Late Valentine

Late Valentine
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Dean Young is an American contemporary poet that has humor filled poems that are actually quite deep and sad. In his book “Fall Higher” he writes many poems that are filled with humor but hit deep depressing issues. Although his poems may be sad, a lot of them are realistic.

The first poem I looked at what “Commencement Address”. This poem is quite powerful. The word commencement means the beginning or start of something. From the title, it may lead on the point that there is a start of something new and refreshing, but that is not the case. The opening line starts off by saying “I love you for shattering. Someone has to.” This line is very powerful because it tries to get at the point that a person can be ignorant, but it takes one person to expose them to the truth, hence the beginning, or rebirth of their life. That person will now look at life differently because all the lies will be exposed, all the alternative motives will be rid of their invisible cloak. Through out this poem, Young goes through many situations people face through their lives. One example he says is that some people have to change dirty sheets room after room. He could be talking about hotels, motels, hospitals, nursing homes, and etc. Another example he talks about is returning from the dance floor to drink more alcohol. Young then continues to state that you have been angels from God, just not very good ones. What I take from this poem is that, what is the point of all of this? Why do we need to do all these things, and why are only some people doing terrible tasks, while some people are enjoying life carefree? Young ends the poem by saying “There’s nothing left but hope”. That is a very powerful closing line. Young tries to get at the point that our society has so many wrongs, and we’ve reach a point where there may be no return. This poem symbolizes how our society is so spread apart from important to non-important issues via the examples he gives in the poem.

The second poem I looked at from “Fall Higher” is “Elemental”. This poem is quite interesting. “Dearheart, why are you crying? Already you’re in the air”. This line tries to get at the point once your heart may be broken, there’s nothing you can do. That “love” has left into the air, and it is gone. Young often uses fire in this poem as symbolism of love. Air is also symbolic for what is gone. As long as there are sparks, the love will continue to burn. At the end of the poem young says, “Some things can be fixed by fire, some not. Deartheart, already we’re air.” Young says this line because the love he had was going through trouble, and before even trying to fix it with sparks and fire, the love was already “air” meaning it was already too late. This is quite depressing, Young tries to get at that love will always turn to air, and that the fire cannot keep on burning forever. The reason this poem was titled “Elemental” is because the fire is burning, and it then goes into the air, and once the fire stops burning, all the elements from the fire is then absorbed by the air. This can also symbolize that things change, and nothing is forever.

The third poem I read from this book was “Late Valentine”. The title gives off that impression that the person’s Valentine came late into their life. The poem starts off by “We weren’t exactly children again, too many divorces, too many blood panel”. This line goes to show that a person can keep on meeting new people they may be interested in, even after having multiple divorces and heartbreaks. Young again brings up fire, which is the symbolism for love. Young goes to say, “We can admire the work the fire’s done”. This line can be the plea for love from Young or the character of the poem. But we see again in this poem that the “fire” does not last forever. Near the end of the poem, Young says “How little bother you were then” implying now that he is sick of his lover. That the main character has gotten tired and annoyed of his lover. Young ends the poem by saying “Oh how I loved your smell”. This poem goes to show that you can fall in “love” many times through out your lifetime, but is it meant to be? A person will always find something wrong with someone to end what they have in order to explore newer, more fun options.

This poetry book, “Fall Higher” by Dean Young is quite interesting. He seems to love the symbolism of love and confusion of life. That life may not be everything it seems, and there’s a lot of things that go on that are not right. Those not right things cannot be fixed; the damage has reached too far for a point of return. Also, Young gets at the point that maybe love is not defined the correct way. Why should a person love only one significant other for the rest of their life? Love dissipates and eventually disappears, but that’s okay, we can move on to the next one.

“Late Valentine

We weren’t exactly children again,

too many divorces, too many blood panels,

but your leaning into me was a sleeping bird.

Sure, there was no way to be careful enough,

even lightning can go wrong but when the smoke

blows off, we can admire the work the fire’s done

ironing out the wrinkles in favor of newer ones,

ashy furrows like the folds in the brain

that signal the switchbacks and reversals

of our thought and just as brief. Your lips

were song, your hair everywhere.

Oh unknowable, fidgeting self, how little

bother you were then, no more

than a tangerine rind. Oh unknowable

“other, how I loved your smell.”

Excerpt From: Dean Young. “Fall Higher.” iBooks.

“Commencement Address

I love you for shattering.

