Feed on

I agree with the introductory line that Wislaw Szymborska creates a “detached sympathy with her subjects.” This is important when dealing with poetry because it has a bad reputation for getting too sappy and cheesy. I firmly blame this on the overabundance of love poems in our culture. By providing the readers with a bit of irony, the entire tone of the poem changes, allowing the reader to pull back a little from the characters.

“Unexpected Meeting”
When I read this poem my first thought was that the world these people are in has turned on its head and not in a good way. I particularly liked the line, “Our sharks drown in water.” Everything that we would consider natural is gone only leaving the unnatural behind. The world changed because of the fighting between these two people or groups of people. I don’t know if the fighting was physical or metaphorical. There is a very strong sense of tension when they are talking politely to one another, that it is difficult to determine the exact relationship between these two groups. At first, I wondered if it was two warring nations who had destroyed the world around them, but that seemed a little extreme for the poem. However if one looks at it like a separated couple the fighting could have been metaphorical and both of their worlds were drastically changed.
There is an empty stillness in the polite talk, contrasted with the violent movement of the list of animals. If these two people were a couple who fought so much they decided to separate, there would have been bad blood on either side. Now that time has passed and they meet once more they have nothing to say to each other because everything meaningful or passionate has already been said and they are left with polite gibber gabber on repeat that they can’t even finish.

“The Women of Rubens”
This poem is a tribute to time, beauty, and gender. It’s subject is women who, in this time period, would not be considered the cream of the crop while in the seventeenth century were the epitome of beauty. I enjoyed all the mentions of the old masters in the poem. It added to the different sense of beauty that the poem speaks of. After all one of arts, main appeals to many is its beauty. This poem also speaks to the fact that if a woman doesn’t think she is beautiful she acts very differently from the ones that do.

This is an interesting title for the poem, particularly when she never mentions the hero by name or exactly what he did. Still the reader gets that whoever this guy is he did something great that is somehow cheapened by all the people walking in and out of his home asking the same questions, over and over again. There is a polish on the answers that his mother gives that says she has answered this many times before, and all the yes, yes, yes give the reader the impression of nodding. Still to name your poem after a famous statue of the Virgin Mary holding a dead Jesus is a very painful image to connect this with. It adds an extra layer of emotional depth and complexity. I think that it shows that despite the mother’s calm appearance and will practiced answers she still hurts for her long gone son. Perhaps this opening up to tourists are her way of resurrecting him.

“Theater Impressions”
I cannot tell at the end if it is a good clutch or a bad one. Becoming emotional can give you that tight feeling in your throat but it doesn’t mean that the emotion is a bad one. However, the fact that this play was a tragedy, and the wording, “it clutches my throat” does have sinister or negative connotations. I do love the way that the character views the play. Starting at a place where many lose interest in the actual plot and are only focus on thanking the actors is very unusual.

“Under a Certain Little Star”
The strongest theme in this poem was the desire to size and experience everything there is in life, even if it is not physically possible, like living as every man and women or apologizing to a tree for her table legs. There is also a great deal of sorrow that this isn’t possible because “I myself am an obstacle to myself.”

“Reality Demands”
I loved this poem. It is the brutal truth, but also shows that this might not be the worst thing in the world. One of its main themes is time. Time moves on and soon the old battlefields that were so tragic and vivid in its time will be forgotten despite the attempt to remember them. This is never so clearly shown as her descriptions of people still experience day-to-day moments like sending letters, painting a park bench, and seeing blooming flowers in these places where so much death has occurred.
It is ironic that so many people have died in these various battles for their beliefs and causes. However, reality demands (hahaha) that they are forgotten, or not quite as remembered as they were. This may give the impression of narcissism but one should also remember that the ideals the people died/fought for could still be present. So that even though the individual fades in the grand scheme of things bits of their lives and experiences still live on today.

“The End and the Beginning”
I would say this is a hopeful poem with a touch of irony. Hopeful because all the hard work of rebuilding succeeds in creating peace in a land where there was war. Where there used to be, “sofa springs/the shards of glass/the bloody rags,” there is now a cornfield with a farmer boy staring up at the clouds. However, it is ironic and painful because humans can’t remember the pain and suffering of war. If you can’t learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it. The growing ignorance of what war means to the common people is very clear. In the end, the way the farmer’s boy is described as lying, “in the grass that covers up/the cause and effects/… (while he’s) gawking at the clouds” shows that the transformation is complete. Still, this is one of my favorite poems because of the imagery.

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