Showing 221 - 230 of 483 annotations in the genre "Poem"

Mnemonic

Lee, Li-Young

Last Updated: Aug-17-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker recalls his need to call forth a "slender memory" of his father. This memory from childhood is both "painful" and "sweet." In contrast to his father, who, as a political prisoner had devised complex mnemonics, the speaker has a haphazard memory. But is it his memory, or what he recalls that is "illogical"? "My father loved me. So he spanked me. / It hurt him to do so. He did it daily." The speaker remembers, also, how his father protectively wrapped him in his own sweater to shield him from cold. Years later, the speaker wears the sweater.

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The Death of a Parent

Pastan, Linda

Last Updated: Aug-17-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A succinct poem [29 lines] that captures the essence of the position in which one finds oneself after a parent, or both parents, have died. Full of evocative phrases, this poem is less about grief than it is about awareness of adult responsibility and one's own future demise: "there is nobody / left standing between you / and the world . . . ."

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Beginning with its epigraph ("Some patients who have been resuscitated request that they not be rescued should they die again"), this poem explores several points along the boundary between life and death. The male subject is giving mouth-to-mouth artificial respiration to a female training dummy with "an ample chest."

After a while he notices the similarity of his motions to those of "the little death" (a euphemism for sexual climax). For all that, he tires and "she" "dies"--i.e., the tape (a cardiogram?) issuing from her side stops unwinding. When he tries to get up, he discovers that his leg is asleep, which prompts a final musing on the experience of being just about to die.

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A Winter Visit

Abse, Dannie

Last Updated: Aug-17-2001
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet-doctor-son takes his ninety-year-old mother for a walk through the park on a cold winter day. He cites the peacock as an emblem of life-spirit, but she responds by talking about dying, saying: "This winter I'm half dead, son." He wants to weep, but does not allow himself to, because he "inhabit[s] a white coat." He avoids the issue by speaking of "small, approximate things."

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Not Beautiful

Abse, Dannie

Last Updated: Aug-17-2001
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The doctor-speaker sets himself against "saintly" people who always "find the beautiful" in death and disasters. Allowing their "good point," he sides with the view that such things are "not beautiful." He ends with a strongly worded paradox: "[S]ometimes, I think that to curse is more sacred / than to pretend by affirming. And offend."

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Out of the Bag

Heaney, Seamus

Last Updated: Aug-14-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet conjures up the image of the doctor who delivered him and his siblings ("All of us came in Doctor Kerlin's bag"), the doctor who arrived at the house in his fur-lined coat and ascended to his mother's bedroom, and later came down and arranged the instruments in his bag (a "plump ark"), which by that point was otherwise empty. In the boy's fantasy, Doctor Kerlin's small eyes were "peepholes into a locked room," in which were strung "the little pendant infant parts / . . . neatly from a line up near the ceiling-- / a toe, a foot and shin, an arm, a cock."

On a visit to the ruined temple of Asclepius, the god of healing, the poet finds himself remembering Doctor Kerlin, and also the incident when, as an altar boy, he fainted during a procession at the healing shrine of Lourdes in 1956. Now many years later, he pulls up some tufts of grass from around the temple and sends them to friends suffering from cancer. He remembers entering the bedroom after Doctor Kerlin left, his mother on the bed asking, "And what do you think / Of the new wee baby the doctor brought for us all / When I was asleep?" [94 lines]

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Kaddish

Ginsberg, Allen

Last Updated: Aug-09-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Dedicated to the poet's mother, Naomi Ginsberg, the poem is a narration and a lament arising from Ginsberg's memories, three years after Naomi's death, of her life and of his life with her. This long poem is subdivided into 5 sections that address the dead woman directly.

