Zumwalt Poems Online

Journal for Poetry Challenge #7

DAY 1: Jan, 1, 2012

Her Kind by Anne Sexton

Poems sometimes are created in one session, but most of the great ones, take many drafts.   It has been noted that this poem took 19 drafts over the course of a week  but before those 19 drafts this existed as another poem, one sent numerous times to be published, each time being rejected.

This finished, final version, is a poem of the highest order — universal in subject matter.  All of us assume roles, do things we are ashamed of — and things that we are enormously proud of.  This poem address how we act and how we are perceived by ourselves and others.

We have all been witches, stronger in bold actions of evil then we can easily own up to, skirting the boundaries between sane action and insane behavior, not quite human in one sense — yet this is the human condition.

We have all been the creative artist and visionary — providing fare only attractive to worms (like those that fed on our body after death) and elves.  This person is generally misunderstood displaying that spirit which over and over ensures the survival of the human species.

We have all been the martyr like Ms. Sexton’s Joan of Arc, burned at the stake, tortured yet fighting for that most important cause — not willing or even able to deny that which we know is true.  We are not ashamed to die for such causes — yet all of us fear death even if we bring it about ourselves.

Anne Sexton was a sufferer of mental illness, taking up poetry at the age of 27 as a means of therapy after a serious emotional breakdown.  Her ability to honestly examine her condition and express herself contributes to her poetry sometimes being referred to as “confessional.”  Yet, as true at this insight is into her own past behavior, it applies broadly to all of us and to the history of humankind.

Please visit the link above to hear a recording of a reading of the text by Anne Sexton.

DAY 2: Jan 2, 2012

Medusa by Louise Bogan

A great loss or other great tragedy, may freeze a moment in time forever — and, in a sense, that person affected by that event is frozen in that moment forever.  Louise Bogan leverages the myth of Medusa to create a haunting representation of the event frozen in time along with the viewer.

Two things strike me as particularly interesting here.  This is not a living Medusa, but a severed head here (“held up at a window.”)  In addition, this structure of this poem appears to be crafted to support the subject matter of the poem — note how the poet extends the second stanza — delaying the resolution (rhyme), extending time.  Also note the use of syllables, meter and use of rhythm.

Please visit the link above to hear a recording of a reading of the text by Louise Bogan.

DAY 3: Jan 3, 2012

Sojourn in the whale by Marianne Moore

After reading this wonderfully written poem, my first impression is that this is auto-biographical  — Ms. Moore sees herself as the inspired artist in an unartistic world, using Ireland and its neighbors as the metaphor.

The title is particularly important to understanding the entire richness of this work and not just seeing this as a poem about Ireland or even Marianne Moore.

Jonah is saved from drowning in tempestuous seas by a great sea monster, that in modern times, is generally identified as a whale.

Being swallowed by a whale is a common metaphor for a descent into the unconscious — and is also a metaphor for calmness with resulting increased understanding.  Similarly, the whale represents one’s intuitive self and awareness. Thus a soujourn in the whale could be a time of revelation or inspiration.

Being swallowed by a whale also represents being overwhelmed  — much in the way Ireland was surrounded by more powerful nations — nations that had mastered the sea. (“”swallowed by the opaqueness of one whom the seas
love better than they love you…”)

Additional, a whale may symbolize feminity (“There is a feminine temperament in direct contrast to ours, which makes her do these things. “)

The title, for me, is the author’s brilliant means of providing the reader with an understanding of the depth and significance of this work.  It is at one level about Ireland, at another level about the poet and her struggles to make her name and, at still another level, most importantly about the struggle of women for recognition by men as their equals.

DAY 4: Jan 3, 2012

Saturday’s Child by Countee Cullen

Simply, yet effectively, Countee Cullen, one of the better known poets of the Harlem Rennaissance, captures the difference between have and have not: the differences between class and economic levels.

I don’t see any deeper meaning to the poem beyond its surface content. That content though can be readily generalized to pertain to all social and economic equalities and injustice.  That itself is pretty broad and pretty important and makes this, like many of Cullen’s works, timeless and still relevant even when, finally, the myth of racial classification has been completely discarded by everyone in all walks of life and in all parts of the world.

