Showing 211 - 220 of 729 Poetry annotations
Summary:In the heart of New York City the narrator comes across a tall, Senegalese man "speaking to a piece of chalk." The man is "neatly dressed / in the remnants of two blue suits . . . " and regal in his bearing. The man’s language is French, and he speaks "so slowly and precisely" that the narrator, no longer young, is reminded of his high school French class. He is also reminded of writing his name on the blackboard after returning to school, following his father’s death. The man knows "the whole history of chalk"; he knows "what creatures had given / their spines to become the dust time / pressed into these perfect cones . . . " The narrator knows that they are both elderly men "sharing the final poem of chalk . . . " [58 lines]
The speaker of this poem undergoes surgery for some kind of abdominal cancer--the important detail being that her mother had recently gone through the same experience and died several months later. A number of images convey the strangeness and alienation of serious illness. The mother’s cancer is an "embryo of evil" that curiously grew inside her like her own daughter (the speaker). The hospital room is the place "where the snoring mouth gapes / and is not dear."
And at her mother’s bedside the speaker finds that she must "lie / as all who love have lied." Her body hair shaved for her own operation, the speaker finds important values have been stripped away: "All that was special, all that was rare / is common here. /. . . Fact: the body is dumb, the body is meat." Coming out from under anesthesia, the speaker calls for her mother.
Later she realizes that, unlike her mother, she will probably survive. The last lines are comic in a self-deflating way, as the speaker gives herself get-back-to-life marching orders partly in the voice of her mother, concluding: "and run along, Anne, run along now / my stomach laced up like a football / for the game." (About 120 lines, in 6- and 9-line stanzas)
Editor Chip Spann created this anthology as part of his Ph.D. dissertation in creative writing. The poems were selected because Spann hopes they "can be a comfort to the sick and a rabble-rouser for those who work at getting well" (5). The book’s 234 poems have been organized into seven sections, each section named with a phrase from one of the poems contained therein. Each section is prefaced by an introduction that focuses on Spann’s own journey from a difficult childhood and unanchored young adulthood to his current life in which he is able to combine a love of reading and writing poetry with his background of working with patients in a variety of settings -- he leads a writing group of patients, caregivers, and health professionals at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento, California.
The seven sections concern: the body; illness and life’s journey as quest; "feelings that are screaming to get out"; looking inward at dark truths; reflecting on "early wounds"; finding creative inspiration from unexpected and small things; and "perspectives on death and aging." I counted approximately 80 poets who are represented in this anthology; those with the greatest representation (number of poems) are Raymond Carver, Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickinson, Grace Paley, Muriel Rukeyser, Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi, May Sarton, William Stafford, and May Swenson.
Miss Rosie is homeless, a street person surrounded by her foul-smelling possessions. She is not a stranger to the narrator, who has thought long and hard about her present circumstances and how she might have been long ago before she became a familiar sight in the neighborhood. Now reduced to rags, this "wet brown bag of a woman," says the narrator, once was "the best looking gal in Georgia." The narrator "stand[s] up" for her through her "destruction."
The unrequited love of the narrator is compared to a devastating fever. Reason, "the physician," is ignored and cannot abate the disease. Without reason, madness (fever) reigns; and the poet renounces his beloved as "black as hell, as dark as night."
Swenson’s poems about the body and death express the essential mystery of human experience and of observing the cycles of the natural world. In "Question" she wonders in metaphor about what will become of the Self after death, "when Body my good / bright dog is dead." In "Death, Great Smoothener" Swenson notices the odd roles that the personified death seems to play. In "Feel Me" the poet ponders the curious last words of her dying father, suspecting a considerable indictment of the living by the dying. In "Death Invited" she details the gruesome ending of a bullfight, with death personified by the bull, dragged from the ring only to be replaced by another: "Here comes trotting, snorting death / let loose again."
A poem in a patient’s voice. He brings "a minor issue" to the doctor’s attention, something so trivial he ought not mention it. The doctor sees so many more important problems, like John Butler who "had a terrible / case of prostate cancer." He went downhill so quickly, unlike the patient’s mother who "died of old age / the way it should be, just pooped out . . . . " She didn’t have "the big C." In any case, the patient’s problem "probably / isn’t much of anything. Don’t you agree?"
This poem, written in five sections of free verse, begins with the speaker remembering the old steel bridge he used to drive over on his way to work. He describes how the gaps between the steel beams had given him access to the world beyond the bridge: he had been able to see the river bank and railroad tracks and, most importantly, the people down there, "wild dangerous men" living near the edge of the river.
The poet next describes the new bridge, with its smooth speedy surface and solid concrete sides concealing the view. He then steps back and reflects: "what now?" He compares the engineer making the bridge with his own writing, "diminish[ing] the homeless to a poetic abstraction," and asks where this leaves him. Both bridge and abstraction, he implies, take the life, untidy and dangerous but valuable, out of his experience of crossing the Missouri.
He cannot view the material for his poetry now, unless he were to stop, back up the traffic, and risk his life climbing the walls of the bridge, and even then he does not know what he would say, because the new bridge has made him realize something about himself: "I am partly the leech come to feed, / yet I cannot waver from my groove." As a poet, he needs access to the lives of others, an access he likens to parasitism. But his career, the work to which he is going, requires him to speed on across the bridge without pausing.
He now elaborates on his distance from the world of the homeless people (and, by implication, all the other material for his poetry), saying that he has "safely bled away the guilt, / and pity and compassion," from his involvement or complicity in the meaning of his material, and "channeled it" into the poem. The leech image is now applied to the poem which, once filled with those ambivalent emotions, becomes separate from the poet and attaches itself instead to the reader, who now becomes the one feeding on the "dark spurt of old blood," the horrifying riches of which the speaker has rid himself.
This collection of poetry evolves from one woman’s experience with the discovery of a lump in her breast, the removal of the breast, the assault of follow-up treatment and its impact on her sense of self as well as the relationship with her husband and her environment. The poems are brief, pointed, and deeply reflective of the author’s relationship with her surroundings and her history.
Among the issues the poems most effectively address is that of loss: "I dream of losing / my car, my purse, my period" (from "On First Learning of the Lump"); and "The world’s not keeping things safe / The world’s taking away what I want" (from "What I Want"); and "You believed your dead body / would have all its fingers / all its knowledge" (from "Apologia").
The author also speaks to the importance of breasts ("Terrain") as an integral part of who she is, and the memories of times past in which she was whole as one with nature ("Bird Feeder," "Pine Forest," "Peonies").
The speaker is a boy away at school when the news comes that his four year old brother has been killed in an accident. Arriving home, "I met my father crying . . . " The boy is "embarrassed / By old men standing up to shake my hand / And tell me they were ’sorry for my trouble.’" The next morning the boy goes upstairs to see his brother lying "in the four foot box as in his cot." [22 lines]