Someone has to. Just as someone

has to announce inadvertently

the end of grief or spring’s

splurge even as the bureaucrat’s

spittoon overflows. Someone has to come out

the other end of the labyrinth

saying, What’s the big deal?

Someone has to spend all day staring

at the data from outer space

or separating the receipts

or changing the sheets in sour room after room.

I like it when the end of the toilet paper

is folded into a point.

I like napkins folded into swans

because I like wiping my mouth on swans.

Matriculates, come back from the dance floor

to sip at the lachrymal glands of chaos,

a god could be forgiven

for eating you, you’ve been such angels

just not very good ones.

You’ve put your tongue

into the peanut canister

of your best friend’s girlfriend’s mom.

You’ve taken a brown bag lunch

on which was writ a name not your own.

All night it snows a blue snow

like the crystallized confessions

you’ve wrung from phantoms

even though it’s you wearing the filched necklace,

your rages splitting the concrete like dandelions.

All that destruction from a ball of fluff!

There’s nothing left but hope.”

Excerpt From: Dean Young. “Fall Higher.” iBooks.


The night doesn’t summarize the day.

The spark has its say over the fire.

Dearheart, why are you crying?

Already you’re in the air.

Quiet doesn’t summarize the song

which can’t go on for long,

song found inside us feral and hot.

Dearheart, why are you crying?

We’re sparks.

Walked into the burning woods and burning

walked into me. One day we’ll wade

into the sea and see. You’re coming

won’t summarize your leaving

nor waking sleep, sleep our dreams,

fireflies over wet grass, ice

settling in an abandoned glass. Winter

can’t summarize that summer, your body

in my hands won’t summarized be

by your body far from me.

Already you’re in the air

and my hands are nowhere,

my dreams mostly water.

This end won’t summarize our forever.

Some things can be fixed by fire,

some not. Dearheart, already we’re air.”

Reply (comment): EXAMPLE

Hi Baker. I really like your interpretation overall, but I just have a few questions for you! I like how you interpret the poem as revealing some cruel truth of the society, but I just didn’t get how you interpret the first few lines that “a person can be ignorant, but it takes one person to expose them to the truth”and “person will now look at life differently because all the lies will be exposed”. To me, it seems like it’s about revealing some hidden truth or some truth that everyone knows but decide not to talk about. To me it does not necessarily mean lie or something. However I am still interested in your interpretation! It seems very interesting and reasonable, I am just curious how do you get to that point.

Also, I agree with your discussion of the symbolism part! Those poems you choose seem a little bit abstract at first, but they do show something. And yes, I agree with you that something is always behind the part that everyone can see – and your excellent interpretation actually make me want to read the book. It just reminds me that in reality, we always misinterpret things because we only focus on the part that WE CAN SEE instead of what’s behind it. I am sure that we could learn a lot from reading this book!


The book I chose is Native guard by Natasha Trethewey. This book is about her journey from where her mom passed away. It is important to know that Tretheweyis a biracial child, her mother was black and her father is white. This was at time when biracial marriages were illegal. Also, Trethewey is from the south and she is extremely proud of this. From this book, I’ve read a poem called Pastoral before and it seems like she comes across people who aren’t proud of the south and are surprised that she is. She mentions cows that say no which actually symbolized the people who were against the south. And the title of the poem – pastoral – was also a symbol itself. Pastoral means a land with cattle. So she was trying to imply that there are pastoral land in the south as well or in other words, there are people in the south who aren’t proud of their heritage. With this background information I had before, I believe the title of the book might be related to this fact. “Native” – as in she was born and raised up in the south and “Guard”- she protects and defends the south when someone is trying to attack it. For this discussion, I picked the first three poems of the book: The Southern Crescent, Genus Narcissus, and Graveyard Blues.

The Southern Crescent starts off talking about the past when her mother when she was sixteen about to board a train from Mississippi to California to meet her father. You can tell she is excited because she can’t stop repeating the word California and practicing how she is going to meet her father. She has a photo of him as well and imagines how different he must look but when she gets there, there is no one there that resembles her father. Her father never showed up. NowTrethewey is boarding a train with her mother and she remembers the time when they both boarded the train once to meet Trethewey’s father. The lines “I don’t recall how she must have held me, how her face sank”, shows us how her mother is scared the same thing will happen to her daughter. We find out the same thing happens to her through the lines that say this trip went wrong. Today they are going somewhere but we don’t know if there going to go meet someone. Her mother doesn’t have the uncertain look she did when they went to meet her father as they leave their home behind when the train starts to move. I think the train itself is a symbol because when they boarded the train to meet their past, they didn’t get anything but now they’re boarding the train to their future and she is more certain about the future. Maybe the train symbolizes life, you have to move forward.

