One of the first moments where I felt I could actually be a successful writer (read: read writer) was when I was published in my college’s student publication Impressions. As if publication was not enough, I tied for second place in that issue with my best college friend. While it was a small accomplishment, I’m still quite proud of my poem. I feel like it sums up my college career, as well as conveys my view on the importance and tension of Author/Reader/Text interpretation. Enjoy!
A Poem: Analyze This
You pick up a poem and start reading.
Perhaps you take pleasure in the written word,
perhaps you wish to appear intelligent,
or perhaps you were unaware of the content
until you’d begun.
Regardless, you’re reading now.
Refusing to be bested by mere words on a page,
you begin your subconscious mission
to conquer the text,
crack the code,
find the pirate’s elusive X.
Perhaps you start with the author – me.
You find that I recently ended
a serious relationship with a devoted fan,
which suggests the poem is written
in first and second person to design
a connection between reader and writer,
compensating for the woeful solitude I now face.
(Funny, if I had my biography contain different
facts – I was in the middle of Calvino’s
If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller
while writing the poem,
or I receive brilliant writing ideas at 2:30am,
only to wake up later and realize
“Why Wrestling a Hippo is an Artistic Prey”
doesn’t even make sense as a sentence,
let alone as a writing topic –
you would come up with an entirely
different reading of my poem.)
I’m sure how much I’ve published
before will affect your reading as well.
Since I’ve never been published,
your reaction may be
“no wonder it’s a simple failure”
or perhaps “why isn’t more of her literary genius
published?…the brilliant complexities!”
But enough about me.
You’ve finally decided
to look at the poem itself.
What do you think of its length?
You decide the poem’s concepts
are exquisitely drawn out and explored.
Or you think the author – I –
didn’t edit enough to cut out
the useless nonsense from the gems.
Of course you look at imagery, too.
A fighting hippo, fortune teller,
and treasure-hunting pirate come to your mind.
Perhaps the poem conveys the problem
with stereotyping and making assumptions
from one aspect of a person’s life.
(And I am sure one day, critics will debate
if “fighting hippo” refers to an African version
of Steve Irwin or to sumo wrestlers.
But that’s beside the point.)
By now you may have a mental image
of me as a crazed gypsy, gazing
into a crystal ball, what with my mix
of predicting and guiding your thoughts
the entire time. Or maybe the “you” I refer to
is no longer you, the reader you, but another “you”
than you, “you” merely being “you” the reader, “you,”
of my imagination, while you are flesh-and-blood
you. But let me assure you, actual reader, in case
you are troubled – I am not in your head.
Now on you go with your reading; after all,
it would be a shame for your analysis
to end so soon. So you move on,
tackling my use of rhyme scheme.
You discover that rhyme is rarely used,
but alliteration needs no X to be noticed.
P’s in “pick up a poem,”
B’s in “be bested by,”
X’s in “exquisitely explored,”
or B’s in “bunch of bull,” among many others.
You pick up the notion that a struggle is being
explored in these phrases, perhaps a tension
between the deepness of text
and the exquisite ideas actually conveyed.
Or maybe that’s a bunch of bull utilized
to convince you that this one poem
of mine has some literary value.
But wouldn’t it irk you, dear reader,
to get to the last page of my lengthy biography,
after multiple readings and careful critical analysis
of my only poem, only to discover that I
had written the entire thing in just one brief sitting?
What do you think?
Where do we find out interpretation of writings? Through authorial intent, through text alone, through reader engagement? Share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear.