Author: Urbana Anam

an unusual poem by Derek Mahon

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“The Window” by Derek Mahon


io                                                                         oo

n  o                                                                  o  w

d    d                                                               w    i

o   w                                                               o    n

w   o                                                               o    d

i     o                                                               d    o

n    d                                                               w  w

d   w                                                               o     i

o    o                                                               o    n

w   o                                                               d    d

i     d                                                               w   o

n   w                           wind                          o   w

d    o                                                               o     i

o    o                                                               d    n

w   d                                                               w   d

i    w                                                               o    o

n   d                                                                w  w

d  o                                                                   o   i

oo                                                                       on




“We sing sin. We thin gin.”

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The lifestyle of the seven pool players described in Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool” seems to create negative impression; they are after all youngsters who are missing school, lurking and striking. However, when you read this poem multiple times, you realize that there is no judgement (as far as I could tell) in the tone of the speaker. Partly because the repetition of the inclusive word “we” reads as though the speaker themselves, despite not being one of the pool players, lives the same lifestyle. The final line of the poem, “We die soon,” (7-8) reveals the expected death that we have all heard, read, and wrote about. If death is not a shocker and we are all aware that we will die someday, there is no reason to be critical of the pool players’ death.

“We sing sin. We thin gin” (4-6). This may be my favorite lines; they read so beautifully and the dilution of the alcohol in a way contrast their seemingly concentrated life.


We all have miles to go before we sleep.

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Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” explores a serious matter with subtlety by layering the poem with simple, and almost innocent, descriptions. When you start to read this poem, a beautiful scene of snowy woods is formed in your mind; you wonder what it would be like to observe such a scene in real life and maybe even the experience of going in. However, as you reach the end of the poem, you change your mind (at least I hope you change your mind). The last stanza of the poem reads:

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

The speaker is tempted to commit suicide, but realizes that they have “promises to keep,” (14) with people and with themselves. Hence, they have a long way from going to “sleep.” The speaker and their horse, an animal of intuition, turn away from the seemingly beautiful woods and return home. It makes me happy that Frost ended this poem on a high note; in terrible circumstances, suicide may seem like an easy option, or even the only option, but you have to remember the “promises” you have made as an individual to love and be loved by people.

The snowy woods in this poem have a very similar connotation to the color white in “Design”; Frost reverses the traditional meaning of white as a symbol innocence and purity to imply death. Furthermore, the last of line of “Design,” which states, “If design govern in a thing so small,” (14) begs the question whether fate is something totally out of our control because the speaker in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” willingly walks away from the death route.


“To foe of His – I’m deadly foe-“

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Emily Dickinson’s “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun” exudes rage like no other poem in a very beautiful and subtle way. The poem starts out by comparing the speaker’s life to “a Loaded Gun” (1); naturally, one would think of this as a symbol for death, but as the poem proceeded, the gun takes on a different meaning. Line 3 and 4 reveals that the speaker is waiting for the “Owner,” which could mean that she, the speaker, is waiting for the day she is married and once she is married, she becomes a possession of her husband. The tone of this starting stanza is a mixture of melancholy and fury; the capitalizations of words like “My Life” and “Me” help to convey that.

Now that there are together, the gun and its owner, or the husband and wife, “roam in Sovreign Woods,” (5). Sovereign means supreme and dominant, while the woods are often associated with hunting, so the two words put together could mean that they are embarking into a man’s world, or patriarchy. And in the “Woods,” they hunt the “Doe,” a female deer or of other animal species; the owner is the hunter, the gun his tool, and a female his prey. The last lines of stanza 2 further express Dickinson’s frustration of being a woman in such a male dominated world: “And every time I speak for Him/ The Mountains straight reply-” (7-8). When the woman decides to speak up for herself, something is either blocking her voice or is quick to criticize.

The poems ends with, “For I have but the power to kill,/ Without – the power to die-” (23-24). The owner without his gun cannot kill, giving the gun more power than its owner, but at the same time, the gun by itself cannot kill anything without the help of a hand. Dickinson is perhaps saying that though the woman is powerful, she is restrained by the society to freely exercise her power. She, the gun, is an inanimate object, hence has no mortality, unlike its owner, so he will live longer than her without a question.

Dickinson does not shy away from giving a nontraditional depiction of a woman; she is a loaded gun with the ability to kill and protect. This breakthrough is what I liked most about this poem.