DAY 5: Jan 5, 2012

Of Many Worlds In this World by Margaret Cavendish

Although the science is outdated (four elements, atoms in the Democritus sense), the vision is timeless and aligns nicely with concepts of hidden dimensions, branes and parallel universes.  That poet’s point, which holds up just as well 350 years later, is that nature is ingenious and amazingly imagninative  (“curious” as used here means basically that) and that we should glory in the wonders around us, whether perceived or an imagined possibility (whether supported by mathematics or not!)

I always delight in poems in which the meaning is supported by the implemented form.  The first six lines are unrelenting iambic pentameter — but we get a little bump in the road with “Nature is curious, and such works may shape” — “Nature” being more or less a trochee (long-short) and the line not ten syllables but eleven.)  The poem then continues to go back to unstoppable iambic pentameter with the remaining lines, with the only hint of deviation, appropriately being in “For, millions of those atoms may be in” — emphasizing “millions” — an amount we often take for granted by seeing it in print and in figures, but really, an incredibly large amount.  Ms. Cavendish clearly indicates with that comma she places that  we can’t force read the first two syllables as an iamb.  The comma is not required grammatically and I imagine lesser poets may have tried to make this whole poem nothing but iambic pentameter losing the opportunity for creating special metrical moments that add special interest to this imaginative poem.

The first eight lines are couplets, the last in an ABAACCBB rhyme pattern which nicely traps the line “If every one a creature’s figure bear” between the “be”, “see” and “be” implying a world within each world.

DAY 6: Jan 6, 2012

Dirge by Kenneth Fearing

I think this is best read out loud and very slowly:

1                2             3             was    the  num-ber  he  played         but   to-day   the  num-ber  came     3              2               1;

And so on.  This is really a dirge and needs to proceed at a very slow march-like pace.

Reading this I recall song lyrics like Paul Simon’s “Richard Cory” (based on Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem) and Greg Lake’s “Lucky Man”  — except this is much darker.  Not clear if the subject of the poem died of old age or took his own life, but certainly met with tragedy before the end — perhaps “twelve o’clock arrived too soon” — means that he owed money and it was due before he was ready — perhaps something like a large margin call appropriate if this is for the start of the Great Depression.  Perhaps “took one long look, drew one deep breath, just one too many” refers to taking one too many investment chances.

This is such a musical poem.  The reading below goes much faster than I think this should go, but who knows?   Still a very beautiful reading of a very musical, effective poem:


DAY 7: Jan 7, 2012

Epilogue By Robert Lowell

The painter is not a photographer, the painter reaches beyond reality.    And, the speaker (persona) of this poem appears to decry those times when “everything I write … seems a snapshot.”  But, as if upon reflection, then asks why is that not okay?  Why not capture what happened and as accurately as possible.  We are just here in passing and ultimately captured simply as facts — that is all that will remain of us.

We are imaginative and visionaries — dreaming up new realities.  Nonetheless, we also see truth, uncompromisingly uncovering facts to put together, as best we can, a reliable picture of the reality we currently reside in.

DAY 8: Jan 8, 2012

Thirst by Genevieve Taggard

Does thirst represent necessity or more something like yearning or desire? When we think of thirst we think of the thirst for knowledge.  Is this meant?

The bat is a symbol of the explorer and also represents birth and rebirth. Maybe this poem is simply about our thirst to explore even at great danger to ourselves.  Maybe the poem goes further making a statement about our presence in this physical realm.

DAY 9: Jan 8, 2012

Escape by  Elinor Morton Wylie  

The persona of this poem, seems willing to put up a fight except when all is clearly lost — the fox has eaten the last gold grape, the last white antelope is killed — at which point she just wants to escape, shrinking to fairy sides, perhaps with magical powers — living in a house safe from intruders than might seek her.   And if one does seek her, they won’t getoff easy, for when blindly reaching for her, one will end up grabbing a nest of wasps.

DAY 10: Jan 8, 2012

Typhoon by Amelia Josephine Burr

Let’s not try to rekindle that moment of passion and let’s not deny it — like a momentary storm it occurred, perhaps unexpectedly and is gone.

