Dreamers & Surgeons


Quick & Dirty Synthesis


Class #1: Framing the Poem 

I realized after class that I'd subconsciously chosen three poems that talk about lost love--the subject all three have in common--within a larger context of loss and memory. None of these poems stays strictly with just lost love. By weaving in other material they gain power and interest. So here are my quick summaries of how these poems frame their material.

Michael Waters - "Treasure-Attic"

Moves from a thematically related but distinct topic (obsolete tools), developed in great physical detail and with great certainty, to the subject of a lost love in which the dominant feelings are longing and uncertainty. 

Length of treatment: many lines on the tools and their names; only a final couplet for the lost love.

Mode is expository and meditative (e.g., let me explain to you the different kinds of arcane tools and how they’re constructed, what their names are).

Diane Seuss - "I dreamed a color, no plot, a color, strange" 

Moves from high uncertainty—a questioning state in which the speaker tries to understand the color in a dream—toward waking-life associations that culminate in a specific narrative moment with the beloved (Mikel), whose imagery connects to the original dream of a color.

Length of treatment: roughly divides into thirds; final third is about the lost love/friend.

Mode is associative (e.g., this color reminds me of that color, but only sort of, which is like that other thing) until it reaches the Mikel narrative. Also performative in that we’re hearing the speaker “think aloud” to figure out her dream images.

Larry Levis - "My Story in a Late Style of Fire"

Moves from a present-day rumination about how he was banished by an ex, then weaves back and forth between different subjects, between past and present, building in emotional urgency and detail in the scene/memory of the last time he held his ex. Ends in the amplified fantasy of the fire consuming a house.

Length of treatment: roughly equal for the lost love and the other most dominant subject, fire. But allthe treatments of fire, lost love, Billie Holiday, New York then and now are all dispersed throughout the poem and not kept together.

Mode is recursive (repetitive, spiraling) and performative (he dramatizes his various meandering self-interrogations, fantasies, what-if scenarios, then at the end turns to the reader to make his case). The “confused” effect of this mode enacts the confused and self-deluding tendencies of the speaker.