Monday, February 18, 2008

Mark Strand's "Keeping Things Whole"

1. Strand, Mark. "Keeping Things Whole." The Norton Introduction to Poetry. Ed. J. Paul Hunter, Allison Booth and Kelly J. Mayes. 9th ed. New York: Norton, 2007. 252.

2. A strong sense of spatial awareness is established in the first lines of this lyric poem and carried throughout. In the first couple of stanzas, the speaker is at extreme odds with his or her environment. However, in the final stanza the speaker realizes that he or she is an integral part of the life cycle.

3. Having read multiple poems by Mark Strand, I was drawn to this poem. Like Mark Strand's other poems, "Keeping Things Whole" provides an ambiguous take on the general process and purpose of life and concordantly death. Simple in verse, it was easy to comprehend the surface of the work. However, it is Strand's close attention to the importance of image, line break, and tone that intrigued me to take a deeper look into the meaning.

4. Strand's "Keeping Things Whole" resembles Shakespeare's "[Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore]." While Shakespeare's poem adheres to a more formal sonnet form in comparision to Strand's free versed poem, they both visit the same theme, the role nature plays in the individual life. In Shakespeare's sonnet, nature serves to bring the speaker to the realization that "like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore" so he or she moves towards impending death. In contrast, Strand's nature serves to show the speaker that his or her actions bring life and "keeps things whole." In both cases, the speaker exists in contrast to his or her environment. Both speakers attempt to gain control over time and place, as explified in the metrical variations. Shakespeare takes a slight variation on the sonnet form stringing lines together by stressed lines, emphasizing the rising and falling of the speaker's accomplishments. This suggests that despite his or her efforts, nature is still prevailing. In Strand's poem, the speaker strings together the concrete ideas of field and air, negating his personal attachment for a more physical insertion. There is a sense of push and pull between the speaker and the environment created by the repetition of I and the repetition of place. In the end, however, Strand's speaker is able to become balanced with nature and coincide harmoniously.

Shakespeare, William. "[Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore]." The Norton Introduction to Poetry. Ed. J. Paul Hunter, Allison Booth and Kelly J. Mayes. 9th ed. New York: Norton, 2007. 215.

1 comment:

Marissa said...

Wow! I'm glad you posted this. What an interesting poem. Has harmony and balance really been reached by the end, though, I wonder? If the only way to keep things balanced is to leave them, it's kind of. . .Well, it's not coexistence, anyway. More like a reconcilliation to never being a part of things. But on the other hand, I guess the speaker's a complete entity in and of himself, just like the field. . .

I think what strikes me most about this poem is its stress both on permanence and change.