Showing 161 - 170 of 731 Poetry annotations

I Need Help

Hirsch, Edward

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

For all the insomniacs in the world, the narrator says, "I want to build a new kind of machine / For flying out of the body at night." He recounts the images, anxieties, and responsibilities that accrue to those who lie in their beds at night, unable to sleep. He feels the weight of "this enormous night" on his shoulders, but he is unable to lift it alone. He needs help "to fly out of myself."

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The Ship Pounding

Hall, Donald

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Poet Donald Hall writes of his vigil over wife Jane (poet Jane Kenyon), gravely ill with leukemia. To him, the hospital where he spends his days with her is a ship whose huge pounding engines keep the propellers turning so that the voyage to harbor can safely be made. The ship passengers "wore masks or cannulae . . . but I believed that the ship / travelled to a harbor / of breakfast, work, and love."

Hall writes about what he wrote at the time: " ’. . . bone marrow restored . . . I will take my wife . . . home to our dog and day.’ " After weeks of treatment, wife Jane is discharged, months pass, and now, at home, Hall re-reads his own words as he listens anxiously "to hear Jane call for help," and prepares to "make the agitated / drive to Emergency again," knowing that there is no safe harbor and that the ship is going nowhere, a " . . . huge / vessel that heaves water . . . / without leaving / port, . . . / without arrival or destination . . . . "

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Tulips

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this nine-stanza, sixty-three line poem, the speaker articulates her process of recovery from surgery in terms of the image of "excitable" tulips that interrupt her "winter" sojourn in the hospital where she has "given [her] name and [her] day-clothes up to the nurses / And [her] history to the anesthetist and [her] body to the surgeons." The images in the poem link one stanza to the other (the nurses like "gulls," her body "a pebble," her family "little smiling hooks," herself "a thirty-year-old cargo boat").

The image of the eye appears throughout the poem as well. The speaker is herself the pupil of a huge eye whose lids are the pillow and the sheet; in another stanza she finds herself existing between the "eye of the sun" and the "eyes of the tulips," herself without a face, but beginning to see beyond her own pain.

The speaker has wanted only quiet and emptiness and is agitated by the presence of the tulips, whose "redness talks to [her] wound" and "weigh [her] down" as she is being "watched" and nearly suffocated ("The vivid tulips eat my oxygen") by them. The tulips, dangerous as "some great African cat," remind the speaker of her heart, a "bowl" that blooms red "out of sheer love of me," and realizes that the tulips call her, ultimately, back to "a country far away as health."

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The Gift

Lee, Li-Young

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator, painlessly removing a splinter from his wife's hand, recalls the scene when he was a boy of seven and his father removed an "iron sliver" splinter from his palm. The father had skillfully distracted his son by telling a story in a voice reassuring and low: "a well / of dark water, a prayer."

Darker themes are alluded to--his father's hands were used not just to give love and protection, but also discipline. The narrator notes that as a boy he did not over-dramatize the scene. Rather, something precious was exchanged between father and son. In fact, it could have appeared to the onlooker that the father was "planting" (rather than removing) "a silver tear, a tiny flame" on his son's palm. The poem ends with the boy holding the removed splinter and kissing his father.

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Listen Carefully

Levine, Philip

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker, a young male, relates how he and his 26 year-old sister live together. They both work; she rises before dawn, he, later, returning home after one a.m. They sleep in the same bed. The sister is an assembly-line worker, skilled at her job, but "let me be frank about this: . . not smart." He helps her with the chores of daily life--answering the mail, cooking (cookbooks are too confusing for her). She has been unlucky with men, some of whom have physically abused her: " I've rubbed / hand cream into the bruises on her shoulders . . . I've even cried / along with her."

There is a fond intimacy between them. But is it sexual? "By now I believe I know / exactly what you're thinking" says the brother, three-quarters of the way through the poem. How could they resist sexual intimacy? His sister is beautiful, he admits to being curious about her body, she is vulnerable and needy. Well, if that is what you think, says the speaker "you're / the one who's wrong. You haven't heard a word." [41 lines]

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X-ray

Abse, Dannie

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This is a poem about the doctor-poet's reluctance to view his own mother's X-ray. Addressing his mother, the doctor describes himself as less daring than Harvey and Freud and other "men who would open anything" to advance medical knowledge. In the poem's last line, as the doctor raises the film to the viewing screen, he resists, complaining "I still don't want to know."

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Arrows

Hoagland, Tony

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Similar in theme to Hoagland's poem, Emigration (see this database), "Arrows" presents us with a series of images that convey what it is to be "a sick person." The poem is divided into three short sections, moving from the generic sick person waking up to face another day, to a first-person parody of Whitman's song of "the body electric" in which the speaker sings "the body like a burnt-out fuse box." Hoagland piles metaphor upon metaphor in a tour de force that evokes sickness. The concluding section, from which the poem takes its name, compares the sick person to a stoic martyred saint--"bristling with arrows"--who has "that ability to say, 'None of this is real' . . . ."

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35/10

Olds, Sharon

Last Updated: Jan-09-2007
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this vanitas poem a mother's brushing of her pubescent daughter's "dark silken hair" becomes an occasion for meditation on the "story of replacement": the child's impending womanhood and her own mortality.

As the speaker's own skin begins to dry, the daughter's "purse" fills with "eggs, round and firm as hard-boiled yolks." The purse, the speaker knows, is about to snap its reproductive clasp. In her child's handheld mirror the biological differences are noted when the narrator observes her graying hair and folds in her neck that are clearly visible.

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Visit

Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee

Last Updated: Jan-08-2007
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This is a five-stanza poem about a daughter's visit to her ill and aging mother on the night before the mother's admission to a nursing home. The daughter is the narrator, but she tells us only so much about the kind of relationship they've had or her mother's present circumstances.

Readers are not sure of the nature of the mother's illness other than incontinence ("I peel off your plastic underwear"), an inability to feed herself ("You part / your lips, obedient to my spoon"), and an inability to speak ("Through the meal I talk and talk / to fill the hollows of your bones / with my futile voice"), but there is evidence that she understands what is going on around her ("Your shame / fills the room, rusty odor / of urine, the stains / down the front of your robe"). The poem ends with the daughter's frustration, resignation, and overwhelming sadness over the next morning's trip to the nursing home, and her own shame that she is unable or unwilling to care for her mother in the same way her mother cared for her aging father ("when your father broke his hip, / you kept him with you? Year after year / cleaned the bedsores opening their mouths / like red flowers?").

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Summary:

As editor Judy Schaefer writes in her introduction, this collection provides "the rare opportunity to read both the poem and the poet's commentary." It is somewhat like a good poetry reading, where we get to hear about the events, thoughts, feelings and contexts that have stimulated the poem. Often the writer's commentaries have a richness of their own, complementing the poetry but not necessary to it. Also the commentaries describe some of the writing process the nurse poets go through in creating the poem. The fourteen nurse poets in this volume have all published their work in journals and anthologies, but this is the first collection to include commentaries along with the poems.

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