Showing 511 - 520 of 721 Poetry annotations

Geriatric

Thomas, R. S. (Ronald Stuart)

Last Updated: Jul-05-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet contemplates (metaphorically) an abandoned, overgrown garden. "What god is proud / of this garden / of dead flowers, this underwater / grotto of humanity?" he asks. He sees limbs waving, faces drooping, and voices clawing. He recognizes great medical figures like Charcot and Alzheimer. There are no gardeners. As he turns away, he tries to take solace in the thought that somewhere "there is another / garden, all dew and fragrance." [30 lines]

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This To Do

Thomas, R. S. (Ronald Stuart)

Last Updated: Jul-05-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

I have this that I must do / One day." I must take the last step, go down into the "green darkness," and find the "door to myself." There is no map, no assurance, and no way of avoiding the final plunge into darkness.

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Epidermal Macabre

Roethke, Theodore

Last Updated: Jun-28-1999
Annotated by:
Terry, James

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In rhyming couplets, the author describes his loathing for his body--his "fleshy clothes" and his "epidermal dress"--and describes wanting to dispense with "the rags of my anatomy" to become pure sense or spirit. The difficulty, of course, is imagining oneself without a body, so that Roethke is forced to close with his ideal of being "a most / incarnadine and carnal ghost."

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The Dawn Appears with Butterflies

Harjo, Joy

Last Updated: Jun-28-1999
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A young husband has died suddenly (has abandoned his wife "to the grace we pursue as wild horses in the wind") and his widow prepares his body for a dawn burial. The widow's friend tells the story in this prose poem, figuring life as a "gradual return to the maker of butterflies." The two women share a joke about burying the husband in "the shirt you always wanted him to wear, a shirt he hated." The speaker affirms that "we are all dying together, though there is nothing like the loneliness of being the first or the last."

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Three Women

Plath, Sylvia

Last Updated: May-31-1999
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This is a long poem, subtitled "A Poem for Three Voices," and originally written for radio broadcast. It consists of three intertwining interior monologues, contextualized by a dramatic setting: "A Maternity Ward and round about." The three women of the title are patients, and each describes a different experience.

The First Voice is a (presumably) married woman who gives birth and takes her baby home during the course of the poem. The Second, a secretary, has a miscarriage, not her first, and the Third, a college student, gives birth after an unwanted pregnancy, and gives the baby up for adoption.

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Chekhov on Sakhalin

Heaney, Seamus

Last Updated: May-11-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The 30 year old Anton Chekhov, determined to pay his "debt to medicine," sets off from civilized Russia to investigate the prison colonies on Sakhalin Island, off the east coast of Siberia. (See Chekhov's A Journey to Sakhalin, annotated in this database.) In the poem Chekhov stands at the rail of a steamer on Lake Baikal and downs a jigger of cognac, then smashes the glass on the rocks. "In the months to come / It rang on like the burden of his freedom / To try for the right tone--not tract, not thesis--"

In his attempt "to squeeze / His slave's blood out" (Chekhov was the grandson of serfs), he spent the next several months feverishly documenting the conditions on Sakhalin. Subsequently, he spent several years trying to express his experience in writing.

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Fever

Hughes, Ted

Last Updated: May-11-1999
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem is one in a series written by Ted Hughes, addressing his wife, the American poet Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963. Here, the speaker recalls a time when he and his wife were living in Spain, and she became ill: "You lay helpless and a little bit crazy / With the fever." For Plath, the illness seems intolerable. She whispers, "Help me" to her husband, "crie[s] out for America," and sobs "I am going to die." He takes care of her, feeling as if he is "a nursemaid" or "suddenly mother." He cooks soup and spoon feeds her.

What worries him, though, is her reaction to being ill. He wonders whether she's exaggerating, and fears that if she treats a fever as if it were "the most impossible / Of all horrible things," then how will she be "when things get really bad"? He feels himself withdraw his sympathy for her, but then he recognizes what he calls "the overload"--a bluntedness which he likens to "the callous / That eases overwhelmed doctors."

The end of the poem is ambiguous: both he and his wife are overloaded; where her response is (hyper?) sensitivity, his is anesthesia. He continues to feed her the soup. (67 lines)

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The Tender Place

Hughes, Ted

Last Updated: May-11-1999
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem is one in a series written by Ted Hughes, addressing his wife, Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963. After her first suicide attempt, and before she met Hughes, Plath was given electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depression (see Plath's novel The Bell Jar for her own description of this). In this poem, Hughes contemplates the mechanics and symbolism of what seems so brutal and elemental a treatment.

He focuses on the fragility and beauty of her body--"Your temples, where the hair crowded in, / Were the tender place"--and then makes us imagine the effect of electrodes there, in ever more shocking images: "They crashed / The thunderbolt into your skull," "They dropped you / A rigid bit of bent wire / Across the Boston City grid." He then suggests that there is a link between this treatment and the kind of poet she became: her "voice" was scarred and "over-exposed / Like an x-ray," and when her words returned they were distorted and vulnerable, "Faces reversed from the light / Holding in their entrails." (38 lines)

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Rhymes of a Red Cross Man

Service, Robert

Last Updated: Mar-14-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is a collection of poems based on Robert Service’s experience as a Red Cross ambulance driver in France during World War I. The book begins with the patriotic call to war: "High and low, all must go: / Hark to the shout of War!" Some of the volunteers never come back (e.g. "The Fool," "Our Hero," and "My Mate"). Others are severely wounded (e.g. "The Convalescent" and "Wounded").

Many of the narrators express their love of home, family, and especially their fellow soldiers (e.g. "The Man From Athabaska," "Carry On," and "Bill the Bomber"). Only a small number of these poems evoke specifically Red Cross work. One of these is "The Odyssey of ’Erbert ’Iggins," in which two medics carry the wounded from the battlefield. Another is "The Stretcher Bearer," in which the narrator is unable to clean a blood stain from his stretcher and wonders, "if in ’Eaven’s height, / Our God don’t turn away ’Is Face."

Throughout the collection there is evidence of ambivalence toward the individual German soldier. In some moments he is "Only a Boche" (or Hun) who has killed the soldier’s buddies, but in other moments the narrators reflect that their opponents are also ordinary men, sons and fathers, who love their families.

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Exit

Abse, Dannie

Last Updated: Feb-19-1999
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poet stands by the bed of his afflicted mother "as my colleague prepares the syringe." His mother's right hand is still moving, but her left hand is "suspiciously still." He thinks of Death's "random, katabolic ways: / merciful sometimes, precise, but often / wild as delirium."

Various images of suffering rise in his mind--a botched suicide, a victim of war, David and Bathsheba, out of whose suffering came forth "the wise child, the Solomon." But, he asks, "what will spring from this / unredeemed, needless degradation, / this concentration camp for one?" The colleague injects the medication, while Death victoriously holds the poet's mother's left hand and "I continue uselessly / to hold the other."

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