The title of the second poem, Genus Narcissus, means a certain class of daffodils. She talks about how she used to pick out a handful of bright yellow daffodils that just blossomed on the last few days of winter when she was a child to give to her mother. She compared herself to the stems of the daffodils that lifted the blossom head up. She then explains how she didn’t know how short of a life daffodils had when she was a child and how they dried up like the flowers on a graveside. At the end of the poem, the flowers are telling her to blossom and telling her mother to die early. The spring and the stem of the flower symbolizesTrethewey, who is young and therefore full of life in comparison to her mother who is symbolized by the winter and the daffodils “head” which are coming to an end in this poem.

The third poem I read is Graveyard blues. This poem is about the death of her mother and begins with the funeral in where her mother’s body is placed in the graveyard. She mentioned how it rained the whole time but when she was leaving the graveyard the sun came up. She then talks about life and how it keeps going even if you are being left behind.
The Southern Crescent

In 1959 my mother is boarding a train.

She is barely sixteen, her one large grip

bulging with homemade dresses, whisper

of crinoline and lace, her name stitched

inside each one. She is leaving behind

the dirt roads of Mississippi, the film

of red dust around her ankles, the thin

whistle of wind through the floorboards

of the shotgun house, the very idea of home.

Ahead of her, days of travel, one town

after the next, and California, a word

she can’t stop repeating. Over and over

she will practice meeting her father, imagine

how he must look, how different now

from the one photo she has of him. She will

look at it once more, pulling into the station

at Los Angeles, and then again and again

on the platform, no one like him in sight.

The year the old Crescent makes its last run,

my mother insists we ride it together.

We leave Gulfport late morning, heading east.

Years before, we rode together to meet

another man, my father, waiting for us

as our train derailed. I don’t recall how

she must have held me, how her face sank

as she realized, again, the uncertainty

of it all — that trip, too, gone wrong. Today,

she is sure we can leave home, bound only

for whatever awaits us, the sun now

setting behind us, the rails humming

like anticipation, the train pulling us

toward the end of another day. I watch

each small town pass before my window

until the light goes, and the reflection

of my mother’s face appears, clearer now

as evening comes on, dark and certain.

Genus Narcissus

The road I walked home from school was dense with trees and shadow, creek-side, and lit by yellow daffodils, early blossoms
bright against winter’s last gray days. I must have known they grew wild, thought no harm in taking them. So I did—
gathering up as many as I could hold, then presenting them, in a jar, to my mother. She put them on the sill, and I sat nearby,
watching light bend through the glass, day easing into evening, proud of myself for giving my mother some small thing.
Childish vanity. I must have seen in them some measure of myself—the slender stems, each blossom a head lifted up
toward praise, or bowed to meet its reflection. Walking home those years ago, I knew nothing of Narcissus or the daffodils’ short spring—
how they’d dry like graveside flowers, rustling when the wind blew—a whisper, treacherous, from the sill. Be taken with yourself,
they said to me; Die early, to my mother.

Graveyard Blues

It rained the whole time we were laying her down; Rained from church to grave when we put her down. The suck of mud at our feet was a hollow sound.

When the preacher called out I held up my hand; When he called for a witness I raised my hand— Death stops the body’s work, the soul’s a journeyman.

The sun came out when I turned to walk away, Glared down on me as I turned and walked away— My back to my mother, leaving her where she lay.

The road going home was pocked with holes, That home-going road’s always full of holes; Though we slow down, time’s wheel still rolls.

I wander now among names of the dead: My mother’s name, stone pillow for my head.

Reply (comment):


One American poet that I have really started to like is John Ashbery. I read a couple of his poems for the first assignment for this class and thought he was a brilliant and very imaginative writer. Pretty much the reason why I decided to read in on his poetry book Where Shall I Wonder. Another reason why I decided to read in on this poetry book is because of this title. This title strikes an interest because I feel like its making a philosophical turn on poetry. Where shall I wander can mean what different paths do I have to take and where do those paths lead to? There are three really nice poems in this book that expresses the title for the fullest. The three poems are Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse, Affordable Variety and The New higher. I felt that these three poems really help give this title justice.

