I Stopped Writing the Poem

to fold the clothes. No matter who lives
or who dies, I’m still a woman.
I’ll always have plenty to do.
I bring the arms of his shirt
together. Nothing can stop
our tenderness. I’ll get back
to the poem. I’ll get back to being
a woman. But for now
there’s a shirt, a giant shirt
in my hands, and somewhere a small girl
standing next to her mother
watching to see how it’s done.



I liked this poem because it’s literal meaning is what the poem is really about.  Normally the poem says something, but you need to dig to find out the meaning.  This one I liked because the meaning is right there.  It’s only a matter of realizing what it is instead of digging and decoding the verse.


This poem says that everything is poetry.  She stopped writing the poem to fold clothes, the folding the clothes became poetry.  It became an intricate art of tenderness and womanhood.  Through this folding the shirt became a poem of its own within this poem about folding.  It’s kind of difficult to explain, but this poem makes everything poetry.


The little girl is watching her mother fold.  She watches the process and is learning how to become the woman that her mother is.  Her growth also becomes a poem itself, within the larger poem of the mundane things of life.  These mundane things take on a grandeur scale when presented in this poem. Life itself becomes poetry.  Life itself becomes art.



Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers

Aunt Jennifer's tigers prance across a screen,

Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.

They do not fear the men beneath the tree;

They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.


Aunt Jennifer's fingers fluttering through her wool

Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.

The massive weight of Uncle's wedding band

Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand.


When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie

Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.

The tigers in the panel that she made

Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid.


Alright.  It's been a while since I've done this so I'm 

a little rusty.  I'll just dive right in.

I think that this poem deals with domestic violence.  While 

it does not come right out and say it, there is evidence 

throughout the poem.

The first thing that indicated this to me was the presence of 

the tiger.  The tiger is a strong animal, on top of the food 

chain.  Tigers don't take no crap from anyone.  They stand up 

for themselves.  Aunt Jennifer weaves these tigers over and over, 

though it's difficult to pull the ivory needle.  The tigers, 

dancing, proud, and unafraid, are what Aunt Jennifer struggles 

to be.  She fails, so that's what she struggles to produce.

The next thing that made me believe that the Uncle in this poem 

beat her was the massive weight of the Uncle's wedding band.  

The massive weight implies that it's big and overbearing, not a 

light ring that's a constant reminder of love.  It is a burden, 

a constant pressure to always be her best out of fear of how her 

husband will react.  

The last clue dealt again with Aunt Jennifer's hands and her 

wedding ring.  "Her terrified hands will lie" is a use of 

synecdoche.  Her hands are terrified because every part of her 

is terrified of her husband.  "Still ringed with the ordeals she 

was mastered by" deals with the wedding ring.  He used his power 

to master her, the ring was a reminder at how subdued she was 

under his strength.    


One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Bishop is talking about the loss of everyday things, such as keys or an hour badly spent, but she’s using the poem to compare those losses to the death of a loved one.  If she loses her keys or a watch it isn’t a big deal to her, because she has accepted that she will lose things.  What she is getting at, ultimately, is that the loss of a loved one is much harder to deal with.  She tries to play it off as just like losing anything else, but her pain at the loss shows through.

“–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.”

What really struck me about this poem, though, was the title.  “One Art.”  Poetry is one form of art, painting is another, music is another, and now losing things is an art as well?  She refers to losing things as an art, the art of losing.  In this way she makes losing things beautiful and poetic, an actual art form.  She views losing things like she does her poetry.  They are both art to her.  It just seems contrary to the point of the poem.  If losing things ain’t no thang to her, then why would she refer to it as an art?  Doesn’t art inspire emotion in its onlookers?  It’s that duality that trapped me into the poem and made it so intriguing to me.

Does anyone know how to upload pictures and stuff on the new wordpress layout?

The Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow.   And I watered it in fears, Night and morning with my tears; And I sunnèd it with smiles, And with soft deceitful wiles.   And it grew both day and night, Till it bore an apple bright; And my foe beheld it shine, And he knew that it was mine,   And into my garden stole, When the night had veiled the pole: In the morning glad I see

My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

Literally, Blake was engry with a friend but it went away.  He was angry with a foe and it did not go away.  Instead, it grew as he watered it and sunned it.  It grew until it “bore an apple,” or reached its climax, at which point his foe saw the hatred.  His foe tried to sneak into the his garden, and in the morning was outstretched beneath a tree.

