William Carlos Williams captures the true thoughts and genuine feelings of a widowed wife in his, “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime.” He was a modernist that was well known for his simplicity of verse and ability to create emotionally realistic poetry.The poem traverses the mind of a recently widowed woman in spring time. Williams uses distinct breaks in subject in the poem to give the reader the experience of a traumatized mind. The woman starts by describing how deeply she has fallen into depression and with no transition makes a brief statement about her husband. This trend continues as she mentions the flowers of different trees and bushes and how much she used to admire them. Lastly she speaks of her young child and how she would like to commit suicide. When reading all of the random thoughts together the jump from subject to subject begins to feel natural as the reader develops an understanding of what the woman is and has gone through with the death of her husband.
Williams also uses very simplistic imagery which aids in his commitment to putting the reader in the mind of the character. In real life no one’s mind would use flowery words to describe what it is that they are feeling. Feelings are short, simplistic, and genuine to each person; no two people every feel the exact same way. While writers easily target emotional responses from the reader, such as sadness, the task of replicating mourning is hard. We all mourn in our own way and sometimes even find it hard to relate to the mourning of others. In the very first line:
“Sorrow is my own yard where the new grass flames as it has flamed often before but not with the cold fire that closes round me this year”
the reader finds that they are already relating to the women’s sense of depression. She uses a flaming yard and its repetitive burning to express her lapses in and out of depression. By using this image the true feeling of a person who is depressed is really clear to the reader. She goes on to talk about flowers that show themselves in the spring time. Such flowers used to be a beautiful thing for her but they have now lost their meaning. William’s uses simplicity again here to help the reader relate to the emotions present. He uses many different types of blossoms so as to appeal to all groups of people and then uses the human ability to forget to show their loss in significance. Everyone has forgotten at one point what something meant to them or how much they used to care about it. By tapping into this emotion of forgetting he further draws the reader in.
Williams delves into the morbidity of losing a loved one in the last few lines. He evokes the image of the women’s child talking to his mother about the white flowers he had noticed at the edge of the woods. We have already experienced the women’s struggle with her lost of love for the spring flowers. A slight shift in her thinking seems to come around from her son’s observation. She acknowledges her love of the flowers and uses this love and peacefulness to plot her suicide. Children seem to bring out the realism in situations such as these. All parents grapple not only with their own emotions about the loss of some one but they also must deal with their children’s emotions. The women’s son still seems to be able to see the beauty of the world around him even with the loss of his father. He is, from and outside view, emotionally stable and content with what has happened. This stability starts to bring his mother back from her depressed vision of the world. While she still contemplates morbid ideas she seems to have a peaceful view on it.
Williams, much like Hemmingway, uses simplicity so as not to distract the reader from the true meaning of his text. The emotional rollercoaster present in, “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime,” truly pulls the reader into the mind of the character. Using simplistic emotional thoughts helps us to relate to the experiences and struggles of the widow and the situation.
Everyone takes a journey through life with one constant goal, to find themselves. Who we are can be influenced and determined by many things. Sherman Alexie is know for his close ties to Native American roots and because of such ties most of his works are focused around the culture and struggles of Native American’s today and in their history. In his free verse poem “Pawn Shop,” Alexie comments on possibly his own loss of his heritage for a short while but ever more so the Native American peoples loss of heritage and identity as well.
He starts the poem off by talking about his own journey. “I walk into the bar, after being gone for a while, and it’s empty” (Norton 1676). The bar in the context is meant to be a figure of a place that all the Native Americans would gather to spend time together; not always necessarily a bar. He says that he has been gone for a while which could mean physically gone but as the poem progresses it is apparent that the absence be dealt with is that of being mentally absent from the culture. The fact that everyone is gone could signify that his absence from the culture was for so long that he doesn’t know where to look for them anymore. Such an absence from ones culture can lead to a loss of self and further perpetuate the journey needed to regain that loss.
“The Bartender tells me all the Indians are gone, do I know where they went?”(Norton 1676) This comment made by the bartender leads into the part of the poem dealing with the Native American people loss of culture. This bartender was used to the Indians always being around and bringing business to his bar. He shows favor to the Indians, giving the narrator a beer just for being Indian, and desperately wants to know where they have gone. By not being at their normal gathering spot it ties together the narrator’s loss of culture and theirs. He comes back, hoping to be greeted and welcomed back into the culture he had abandoned only to find that his culture has abandoned him.