First off the first poem in the book Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse leads a path down to all the poems and what to expect. It’s an interesting poem, more like an interesting short story. It starts out with a couple of people going downtown to see a couple of friends. He uses the term “we” in the poem but does not mention who is in this we or how they are related. I’m going to assume that it’s a group of friends. These groups of friends are going down a path which they were warned about before. While reading the poem I could sense that they’re lost and don’t really know where they’re going. It says that they are going downtown to see their neighbors. The poem does not mention why everybody is going downtown to see their neighbors which I believe he is trying to make the readers more anxious to know what is going on. With a little background of what’s going on and the some of the warnings it could be that this poem is taking place in the past maybe in the 1950s or 1960s. What I thought I picked up on the poem and this how I could relate it to the title is that these guys are wondering down some path or going through some point and they don’t know if they should go down it. But eventually I believe they go down this dangerous path. There were some words in this poem that showed symbolism for instance the author mentions “just by standing” meaning these groups of friends doesn’t know what they should do. Its showing confusion of these guys since they don’t know where everybody is. What I thought was outstanding was how John ashbery in his poem didn’t say the bees hum but said the bees hymn trying to put in unexpected words.

The second poem that I thought that also goes well with the title of the book is the Affordable Variety. This poem shows the random movements of emotions throughout the poem which can make the reader have mixed feelings. He starts of the poem by saying it’s one thing for a child to kidnap a parent since that usually never happens but he stresses in the next line that if a parent to sit down with the child as if that never happens. It looks like he is symbolizing the parent as somebody who is restricting or blocking the child’s future. Maybe even trying to protect the child from going down the wrong path. by the looks of the poem, it makes the child lead into a boring life. At the end of the poem these children are in a suit and tie for their job but by the end of the week it won’t really matter because they are just a small part of the industry. They’re just a little machine that can be reused again or made by different people. You can also look at it like the parents are just trying to help their children succeed and make enough money for their family. They don’t want their child to go down the wrong pathway which can lead to the destruction of their life.

The last poem that I believed had a strong connection with the title is The New Higher. I also thought out of the three poems this one was my favorite. This poem is about how this person really loves somebody but that person did not love him back. That one way love is a hurtful pathway since you put so much time and effort trying to please and get the attention of that person but they don’t even glance at you. They don’t know you’re even alive or there. It’s a rough pathway and to get over that it takes a long time for your heart to heal. It is defiantly one of the saddest poems that I have read and has a lot of meaning to each line. The main character does not have the guts to talk to this person or to express his love. Its like he does not want her to know he loves her but he does want her to know. Like it mentions “Many times to celebrate we were called together and where we had been there was nothing there” when the author said nothing there it looks like nothing sparked between the two people, no connection. Later on in the poem it’s too late for this guy to express his love or even talk to this person. That person is gone and what can he do now? Nothing… Like I like to say always go for that one thing you desire that most and what if they say no or you fail what’s the worst that can happen? Well if you think about it, you tried and failed but what if you didn’t try, your whole life you will be wondering what would have happened if you went through with that action. The reason why I felt like it related to the title is that this guy does know what to do with his actions against this person he really likes. He’s lost and needs help.

John Ashbery is an amazing American poet that has really brought his poems to life with each book. His poems have great sense of imagery and he tends to discreetly put in symbolism which can be a little hard to notice. Once you figure out what is symbolic in his poems everything begins to unravel quickly making the story easy to follow. Another thing that I noticed about John Ashbery is that his writings are philosophical and you have to look through the poem to see what he really means. Once you do that you can truly enjoy his poems.

Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse

We were warned about spiders, and the occasional famine.
We drove downtown to see our neighbors. None of them were home.
We nestled in yards the municipality had created,
reminisced about other, different places—
but were they? Hadn’t we known it all before?

In vineyards where the bee’s hymn drowns the monotony,
we slept for peace, joining in the great run.
He came up to me.
It was all as it had been,
except for the weight of the present,
that scuttled the pact we made with heaven.
In truth there was no cause for rejoicing,
nor need to turn around, either.
We were lost just by standing,
listening to the hum of wires overhead.

We mourned that meritocracy which, wildly vibrant,
had kept food on the table and milk in the glass.
In skid-row, slapdash style
we walked back to the original rock crystal he had become,
all concern, all fears for us.
We went down gently
to the bottom-most step. There you can grieve and breathe,
rinse your possessions in the chilly spring.
Only beware the bears and wolves that frequent it
and the shadow that comes when you expect dawn.

Affordable Variety

It is one thing for a child to kidnap a parent.
It is quite another for the parent to sit down with the child,
blocking the path and its favorite mosses.

