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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I Carry Your Poem With Me

Here is another short essay I wrote while participating in the edX massive open online course (MOOC) The Art of Poetry taught by Robert Pinsky. 

“[i carry your heart with me(I carry it in]” by E. E. Cummings   

Cummings' dismissal of correct spacing and conventional punctuation and his frequent use of enjambment speed the poem along. He connects stanzas one and two with an odd and lonely placement of “i fear.” And he seems to use parentheses as substitutes for commas and periods. Cummings repeats “I carry your heart” twice in the title of the poem, twice in the first line and twice in the last line but each time with different punctuation and the only line in which the words are in a complete sentence is, significantly, the last line of the poem. The bizarre and playful appearance of this poem enhances the romantic message within it.

The first time I read this poem I thought it a lover’s playful valentine to his sweetheart. Rereading it much later it seemed to me the “heart” in the poem is memory. The memories of those we love are always with us. Fairly recently, a friend’s father passed away. This woman had a very close and loving relationship with her father. I was surprised to find myself quoting several lines of “[i carry your heart with me (I carry it in]” to her. The embrace of this poem by “the love poet” is greater than first appears.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Poetry Talk

Recently, I participated as a student and a community TA in  an edX massive open online course (MOOC) called The Art of Poetry. The two month course taught by former United States poet laureate Robert Pinsky was demanding and rewarding. And, for the next few months, I'll  post some of the short essays I wrote during the course. Here is one with the link to the poem by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Charles Simic.

Mirrors at 4:00 a.m.
by Charles Simic

I admire the surreal poem “Mirrors at 4:00 a.m.” because it is totally original and intriguing. The images presented seem to proceed in a linear fashion but they are bizarre and irrational. Simic endows mirrors with life. The mirrors in his poem are capable of seeing –“Sneak a view of their emptiness/Without them catching/A glimpse of you in return."

These mirrors are also capable of feeling – “Even the empty bed is a burden to them.” And they feel “more themselves” when people are not looking in them. Does this suggest that the person intrudes on or is invasive of the mirror?

Time and eternity also share a human characteristic – “As they admire themselves in the mirror.” This attachment of vanity to time and eternity like the line “Which, begging your pardon,” and the use of the word “hanky” later in the poem are odd touches of lightness and humor that contrast greatly with the foreboding mood of the entire poem, a poem that closes with “To wipe your brow surreptitiously.”

The speaker in the poems makes it clear one must keep from being observed by a mirror but does not say what might happen if you are seen by it. And how ironic that, should this happen, the mirror will be looking at a person. In the conventional world we use a mirror to see our reflection. And, in the conventional world most of us are concerned about love, work, and health. We are not frightened by mirrors. Remembering the poem is about mirrors at 4 a.m., I wonder if the mirrors in the poem behave differently at other times of day or night, perhaps in a manner that is not so threatening.

I associate reflections and shininess with a mirror and I like the shimmering sound of the word itself. But Charles Simic’s four a.m. mirrors exist in another realm, a realm of sleeplessness and fearfulness, survival skills, and caution – a realm where a mirror might break you.