Showing 201 - 210 of 298 annotations contributed by Aull, Felice

The Painted Bed

Hall, Donald

Last Updated: Aug-08-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This collection continues the work of mourning that characterized Hall's collection, Without (see this database). Hall's wife, poet Jane Kenyon, died of leukemia in 1995, at age 47. Hall, considerably older than Kenyon, was married to her for more than 20 years; they wrote their poetry at home, in the farm house that he inherited from his family. The painted bed of the book's title is their marriage bed, as well as the sick bed where Hall nursed Kenyon, and the bed in which she died.

The book is divided into four sections. The first is a six-page poem, "Kill the Day," a detailed rendering of the huge absence so present in Hall's daily activities during the month and even years following his wife's death. The poem is rich with expressions of loss and the daily effort to continue living, and, as time passes, the need to remember a fading presence. "When she died, at first the outline of absence defined / a presence that disappeared." "There was nothing to do, and nothing required doing." " . . . her pheromones diminished. / The negative space of her body dwindled as she receded . . . ."

The second section, "Deathwork," is a series of short poems about the final period before Kenyon died--during which Hall and Kenyon both knew that she was dying--the period after her death, Hall's recollections of earlier times together, the painful process of disposing of Kenyon's belongings ("Throwing the Things Away"), of letting her garden go untended, of "letting go" ("Her Garden," "The Wish"). There are many striking lines: "You think that their / dying is the worst / thing that could happen. / Then they stay dead." ("Distressed Haiku") "Now I no longer . . . call her 'you' / in a poem" ("Ardor"), and, indeed, Hall in this book refers to his dead wife as "she," and "Jane," in contrast to the direct address he used in Without.

Section 3, "Daylilies," is a long (13 page) chronicle of life in the family farm house, reflecting back to Hall's childhood and moving forward to his adult ownership of the house. This poem evokes the life cycles of nature, the march of generations, the repetition of birth and death, the farm house in New Hampshire as a microcosm of the universe, and seems to mark the beginning, in Hall, of some renewed joy in life. In the final section, "Ardor," Hall writes of re-awakened sexuality.

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Our Parents

Dunn, Stephen

Last Updated: Aug-01-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this poem, dedicated to his brother, Stephen Dunn reflects back on childhood (and childish) parent-child relationships. The first stanza concerns the dead and the stories that keep them alive: parents who "died at least twice, / the second time when we forgot their stories . . . " The transitional second stanza asks, "what is the past if not unfinished work," prefacing the last stanza, in which the adult poet recognizes how self centered children are--"the only needy people on earth"--and wonders what his parents "must have wanted . . . back from us." But, he concludes, "We know what it is, don't we? / We've been alive long enough."

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The Heavenly Ladder

Coulehan, Jack

Last Updated: May-02-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The Heavenly Ladder is physician-poet Jack Coulehan's most recent chapbook, bringing together 48 poems, many of which have been published individually in various medical journals and literary magazines. The collection is divided into four sections.

Poems in the first section, "Medicine Stone," are written in the voice of patients or in the voice of the physician who treats them. The second section, "So Many Remedies," consists of five poems inspired by physician-author Chekhov. The poems of "The Illuminated Text" section reflect a wide-ranging interest in people who lived in distant times or in distant places. The final section, "Don't Be Afraid, Gringo," stays, for the most part, closer to home and includes a number of poems addressed to, or about, family members.

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The Bean Eaters

Brooks, Gwendolyn

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Chen, Irene
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem recounts how an elderly couple maintain their existence. Although they "eat beans mostly" and "dinner is a casual affair," dining is accompanied by rich and flavorful memories of the past.

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What the Doctor Said

Carver, Raymond

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
Chen, Irene

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry — Secondary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Words rushing forth in a punctuationless stream, a patient describes how his doctor gives him the bad news of advanced lung cancer, and his reaction to it. There is an almost comical aspect as the doctor struggles to be both factual and sympathetic, and the patient struggles to absorb what he is being told. The doctor asks if the patient is able to find comfort and "understanding" from religion (since, apparently, he is unable to provide them). This triggers a brief poetic flight of fancy in the patient, but then he departs in a state of dazed politeness.

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The Cancer Match

Dickey, James

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Chen, Irene
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator is a patient with advanced cancer who has come home from the hospital after being told that "medicine has no hope." Yet, for one night, he strives to overcome his cancer with drink, his "Basic Life Force," and hope.

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Annotated by:
Chen, Irene
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This is a description of the last moments of the narrator's ailing grandmother. She is "wrinkled and nearly blind," and protests cantankerously as the ambulance speeds her towards the hospital. However, in a sudden change of character, her last words express how tired she is of looking at the passing trees; her loss of interest in the view parallels her loss of interest in life.

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Talking to Grief

Levertov, Denise

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Grief is addressed as a dog who makes the transition from homelessness to acceptance as an integral part of the household. Told in the first person, the poem expresses the narrator's recognition that grief should not be slighted from "the back door," but must be trusted, "coax[ed] . . . into the house," and fully integrated with the self "before winter comes."

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The Use of Force

Williams, William Carlos

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A physician is summoned to make a housecall on a family with whom he has had no prior contact. He quickly sizes up the situation: the household is poor but clean; the patient is a female child whose parents are nervously concerned, dependent on, yet distrustful of the doctor. The child's beauty and penetrating stare make an immediate impression on him.

Concerned that diphtheria may be the cause of illness, he uses his customary professional manner to determine whether or not the child has a sore throat. But the child will have none of it and "clawed instinctively for my eyes." The attempt at an examination rapidly escalates into a physical "battle" as the physician, convinced that it is crucial to see the child's throat "and feeling that I must get a diagnosis now or never," becomes ever more enraged and forceful while the girl continues to resist with all her strength, and the parents are in an agony of fear for her health and embarrassment over her behavior.

This is no longer a professional encounter. The doctor admits at the beginning of the struggle to having "fallen in love with the savage brat" and recognizes that he is behaving irrationally. The closing sequence could as easily be depicting a rape as a forced throat examination.

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Washing Your Feet

Ciardi, John

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

From the mundane to the profound, from the body as physical preoccupation to the body as sacred, the poet explores in 21 highly personalized lines the significance and symbolism of the human body. Washing your feet without giving it a thought means you are in good health; struggling to do it because of overweight is a reminder of mortality. This (any) physical act "should be ritual . . . memorial, meditative, immortal." It conjures up an image of the Degas ballet dancers washing their feet, and then, remarkably, that " . . . they also seemed to be washing God’s feet."

But the creative power of Degas is yet another reminder of the author’s limitations. He is vulnerable, mortal and not creative enough to gain immortality by producing a masterpiece: "It is sad to be naked and to lack talent."

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