Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Eating Poetry

Eating Poetry
Mark Strand


Eating Poetry

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man,
I snarl at her and bark,
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.
In Strand’s poem, “Eating Poetry,” he expresses the ways in which he loves poetry by using an extended metaphor of him eating poetry and becoming a dog hungry for poetry. While in the library, he literally eats all the poetry and the librarian gets upset: “ When I get on my knees and lick her hand,/ she screams./ I am a new man./I snarl at her and bark.” In these lines, Strand creates the image of becoming desperate for more poetry. So desperate that he acts like a dog, barking and licking the librarian’s hands. He depicts haunting images of snarling dogs and crying Librarians, therefore giving the sense that Poetry has a frightening power. Strand depicts the power that poetry has over him and how poetry can literally transform you. Eating the poems clearly has a negative meaning. When I first read it, it seemed that eating poetry could be a good thing if you are devouring them and gaining every shred of knowledge possible from them, however the stanza that says, “The poems are gone/The light is dim” and the librarians sadness clearly show us the eating of the poems is a negative. Therefore the person eating the poems seems to represent the wanton destruction of poetry by society. This notion is reinforced by the dogs coming upstairs and the librarians anger and sadness at their appearance. Finally the apparent descent of the narrator to becoming like one of these dogs shows the effect not having poetry and other literature would have on society, we would become like dogs. In this interpretation the librarians acts as a symbol of the intellectual who try to spread poetry and literature, but cannot always stop it from being stifled and destroyed. The words used are interesting because they are very strong images, happiness, eyeballs rolling, stamping feet and weeping, and yet the can be interpreted in very different ways. The dogs coming up from the basement stairs has a very strong image of hellhounds rising up from the pits of hell; which is very negative and something we usually try to avoid. After many readings I finally noticed that at the end, when he licks the librarian’s hand, he is still a man he is just acting like a dog. Mark Strand seems to be suggesting that if we lose poetry and our literature than we will become like animals.

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