Is there more here?  Perhaps the title of Typhoon, indicates that this was not without consequences.  And perhaps this representation of desire, is meant to be applied more generally.

This is a musical poem with a rhyme patter on ABCCAB and more-or-less iambic pentameter in those first five lines.  That sixth line, though, stands out, the partial line seving to underscore its importance and effectively emphasizing “was.”

DAY 10: Jan 26, 2012

Doppelte Nationaltätsmoral/Dual Nationality: A Moral Tale by Zehra Çirac

Zehra Çirak was born in Turkey in 1961 and moved with her family to Germany in 1963.  Link to poem above includes original German and also an English translation.

The socks are the inner layer (Turkish) and the shoes more exterior and what comes in contact with the outside world (walking surface.) To many, the Turkish upbringing is warm and the German life colder, but to others dual cultural influences are problematic in a life as short as a shoelace. Either way such a double cultural existence is like walking on hot coals.

DAY 11: Jan 26, 2012

Very jazzy and beat-like poetry wonderful use of repetition.  “My mind is fingers holding a pen.” is a great line and given its own stanza.

Author controls flow of poen via rhythm and use of accented single syllables either in a series “Jim, Tom, Emmet, Bill” or at the start of a line “Trees, Hawks”  Very musical poem with phrases like “memories make movies” and “dust of the desert.”  Perhaps the observations in the poem occurred while under the influence of something more than traveling down the highway in a moving car.

DAY 12: Jan 26, 2012

 Developers By Alice Lyons

Social commentary about how the obsession with expansion and wanting more (“Greed” is emphasized in the long-short-long-short….-long meter in the first line) has affected our relationship with others (referencing the “Other/Alterity” philosophy of Levinas) and with nature (where the pavement runs out is just another opportunity for further development.)  We are alienated from each other (doors constructed but unrung doorbells) and nature, and, inevitably, per Levinas, from  ourselves.

DAY 13: Jan 26, 2012

To Poems By Arseny Tarkovsky

The poems of the earth are its human inhabitants — the poet here creating a parallel between the earth and the poet.   The poem is rich in meter and in rhymes (proud/loud) and partial rhymes (chance/grass) — how much of this is translator-related is unclear without access to the original and an ability to read the original.


Comments on: "Journal for Poetry Challenge #7" (10)

  1. Confessional Poetry – a Confessional Life …. That’s courage .
    I have always Loved Her . For Her Vision and as You wrote “Joan of Arc” – ness ……..
    It’s Not Always Love and flowers in This Life ! It takes a brave soul To examine it all ….
    I love Peter Gabriel’s homage/ song to her – “Mercy Street ”

    all the True artists i know personally are wounded birds in some way shape or form – but they make do ….. and they keep going until The end .
    Cat x


  2. Cat,

    Thanks for the video! Didn’t know that Gabriel had written a song concerning Anne Sexton.

    This spurred me to take a look at this poem referenced in the lyrics: http://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/anne-sexton/rowing/

    Pretty amazing poem, also!


  3. Love that poem —— Yeah —- Peter Gabriel just did a new version of it as well – “New Blood ” Fully Orchestrated ! i think – rather feel quite miraculous 🙂 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCSwVoJzm0M love the cello !!!!!
    best xx Cat


  4. Regarding Anne Sexton, she was simply writing from a little further along the spectrum of mental disarrangements than many us. We ALL encounter life in varying portions of her illness. Therefore, her work is universal. And the analysis of Ms. Moore’s whale poem is topnotch. I had not thought of the feminine implications, but I agree upon reflection. Of course, Countee is always wonderful–a joy!


  5. enjoyed esp. the part about anne sexton.. and i really think that poetry is a great therapy..lots of things i write are some kind of therapy for me..helps sorting things out..


  6. claudia,

    Thanks much!


  7. I would like to participate in the challenge of a week entry of a poem which I like. Please let me know where to post them.


  8. this is an amazing attempt, will have to come back with time and mood to read the poems. i have become bit lazy these days 🙂

    Thanks for picking up and bringing the poems together for those who love poetry but are too lazy to search for creme de la creme among so many of them.


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