight on meter and rhythm, I re-read this poem very differently.

PRIOR to the commentary with Gwendelyn, I thought of the “We” in the poem to portray uncertainty. My reasoning is that since teenagers tend to be a bit unsecure of their identity, they make a lot of extraordinary claims. In this poem, they are not excessive. However, if we pause when “We” is read, it becomes obvious that these claims are uncertain. The youth does do all this, but they are unsure if it indeed makes them cool. While they do participate in other things, they are unsure if it is really as great as they thought it was going to be.

This poem reminded me of how two friends talk to each other about their vacations. As one of them is making a claim to the other, they question whether or not what they thought was once note-worthy really is. Similarly, I think of these as teenage boys hanging out but not being sure if it was too wise for them to be doing all this. Afterall, they are unsure if they are to “die soon” and may have to deal with the consequences of skipping school.

The rhythm of the waves

It has been a while since the class was assigned to read something from our poetry anthology. The two most interesting topics for poetry arose in the readings: song and sound. When reading, James Joyce’s poem “All day I hear” seemed to be strangely appealing to me.

The reason is that the lines appear to provide an eye rime. Furthermore, the imagery from the actual poem stuck out to me. The line about

“noise of waters

Making Moan (lines 1-2)”

just brings to me an image where the water is so lazy, that it makes a barely-audible noise. Much like a person who is waking up, this poem feels as if it’s lazy. To add to the author’s laziness, the sea-bird is sad, alone and the author is simply depressed. The diction used within the poem lends to this feeling. The imagery is a monotone imagery, filled with melancholy. Everything is sort-of dragging, like the wind, water, and the noise.


I like the way that the rimes stand out the way they do. Like the water that is described in the poem, I feel that the rimes rock back and forth, with the assonance present in every other line. The alliteration that is present throughout most of the poem is hidden, as only every other line rimes.

Despite liking this poem, there was a few concepts that I did not understand upon first review. For example, the euphony. I am not entirely sure if there is some euphony in the poem, but there probably is. That is why the sound of the waves stayed true in my mind throughout the whole read.

Is silence audible?

An image from Silent Hill, courtesy of

When reading through this chapter, I thought a lot of many everyday figures of speech. At my job, I often turn to similes to explain to our customers the situation that their devices are in. It feels as if it is my job to make sure that the customers know what is going on.

While this is usually questioned and ridiculed by a few of my co-workers, the customers ultimately understand what the situation is like. In a similar way in Fog, Carl Sandburg uses figures of speech (particularly metaphors) to make the reader imagine the apparition of fog. In the line “The fog comes \ on little cat feet.,” Sandburg breathes life into the fog by giving it cat feet. The connotation of cat feet is that of something stealthy — something that moves through the night quietly and harmlessly. This is a great way to discuss the way that fog appears in the environment because fog is something that slowly populates an area.

Furthermore, the second stanza assigns more cat characteristics to the fog. A cat is known to move quietly and observe from a distance for a small period of time; it is going to stay silent and make a note of what is going on. Since the fog looks over on silent haunches, this makes me think of a fog that is stalking its prey.

It seems to me as if Sandburg makes a cat more of something that is in a scene rather than something interacting with a scene. It’s a bit strange to explain. Perhaps it’s because a cat is a quiet animal that doesn’t really interact with people, the fog appears to be something that’s not necessarily obtrusive. In this, Sandburg excels because that is exactly what fog is.

Big Fish

The idea that crafting a good poem is like cooking with delicacy seems appealing to me. If we overuse a seasoning, a perfect dish might not live up to it’s maximum potential. Similarly, the imagery used in a poem can seem overwhelming. I never thought of this to be the case until I read “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop.

The diction used in this poem is colloquial. None of the language used within the poem is complex. The vocabulary that the poet uses throughout the poem does not require deep thought, as the connotations of the vocabulary are fairly straight forward.The poem uses a lot of visual imagery. throughout the poem, I am able to see a fish that acknowledges death. Elizabeth does a good job physically describing the fish, but a lot of the connotations used to describe the fish, such as:

of his shiny entrails,

and the pink swim-bladder

like a big peony (lines 30-33)

seem to overload my image. Furthermore, the frequency in which the visual imagery is changing makes it too fast for me to process.
Perhaps this is what the author is trying to show: that in the heat of a spectacular moment — catching a fish — there are many details to pay attention to, but ultimately the fisherman is overjoyed. While the fisherman might have been overjoyed, I was not. This poem reminded me of watching those fast-paced movies in which there is little dialogue and a lot of explosions. The visual imagery seemed overwhelming to me, like a dish that was over-seasoned.

Brave Doomed World

With the rising concerns of global warming and thinking ahead of what the future may hold for the newer generations, I found Ron Rash’s “The day the Gates Closed” to be particularly daunting.

For one, the diction of the title brought to me this idea of “the pearly gates” finally closing. I see this as a connotation for the afterlife. The realm for the dead has closed, meaning that it has reached it maximum capacity. In other words, I see the title as a way of seeing once the human race has become extinct.

This was further reinforced by the third line:

but it was already gone,

no human sound…

I feel that this means that humans have perished the earth. Bringing back this idea of global warming, this poem takes place in a world that has been pushed past capacity — it has been mined, drilled, deforested, and exploited as much as possible. Consequently, the earth is now nothing but a vast wasteland. It is so barren that “the wind had nothing to rub a whisper from.”

So much so that life on earth has been reduced to “just silence \ rising over the valley \ deep and wide as a glacier.” The simile of a glacier makes me feel that the only thing that is left is cold and hollow, drifting aimlessly in a barren planet. Recalling events such as the sinking of the Titanic, the glacier brings a feeling of catastrophe. It’s also a bit funny, since glaciers are fading as global climate change advances. Once the world can no longer take the current exploitation rate, glaciers will rise and humans will fall.

Until the Red Heifer appears…

There are certain types of poems that I enjoy. Particularly those that use a minimal language (Colloquial English), such as the poems by William C. Williams or E.E. Cummings. I like that they leave the reader with an image-afterburn in their mind. The reason that they are able to embed such an image is that–like dialect– the words that were used are often staples of the time period.

In the poem Carnation Milk, the poem makes me think of the small 6 oz. cans of condensed/powdered milk with the cow on the cover. The language used is so simple, yet one needs to be aware of “Carnation Milk.” I feel that the poet assumes the reader to know this (an allusion!). This poem was written around the time when the industrial revolution started taking place., when the industry began to streamline everything.

Carnation Milk is the best in the land;

No tits to pull, no hay to pitch.

These lines make me see a person just relaxing with a can of Carnation Milk, realizing that they are no longer to go after a cow; the writer no longer has to go to a cow to milk it, or feed a cow to fatten it. This convenience is a reflection of the time period… so in a way, this makes me think that the poem is a form of dialect of the time period. This is a reflection of the state of the world when the poem was written. Since an allusion is made to carnation milk, it makes dating this poem a bit easier. Since the type of milk was not previously available, we are able to partition the human time-scale into a more reasonable time-frame.

You just punch a hole in the son of a bitch.

The language used is so simple and accessible to the common-folk, it makes me think that the milk was priced at a level which anyone can afford it.