“I leave, searching the streets, searching storefronts, until I walk into a pawn shop, find a single heart beating under glass, and I know who it used to belong to, I know all of them” (Norton 1676). He doesn’t just give up on them when he finds the bar to be empty, he searches desperately for the culture he once knew and loved. Searching streets for the most obvious signs of the people. If he found it in the streets there would be much hope for it to come back as prominent as it was before. He doesn’t find it here so he searches storefronts. In storefronts at least it would be on display for the world to see even if it wasn’t active. But again he doesn’t find them in the storefronts. His final place and the place which he finds the heart, is a pawn shop. The people had discarded the culture like some ancient video game that no one is interested in anymore. In his mind they gave up their hearts, their way of life to take up something artificial and new. The heart beating in the glass case is all that remains of what he knew the culture to be. Whether or not it has simply just changed in it practices or been wiped out completely is not certain. What is certain is that during his absence and loss of culture his culture changed and or disappeared.
This story is universal for many cultures not just the Native American culture. It is especially true for cultures that came and continue to come to America. Integration into the society that you find yourself in is very important all over the world but especially in America. People who fail to integrate into the society are labeled as foreigners even though they may be American citizens. While unfair it is simply how most societies work when it comes to outside cultures. However true this may be it is still important to who you are as a person to keep in contact with your culture even if it fades.
I have always been a person who can appreciate the complexities found in poetry and prose; however, every now and again finding something that captures the true essence of the subject in very short, simplistic verse causes me even more joy. In poetry, especially, I believe it to be one of the hardest ventures to get all of your point across in the least amount of lines and with simplistic images. Rita Dove has done this beautifully in her poem “Rosa.”
In just twelve short lines Rita Dove captured and displayed the ideals of a movement essential to who America is today. It is simplicity at its finest; taking a very complex historical situation and distilled it down to raw emotion and imagery.
Everyone knows the story of Rosa Parks, but this is the first time it is presented by a narrator who isn’t simply objective but who regales in her actions. The narrator even goes so far as to make snide remarks about how the people treated her, “How she stood up when they bend down to retrieve her purse. That courtesy” (Norton 1639). With this statement Rita under plays the severity of the conflict that Rosa encountered. The way in which they removed her from the bus was anything but graceful and thoughtful; in fact the violent way in which Police handled African Americans was indiscriminate. While no hoses or vicious dogs were present she still encountered a slew of angry, prejudice police officers.
Dove makes sure to impress upon the reader the conditions in which Rosa commits her act of civil disobedience. “How she sat there, the time right inside a place so wrong it was ready”( Norton 1638). Such vague wording gives the setting a sort of universal feel even though it is clearly set during the civil rights movement. This view of the situation presented by the narrator is profound in nature. It uses contradiction statements to give a feel of the tense conditions in which this action occurred and how unusual of an action it was for the time. Rose Parks decided to make a bold statement simply by sitting in a seat designate for the Caucasian community. This was common at the time but Rosa saw no justifiable reason why she should sit in the back of the bus when there is a perfectly good seat at the front. This seat no different from the one she had sat in every other day besides its location caused a commotion. She made a stand simply by where she sat.
“That trim name with its dream of a bench to sit on. Her sensible coat” (Norton 1639). Dove uses this stanza to show the humanity of Rosa. Like all humans she simple longs for a place to sit and rest. She battles everyday to find her designated spot and to make sure that she doesn’t sit where she is not supposed to. Such worry and meticulous lifestyle can wear on anyone’s body and mind, so in a way she is looking for a rest for both body and soul. Dove also uses the image of a “sensible coat” to connect Rosa to the public. She appears in the eyes of the narrator as just another person living life with the inalienable human right to sit where she likes.
This poem is simple in ideas and presentation but it has all the complexities of great poetry in that it allows the reader to be the narrator that observes these things. It gives relevance and meaning to something that many would simply shrug off, by making the time and place anonymous. This poem just goes to show you that few words can have just as great of an impact as many its just how you use them that matters the most. Rita Dove’s simplicity is what makes her a great poet and it really shows in this poem.
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