Cathexis arrives early in a golden coach.
I see stuff perched around,
mazes stuck in mazes,
knot of grapes at the throat, the horizon.

And we couldn’t keep it coming.
That is so.

This is an invaded country.
Dawn will abdicate all your book.

Walking around will tell the important things:
discount ways, barrels of breakers,
days swept into being.

The child grew up as these things grew,
listened and was worried for the starched moments
dropped from the official record.We bought pants
and suits, the occasional gray shirt.
By week’s end all was silence and industry.

The New Higher

You meant more than life to me. I lived through
you not knowing, not knowing I was living.
I learned that you called for me. I came to where
you were living, up a stair. There was no one there.
No one to appreciate me. The legality of it
upset a chair. Many times to celebrate
we were called together and where
we had been there was nothing there,
nothing that is anywhere. We passed obliquely,
leaving no stare. When the sun was done muttering,
in an optimistic way, it was time to leave that there.

Blithely passing in and out of where, blushing shyly
at the tag on the overcoat near the window where
the outside crept away, I put aside the there and now.
Now it was time to stumble anew,
blacking out when time came in the window.
There was not much of it left.
I laughed and put my hands shyly
across your eyes. Can you see now?
Yes I can see I am only in the where
where the blossoming stream takes off, under your window.
Go presently you said. Go from my window.
I am in love with your window I cannot undermine
it, I said.

Reply (comment):

Robert Pinsky, a poet whose writings I have worked with earlier in this course, welcomed the millennium with an interesting book titled “Jersey Rain”. This book evoked mixed emotions at first glance as it contains works of great literary depth such as “Samurai Song” while on the other hand some poems don’t seem to stand out. As I mentioned this is at first glance, I noticed with the poem “ABC”, initially this work seemed fade into the plain background but upon rereading it seems that it is more intricately knit prose which requires a readjustment of perspective. Unfortunately due to the possible intricacy of “ABC” I will not be elaborating on it but it is great to see that the United States Poet Laureate ended his term with such an interesting compilation. Another noticeable aspect I would like to mention about this book is the fact that even as you read through these works of varying emotional appeal it still seems to hold a fairly strong semblance of a proper progression with multiple uses of the same references to help aid the intertwining of these penned verses.

Now I would like to introduce the three poems which I believe typify the general ambiance of the book. “Vessel”, “To the Phoenix” and “Jersey Rain”. Let’s follow the order in which they are presented and begin.

“Vessel”, this poem begins by giving the physical body transcendence into the world of symbols by likening it to a vessel on a journey. By using a simplified connection between the two entities the author uses this to explain how the body is the “carrier shell” for the soul or “living cargo”. The journey is life and we must continue, with each passing day presenting us with unknown experiences and hardships through which we must persevere and continue to grow until our inevitable demise, in this case to “drown”.

Before we move onto the next poem I would like to add two very interesting observations about this poem, which I must say seem to be a brilliant allusion to the structure of the book and the book itself. The poem explicitly uses multiple passengers and journeys to elaborate the large number of individuals mentioned within the pages of the book along with how each poem is a separate journey for this “vessel”. The second observation which I believe sets the nail in the coffin for this possible allusion is the ending of the poem. The author uses to end the journey by drowning the passengers and interestingly enough the final poem in the book is “Jersey Rain”.

Next we take a look at “To the Phoenix”. This poem uses the immortal phoenix as the muse to incorporate the idea it so often is associated with, rebirth but with a twist. Robert Pinsky uses the rebirth of the phoenix as a representation of the reformation each person goes through during life, while contemplating if the change is abrupt and sudden or without a beginning or end as with the existence of “Shiva”. To look at this aspect another way we can see that it may be hinting towards the interdependence yet separation between the works presented in this literary compilation by hinting towards the varied transitions within the book.

“Jersey Rain” refers to the imprint of life and how the concept of duality is born from the same experiences. The poem uses rain as a representation of the multiple experiences life presents each of us with and as is with life none are exempt from these developments. In the poem although the rain itself is a foreboding sign appealing to anxiety, at the same time the duality of the impact the rain causes is an interesting turns of events, as the rain can be both the source of salvation or it can be the tipping scale for despair to ensue. This dual nature and its permanent nature are the stains and carvings the rain leaves on the human psyche as it flows into the ocean to once again scar another when the environment allows precipitation again.


What is this body as I fall asleep again?

