Zumwalt Poems Online

Example Response to Poetry Challenge #7

Journal for Poetry  Challenge #7


DAY 1: Jan, 1, 2012

The Snowman by Wallace Stevens

The essence of existence: this is the essence of this poem.   By providing one long sentence that one must carefully navigate Stevens provides the best structure to support the meaning — we must have the right neutral outlook to see the true actuality — but without a viewpoint, we not only stop seeing what we normally impose on our perception, but we stop seeing.  A paradoxical poem, that truly sums up our place in the physical universe.


DAY 2: Jan, 2, 2012

Memory of Sun by Anna Akhmatova

Akhmatova nicely captures that deep sense of that terrible loss that leaves one feeling empty and dead. “Memory of sun seeps from the heart”, “Nothing at all will happen here again.”   Is this the loss of  an unborn child the persona had been carrying?  Perhaps she was going to marry the man being spoken to in the poem, but this didn’t occur due to the miscarriage?  Perhaps she can never have a child again.  Dismal and dark, there is no glimmer of hope here.


DAY 3: Jan, 3, 2012 

Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer 

 This is a poem first heard in my childhood — the teacher reading us the text.  It was confusing from the start (hearing that Cooney died and then realizing it wasn’t that he actually died but was tagged at first) and there were many words I didn’t know — but the musicality was amazing and I loved each and every rhyme.

What impressed me the most was the ending — it wasn’t a happy ending — and it clearly sent a message about overconfidence.  At the time I was stunned  — this was not the outcome I had been expecting.  

The richness of the ending stuck with me for days.  And then whenever I heard about baseball or poetry I thought about this poem — and the many messages that were implied including “one doesn’t always get what they want”, “don’t be so sure of yourself that you pass up opportunities” and most of all “put defeat in perspective — this was just a baseball game.”

DAY 4: Jan, 4, 2012

Tell all the Truth  by Emily Dickenson

In 1977, I was looking for a poem to set to music for my Music Bachelor Degree composition recital.  This poem was perfect due to its layers of meaning (is it just guidance on how to create a poem — or more?) and the many opportunity for tone painting (emphasizing or representing the meaning of given words or phrases with appropriate notes, rhythms, musical effects or musical phrases.) 

I was enamoured by Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” and mimicked his style to some degree but tried my best to underscore the message of the poem.  The amazing thing is that each line can be painted beautifully outside of the context of the poem — but one must balance that against achieving a unified musical message to support the text.

Well, the music is long lost and forgotten, but I still love this poem dearly.


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