The highly poetic Part I is a reflection on death, life ["all the accumulations of life, that wear us out" (p. 11)], mortality, the link between the dead and the living, the great unknown that lies beyond death--not in the abstract, but in the signs and symbols of Naomi's life/death and in the issues that remain for her son: "Now I've got to cut through--to talk to you / --as I didn't when you had a mouth." (p. 11)

Part II is a long narration of Naomi's life story, especially the history of her mental illness and of the role it imposed on Ginsberg himself. Ginsberg "was only 12" when he brought his mother to what was intended as a rest cure; instead, she became psychotic and was hospitalized, leaving Ginsberg with an everlasting sense of guilt. Separated from her husband, Naomi spent years of paranoia in chaos and institutionalization; son Allen vacillated between pity, disgust, escape in travel, and (homo)sexual exploration.

At the last meeting with his mother, in a mental hospital, she didn't recognize him. While living in San Francisco, two days after Naomi died, he received a letter from her: "Strange Prophesies anew! She wrote--'The key is in / the window, the key is in the sunlight at the window--I have / the key--Get married Allen don't take drugs . . . .' " (p. 31)

These passages give a vivid sense of mental disease and its impact on the family. Ginsberg is not self-pitying or self-indulgent in his description of the illness that laid siege to his mother's life and which so strongly influenced his own life for years. Modestly, he inserts: "I was in bughouse that year 8 months--my own visions unmentioned in this here Lament--" (p. 25)

The brief "Hymnn," is a blessing: "Blessed be you Naomi in Hospitals! Blessed be you Naomi in solitude! Blest be your triumph! . . . Blest be your last year's loneliness!" Part III (one page long) is a short recapitulation of Naomi's life, and uses her own cryptic words to try to make sense out of her life as well as of all life and death: "But that the key should be left behind--at the window . . . to the living . . . that can . . . look back see / Creation glistening backwards to the same grave . . . ." (p. 33)

Part IV, a chant, reaches beyond the personal to social history: "O mother / what have I left out"; (p. 34) "with your eyes of shock / with your eyes of lobotomy; " "farewell / with Communist party and a broken stocking"; "with your eyes of Czechoslovakia attacked by robots . . . ." (p. 35) Ending with the short part V, Ginsberg cries out to the shrieking crows circling in the sky above His mother's grave, "Lord Lord O Grinder of giant Beyonds my voice in a boundless / field in Sheol" (p.36) [Sheol is a Hebrew word meaning "the abode of death."]

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Pityriasis Rosea

Plumly, Stanley

Last Updated: Aug-09-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

What can the poet discover in the rash of pityriasis rosea? "We say the blood rose, meaning it came to the surface / like a bruise . . . " He plays with several meanings, considering the possibilities of the size and shape of the pityriasis lesions; "the sickle, the scythe in the blood," for example, or "the ash after sex," or "the raw rose on the back of my hand." [28 lines]

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Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Using direct address the speaker has been reading the newspaper and begins the poem, "Already you’re on Page 8," to signify the ease with which "that large animal The Public General" forgets such a horror as the beating death of the little girl, Elizabeth Steinberg. The speaker asks who will remember the child, "or consider the big fists breaking your little bones, / or consider the vague bureaucrats / stumbling, fumbling through Paper."

The speaker ruminates on why she is "sick" when she thinks of her, telling her that "We cannot help you," but that "If you are Somewhere, and sentient, / be comforted, little spirit" because she helps "us begin to hear the scream out of the twisted mouth." Elizabeth’s death will motivate the community, the speaker insists (hopes?), to "stomp into the Horror Houses, / invade the caves of the monsters."

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Complaint

Williams, William Carlos

Last Updated: Jul-05-2001
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrator describes a housecall to a woman in labor. It is past midnight in winter time when the road is frozen. The doctor enters the house where the "great woman" is in misery; she is "sick," "perhaps vomiting," about to give birth to her tenth child. He exclaims to the reader "Joy! Joy!" knowing that the situation is as bleak as the wintry landscape, and, in fact, joyless. He will offer compassion and "pick the hair from her eyes."

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