What I pretended it was when I was small—

A crowded vessel, a starship or submarine

Dark in its dark element, a breathing hull,

Arms at the flanks, the engine heart and brain

Pulsing, feet pointed like a diver’s, the whole

Resolutely diving through the oblivion

Of night with living cargo. O carrier shell

That keeps your trusting passengers from All:

Some twenty thousand times now you have gone

Out into blackness tireless as a seal,

Blind always as a log, but plunging on

Across the reefs of coral that scrape the keel—

O veteran immersed from toe to crown,

Buoy the population of the soul

Toward their destination before they drown.

{[Pinsky, Robert (2015-08-04). Jersey Rain: Poems (Kindle Locations 44-48). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.]

[Pinsky, Robert (2015-08-04). Jersey Rain: Poems (Kindle Locations 36-43). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.]}

To the Phoenix

Dark herald, self-conceived in the desert waste,

What yang or yin enfolds your enigma best?

Memory, whose wing of fire displaces the past—

Or the present, brooding in its ashen nest?

Singing in the flames of Hell, triumphant Christ

Harrowing with Being the Nihil of the Beast—

Or, one foot lifted, one foot planted in dust,

Lord Shiva dancing, hammer in his fist?

You are the emblem of emigrants who crossed

Ocean and continent on their long flight West,

And Entropy’s immobile image: chaste

And labile, fluent at rest and saved when lost.

Is time your circle that never comes to rest,

Or the long flight of an arrow Brahma released?

Shakespeare appoints the swan your funeral priest,

The dove your spouse, at rites that you outlast—

Your true counterpart is Speech, the profane ghost:

The quick boy brandishing his lightning-burst.

{[Pinsky, Robert (2015-08-04). Jersey Rain: Poems (Kindle Locations 284-291). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.]

[Pinsky, Robert (2015-08-04). Jersey Rain: Poems (Kindle Locations 276-283). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.]}

Jersey Rain

Now near the end of the middle stretch of road

What have I learned? Some earthly wiles. An art.

That often I cannot tell good fortune from bad,

That once had seemed so easy to tell apart.

The source of art and woe aslant in wind

Dissolves or nourishes everything it touches.

What roadbank gullies and ruts it doesn’t mend

It carves the deeper, boiling tawny in ditches.

It spends itself regardless into the ocean.

It stains and scours and makes things dark or bright:

Sweat of the moon, a shroud of benediction,

The chilly liquefaction of day to night,

The Jersey rain, my rain, soaks all as one:

It smites Metuchen, Rahway, Saddle River,

Fair Haven, Newark, Little Silver, Bayonne.

I feel it churning even in fair weather

To craze distinction, dry the same as wet.

In ripples of heat the August drought still feeds

Vapors in the sky that swell to drench my state—

The Jersey rain, my rain, in streams and beads

Of indissoluble grudge and aspiration:

Original milk, replenisher of grief,

Descending destroyer, arrowed source of passion,

Silver and black, executioner, source of life.

{[Pinsky, Robert (2015-08-04). Jersey Rain: Poems (Kindle Locations 690-691). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.]

[Pinsky, Robert (2015-08-04). Jersey Rain: Poems (Kindle Locations 681-689). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.]

[Pinsky, Robert (2015-08-04). Jersey Rain: Poems (Kindle Locations 673-680). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.]}

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The author I chose is Philip Levine. The reason I chose his poems to write about is that he is a great poetry author without a doubt, also the types of poems that he usually write about are mainly about the kind of wisdom you would try to find about how hard working someone could be, how to live your life and also about hard labor. From those types of styles you would see that even the toughest times you could get through it. The book that he wrote that I felt had a lot of examples in them to talk about is a book called “Stranger to Nothing”. The poems that I chose from that book are “A Sleepless Night”, “Animals Are Passing From Our Lives”, and the final one I chose was “They Feed They Lion”.

The first poem that I’m going to be discussing is called “A Sleepless Night”. At first I was complete confused when I first read it to be honest, The first couple of lines start talking about how in April, which spring usually starts, that the plum blossoms scatter which would mean to start blooming and spread to make more on the black grass before dawn. I’m guessing what this mainly means is that replacing the dead grass from winter the blossoms will take over it. the next few lines talk about mainly how the sun will start to rise and the light from the sun will be starting to get hot and give like heat to everything that shines. Then you would have Philip Levine talking how most of the birds will come out and start squawking and perching and getting ready to spread their wings since its starting to get warm out. Now from most of these lines it doesn’t like any symbolism about a sleepless night, but at the end it says “my hand dances in the memory of a million vanished stars.” From that I’m guessing that all the events that happened that I said must’ve been happening during the long winter that they symbolize as a sleepless night till spring comes.