Getting “Psycho” and Edgar Allan Poe Vibe

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Robert Browning’s “Porphyria’s Lover” may be the creepiest yet thrilling poem I’ve read so far. This dramatic monologue begins by setting a scene with descriptive words, such as “sullen wind,” “elm-tops,” “rain” and “the lake,” giving off characteristics of romanticism. Then, a woman named Porphyria is introduced by the speaker, presumably his girlfriend because she seems to know her way around the cottage where the he lives. The speaker says, she “kneeled and made the cheerless grate/Blaze up, and all the cottage warm . . .” (8-9) and “put my arm about her waist, /And made her smooth white shoulder bare . . .” (16-17); it’s clear that Porphyria is pretty comfortable with the speaker and it would be fair to assume that they have been in this relationship for a while now. With that being said, when the speaker says, “give herself to me forever,” (25) it does not seem weird because one would think that he is referring to marrying and growing old with her. It’s not until line 37 that I finally understood what was happening: “I found/ A thing to do, and all her hair/ In one long yellow string I wound/ Three times her little throat around, / And strangled her,” (37-41). He killed Porphyria with her own hair! The speaker is a psychopath; he killed her because he loved her so much and was “Happy and proud” (32) after committing such act (Madhouse Cells further confirms this). What’s more disturbing is that the speaker then stays with Porphyria’s dead body “all night long” (59) as if nothing happened.  So, now going back to line 25, he LITERALLY meant having her, as in having her dead body like a souvenir to commemorate his love.

The poem ends with the following sentence, and in my opinion, the best line in the poem: “And yet God has not said a word!” (60). This begs the question, where was God when all this happened? The last line almost seems like a challenge and a power statement from the speaker’s part because he is essentially saying “I am capable of doing vicious things and no one, not even God, that is if they do exist, can stop me.” This kind of captures an element of Victorian poetry, the conflict between religion and science; the science here would be the human psychology (and its complexities), and how it cannot be entirely explained or resolved by faith. What makes this poem so interesting is that it’s doing more than what other poems we have read so far in class were capturing. It starts out with descriptions of nature and the beauty of Porphyria, so you expect it to be all warm and cozy, about love, about the vast nature this earth bears, and how humbling it is to see the physical world around us. And bam! We are reading aloud the thoughts of a maniac, realizing how powerful and dangerous a human could be. The unexpectedness is what makes this poem so unique and the reason for my liking.

TBH, reading this poem late at night made it scarier and more fun to read. I would recommend those who are into thrillers to try this!


beautiful words for a beautiful woman

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Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” eloquently describes the divine beauty of a woman that the speaker has witnessed. I say divine because her beauty is compared to “the night/Of cloudless climes and starry skies,” (1-2) something so limitless and nonhuman. Byron’s choice of words like “best of dark and bright,” (3) “serenely sweet,” (11) and “so soft, so calm,” (14) demonstrate his admiration for the woman more than his passion. This surprised me because if I remember well, the poems we have read so far in class that in any way talked about a woman’s beauty were love poems and they all revealed some kind of emotion, whether it be frustration, optimism, or physical and/or nonphysical desires. However, here Byron is essentially saying, “Oooh myyy, she is hella beautiful!” instead of the anticipated, “She is beautiful, so I want her and I want to do things with her!”  The speaker, and ultimately Byron’s, admiration of the woman’s beauty from a distance is what I liked the most about this poem because he is letting her be instead of interfering. I’m not saying that if someone finds someone else beautiful and is attractive to them, then they should just creepily look at them from a distance; by all means, talk to them or even ask them out if you have the gut. But, by “interfering” I mean the speaker is not trying to make the woman’s beauty about him, he is simply describing with beautiful words.


a short, meaningful poem

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The first stanza of William Woodsworth’s “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal” has an innocent outlook on reality because the speaker seems to be unaware of one’s transitory nature. The speaker “had no human fears” (2) and the woman I’m assuming he was in love with “could not feel the touch of earthly years,” (3-4) suggesting that they were almost like divine beings, untouched by humane characters such as fears and aging. The ignorance of mortality here could be to highlight their unworldly, naive love because ideally, love defeats time and space. In the second stanza, however, the speaker speaks with more awareness and realism; the woman is now dead. She has “no motion,” “no force, “and she is unable to hear or see. Here Woodsworth equates senses with life; this notion seems to be very important to Woodsworth because in the Tintern Abbey poem, sensing nature essentially preserves the speaker’s mind and soul, therefore, by losing one’s senses, one also loses their existence. The woman is now buried in “earth’s diurnal course,/With rocks, and stones, and trees,” (7-8) debunking the belief that the speaker in first stanza seemed to have; she is human and she, like all of us, must die and return to earth.