Now.  Here’s what I think it means.  Blake’s mad at this dude.  Dude’s cool with him, so the anger goes away.  Blake’s mad at this other dude.  Dude isn’t cool, so the anger festers.  Blake harvests this anger, but fronts so that his foe, dude who isn’t cool, thinks that the two are in fact cool.  “Sunned it with smiles and with soft deceitful wiles” means that he pretends to be cool with this guy so this guy thinks they’re friends.

This next part gets a littl fuzzy.  Alright, Blake’s got this apple and the dude sees it.  The apple seems to refer to his hatred in the poem, but in my interpretation it works more as the trust the foe has built up for Blake.  So dude see’s this trust and he’s like, “Word, I’ll just go chill in his garden,” in the sense that he now trusts Blake enough to enter his personal territory, like go to dinner with him or crash at his house after a party or something.

BAM!  Poor dude shouldn’t have trusted Blake.  Blake kills him.  Outstretched beneath a tree?  He’s not reclining, he’s hung and gravity is pulling his body down.

Pretty angry, Blake.  Maybe you should get that looked at.

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The Child is Father to the Man

‘THE child is father to the man.’ How can he be? The words are wild. Suck any sense from that who can: ‘The child is father to the man.’ No; what the poet did write ran, ‘The man is father to the child.’ ‘The child is father to the man!’

How can he be? The words are wild.

I’m really not a big fan of Gerald Manley Hopkins.  This poem, I assume, is about Christianity.  As was everything else he wrote about.

Basically, what I took from this is Jesus, the son of God, is the child to which he is referring.  Because the child is father to man, Jesus is father to mankind.  Not mankind as a whole of course, mankind was here before Jesus ever was.  But he’s the father of Christianity and the father of Christians.  Therefore, he’s the father of the men who will be saved.

He questions the statement because Jesus is the son of God but is the father of salvaged mankind.  How can a child be a father to man?  How can an egg bear a chicken?  How can the after (the child, the egg, the baby), bear the before (the man, the chicken, the parent)?  It must be divinely decided that this child may be father to man.  I assume this is the message he hopes to deliver in this poem.

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The Day Lady Died

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday

three days after Bastille day, yes

it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine

because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton

at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner

and I don’t know the people who will feed me


I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun

and have a hamburger and a malted and buy

an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets

in Ghana are doing these days

I go on to the bank

and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)

doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life

and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine

for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do

think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or

Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres

of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine

after practically going to sleep with quandariness


and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE

Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and

then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue

and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and

casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton

of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it


and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of

leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT

while she whispered a song along the keyboard

to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing


The first thing that struck me about the poem is the lack of punctuation.  The poem is one long, run on sentence with one comma in the first stanza.  It’s interesting that the poem itself never ends but is written about/on the day when Lady died.

Literally it’s a recollection of the events he went through on the day that Lady died.  But who is Lady?  A woman?  Perhaps that’s her nickname.  I’m assuming he’s not talking about Lady from Lady in the Tramp.  His poetry is unconventional… perhaps I shouldn’t rule that out quite yet.

 An oddity I found in the poem, first of all, was the lack of punctuation.  I also didn’t see a reference to this Lady once in the poem.  It looms over the poem but never appears in it, perhaps like a ghost?  She follows him through the day, always there but never actually present.  Interesting.

The lack of punctuation really strikes me.  Forgive me for harping on it.  But I think I understand why he did it.  Well, some of it.  Not quite all.  The fact that there’s never a period makes the sentences and the poem never ending.  A period marks the end but there isn’t one.   The poem never dies.  It juxtaposes the title, The Day Lady Died, but it goes along with a theme of the poem.  Lady died, but follows him through the day.  She’s always looming over him and following him like a ghosts.

Ghosts are eternal, this poem is eternal.  Not even using words, O’Hara conveys a powerful message about death.  A person may die, but their spirit can live on.  Perhaps not a literal spirit, but their memory remains and the fact that they were once alive will not change.  Author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. said in one of his novels:

“When a person dies, he only appears to die.  He is still very much alive in the past…  All moments, past present, and future, always have existed, always will exist.”


Basically, O’Hara is helping people cope with the loss of a loved one.  His day still goes on though Lady is gone.  She may have died, but she is always with him.  She’s always a presence in his life.  And that’s something very comforting to think about after the passing of a loved one.