The second poem im about to discuss is called “Animals Are Passing from Our Lives”. This poem when I first read it was very interesting and it has a lot of meaning to it as well. I feel like a lot of people in this generation might relate to this poem sadly to say. The poem starts out as the narrator going on a jog and seems to be enjoying it with every light step he takes especially how he describes every feeling that happens as he takes a step. He would then go to the market to get some food for after he jogs, but he starts to smell something in the market that seems to be some fatty foods that isn’t healthy at all for him. The food seems to be something that would mess up his intestines and body from the inside that could be very dangerous to children and even insect which would make sense about unhealthy food. The rest of the poem mainly talks about how if he decided to take and eat the unhealthy food that he would most likely suffer and end up falling to the ground because of it. the end of the poem was very interesting, it says ”discovering television or that ill turn like a beast cleverly to hook his teeth with my teeth. No. Not this pig.” He is pretty much symbolizing that anyone that would eat unhealthy food and sit back and just watch TV is a pig, but he even decides that its not for him and he doesn’t want to be apart of that at all.

The final poem im going to discuss is called “They Feed They Lion”. In this poem I took me awhile to actually figure out what it was trying to say. From what I can tell is that the lion is a person that didn’t have much to start with and lived in nature. As he lived with nothing, he would try to grow and stay strong to survive. Later, it starts saying that the earth has been trying to take back what belongs to it, like the land and etc. at the end it talks about how most of his sins would be forgiving and he would want his own children to inherit that will of the lion to help keep them strong and help them survive as well like he did. The symbolism in this poem is trying to relate how strong and power a lion can be and how it can survive like he did.

A Sleepless Night

By Philip Levine

April, and the last of the plum blossoms 
scatters on the black grass 
before dawn. The sycamore, the lime, 
the struck pine inhale 
the first pale hints of sky. 
An iron day, 
I think, yet it will come 
dazzling, the light 
rise from the belly of leaves and pour 
burning from the cups 
of poppies. 
The mockingbird squawks 
from his perch, fidgets, 
and settles back. The snail, awake 
for good, trembles from his shell 
and sets sail for China. My hand dances 
in the memory of a million vanished stars. 

A man has every place to lay his head.

Animals Are Paasing from our lives

By Philip Levine

It’s wonderful how I jog
on four honed-down ivory toes
my massive buttocks slipping
like oiled parts with each light step.

I’m to market. I can smell
the sour, grooved block, I can smell
the blade that opens the hole
and the pudgy white fingers

that shake out the intestines
like a hankie. In my dreams 
the snouts drool on the marble,
suffering children, suffering flies,

suffering the consumers
who won’t meet their steady eyes
for fear they could see. The boy
who drives me along believes

that any moment I’ll fall
on my side and drum my toes
like a typewriter or squeal
and shit like a new housewife

discovering television,
or that I’ll turn like a beast
cleverly to hook his teeth
with my teeth. No. Not this pig.

They feed they lion

By Philip Levine

Out of burlap sacks, out of bearing butter,
Out of black bean and wet slate bread,
Out of the acids of rage, the candor of tar,
Out of creosote, gasoline, drive shafts, wooden dollies,
They Lion grow. 

Out of the gray hills
Of industrial barns, out of rain, out of bus ride, 
West Virginia to Kiss My Ass, out of buried aunties,
Mothers hardening like pounded stumps, out of stumps,
Out of the bones’ need to sharpen and the muscles’ to stretch,
They Lion grow.

Earth is eating trees, fence posts,
Gutted cars, earth is calling in her little ones, 
”Come home, Come home!” From pig balls,
From the ferocity of pig driven to holiness,
From the furred ear and the full jowl come
The repose of the hung belly, from the purpose
They Lion grow.

From the sweet glues of the trotters
Come the sweet kinks of the fist, from the full flower
Of the hams the thorax of caves,
From “Bow Down” come “Rise Up,”
Come they Lion from the reeds of shovels, 
The grained arm that pulls the hands,
They Lion grow.

From my five arms and all my hands,
From all my white sins forgiven, they feed, 
From my car passing under the stars,
They Lion, from my children inherit, 
From the oak turned to a wall, they Lion,
From they sack and they belly opened
And all that was hidden burning on the oil-stained earth 
They feed they Lion and he comes.