In comparison to the Tintern Abbey poem, “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal” is significantly short, but it communicates the message of mortality well. This poem is very narrow yet compact, demonstrating that the length of one’s life does not necessarily mean the weight of their experience.



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Phillis Wheatley’s “On Being Brought from Africa to America” takes an intellectual approach to emphasize a Christian principle that many white, devoted Christians at the time neglected. The big message that’s being conveyed in the poem is all people are equal in the eyes of God, and lines 7 and 8 serve as a testimony to that message: “Remember, Christians, ——, black as Cain,/May be refined, and join th’ angelic train.” Wheatley, a slave abducted from Senegal/Gambia, West Africa, has for sure dealt with racism and in this poem, the insolent and destructive notion of white race being better than any other race is challenged subtly by her words. To justify the slavery system, white slave traders and owners argued that people with darker skin tone than them are the children of Cain, the first-born of Adam and Eve who murdered his brother Abel, essentially calling them evil and unholy. To contradict this common argument, Wheatley writes that dark-skinned people can be just as “refined” and “angelic” as white people because everyone is equal in front of their Maker.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) With this in mind, how can you say that black people are not in the same level as white people? Because all people were created by the same God, why would God intentionally disadvantage his own making? It’s a conflict synthesized by human beings, not something God handed over.

I find it ironic that Wheatley, who was kidnapped and converted to Christianity by white Christian people, is teaching a basic Christian principle to the very people (I’m assuming the poem is mainly intended for white readers) who justified bondage and racial inequality with religious aspects. The irony is what I liked best about this poem; I’m not sure how I feel about the beginning lines of the poem when enslavement is equated to finding mercy.



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“When I Consider How My Light Is Spent” is a Petrarchan sonnet written by John Milton when he became completely blind. In his verses, Milton laments over his loss of “talent,” the ability to see, and because of this, he fears that he will be “useless” and unable to serve the “Maker” (God). In response to Milton’s complaint, Patience, a seemingly powerful and sensible figure, responds by saying, “stand and wait” (14). God has millions of people who can carry out tasks that require one’s vision, so God does not need another to do the same; the speaker of the poem, or Milton since this is an autobiographical sonnet, has to wait on God to call on him for him to serve God. The bottom line here is that to be a faithful servant to God, one has to wait patiently and accept what’s given, including limitations.

I know that we all know this phrase: Do not take things for granted. However, how often do we stand by this phrase on a daily basis? Not often enough. Milton’s sonnet reminded me to remind myself of this ever so truthful phrase continuously. I hope after reading this post it does the same for you.


Lust Is…

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Shakespeare’s sonnet 129 is a very erotic and graphic take on lust. Just a heads up, the interpretation of this sonnet will get sexual so get ready to be uncomfortable.

To lay out the basics, this Shakespearean sonnet (like all his other sonnets) has three rhyming quatrains with four lines each and a closing couplet. The rhyme scheme of the sonnet is ababcdcdefefgg and it is written in iambic pentameter.

For interpretation, I am going to go from quatrain to quatrain, instead of going through each line.

1st Quatrain: The speaker starts out by saying that one’s “spirit” (life, vigor, and/or semen) is spent in the “waste”, a pun for “waist” or the female’s crotch; that (sexual urge) is essentially what lust is and it is a shameful thing. Lust is capable of making a person lie (“perjured”) and committing something as vicious as killing. Lust is not to be trusted because it messes with one’s rationale, causing the person to be very aggressive and animal-like during intercourse and interaction.

2nd Quatrain: Sex, driven by lust, is enjoyable at the moment when it’s taking place, but regrettable when it is done. It is like most college hook-ups; it’s seems like a nice idea on a Friday night but one usually ends up despising it the next morning. You are out of your senses when you are doing it, but once you’ve done it, all the logics hit you.

3rd Quatrain: Lust can turn a person into a nut job. Once you have sex with whomever, lust drives you to want more of it. The speaker says “Had, having, and in quest to have”, where past, present, and future tenses are applied to suggest that it’s not a one-time thing. It’s almost like an addiction, a sickness (I’m referring to the Don Juan Syndrome, which is an excessive urge in a man to have sex frequently with many different partners).

Couplet: The speaker is saying that everyone knows what lust is, but to know it well enough, one has to have experienced all the shameful stuff that comes with lust. The contradicting words “heaven” and “hell” in the final line sum up the speaker’s definition of lust.