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A poetry book which caught my eye was Dog Songs, by Mary Oliver. Mary Oliver is the most popular modern poet based on book sales. Dog Songswas published on October 8, 2013. When skimming through this book initially it is evident that it is composed of poems by a dog lover. Some poems come from a human’s perspective referring to her canine companion, whereas others come from the viewpoint of the canine. It is fascinating to see how Mary Oliver is able to connect people and dogs on a personal level in her poems. Through her life experiences with her own dogs Mary seems to easily be able to put pen to paper and write about the connection that is make with man’s best friend. The poems in this book start with small moments that all dog lovers experience, but through her vision and use of symbolism these poems take on a greater meaning to the world and where we stand in it.

The first poem I chose was “Percy Speaks While I am Doing Taxes”. Percy is the name of one of Mary Oliver’s dogs. A symbol which really stood out to me in this poem is the dull pencil being used. The fact that it is dull shows just how long the character has been doing the tedious task of taxes. It almost seems to the reader that the character has been going at it for hours. Percy can not stand sitting around any longer on such a beautiful day. When the character tells Percy, “I’ll be finished eventually” that is telling us and Percy to look forward to the positive things which are in store in the future.

The second poem which caught my eye was “A Bad Day”. This poem throws the reader into a paradox. Ricky (supposedly a dog at the beginning of the poem) ends up saying to the character at the end of the poem, “Honestly, what do you expect? Like / you I’m not perfect, I’m only human.” I find Ricky to be a symbol of humans in general. Ricky is essentially saying that no human is perfect, we all have our flaws no matter what it might seem like to someone on the outside looking in. Ricky’s rant in the second stanza seems to be symbolic of americans. There is never enough time in the day to get all the things done that we need or want to do.

I thoroughly enjoyed the third poem which I chose, it is called, “You Never Know Where a Conversation is Going to Go”. In this poem, Ricky is not trying to make the character feel guilty for sitting inside doing work nor a disobedient furniture wrecker. He is an anxious animal with a big heart who gives non-human voice to the fear of change, and gets reassurance from Oliver. She tells him that appreciating life and the planet are forms of prayer, and it doesn’t matter if you’re dog or human or some other kind of animal.

Throughout, the many dogs of Oliver’s life emerge as fellow travelers and guides, uniquely able to open our eyes to the lessons of the moment and the joys of nature and connection. In each of the poems the dog seems to be the symbolic voice of a close friend who has a meaningful impact on the human character.

Percy Speaks While I am Doing Taxes

First of all, I do not want to be doing this.

Second of all, Percy does not want me

to be doing this.

bent over the desk like a besieged person

with a dull pencil and innumerable lists

of numbers.

Outside the water is blue, the sky is clear,

the tide rising.

Percy, I say, this has to be done. This is

essential. I’ll be finished eventually.

“Keep me in your thoughts,” he replies. “Just because

I can’t count to ten doesn’t mean

I don’t remember yesterday, or anticipate today.

I’ll give you ten more minutes,” and he does.

Then shouts—who could resist—his

favorite words: Let’s go!

A Bad Day

Ricky, why are you barking and trying

to rip up the couch? Can’t you settle

down? It’s been a long day.

“It sure has. First you forget to take

me out. Then you went to the market

and all heaven knows where else. And my

dinner was late. And our walk was

short. And now you’re supposed to

be on the floor playing with me but,

no, you’re doing something else. So I

thought I’d give this couch a little


Well, don’t. Be a good boy.

“Honestly, what do you expect? Like

you I’m not perfect, I’m only human.”

You Never Know Where a Conversation is Going to Go

Said Ricky to me one day, “Why is it you

don’t have a tail?”

Well, I just don’t. Maybe once upon time

I had one, but not anymore.

“What happened? Did you have an accident?”

No, no. Things change. Sometimes. Over


“You mean, maybe sometime I won’t get a walk,

I won’t get dinner? I won’t get hugs? That’s

scary, plain scary.”

No, no, it takes a really long time. In

fact, some things change, over time, and

some don’t.

“Well, how do I know what’s what?”

Day by day, Ricky. You find out.

Has anything changed that troubles you?

“Actually, nothing. I like everything a lot,

every day.”

Well, see? Just keep on liking things.

And praying.

“I don’t know anything about that.”

Yes you do. Every time you wake up and

love your life and the world, you’re
praying, my dear boy. I’m sure of it.

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