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Monday, May 7, 2012

Duhamel Critical

With the poems, "Delta Flight 659," "Please Don't Sit Like a Frog, Sit Like a Queen," and "Anagram America," Denise Duhamel uses a from called a sestina. A sestina is a reoccurring line or phrase in a poem. Sestinas usually consist of 39 lines and the word or words at the end of the first line are repeated throughout the poems in certain patterns.

First, "Delta Flight 659" is an example of a sestina. This poem is directed toward actor, Sean Penn, but if you read close enough, you see that every word at the end of the lines has the word, "pen" somewhere in them. The speaker seemed to have a sort of comical and teasing attitude, especially in the line, "Maybe this should be in iambic pentameter, rather than this mock sestina, each line ending in a Penn." This is also proves that Duhamel was writing a sestina poem. I thought this was incredible for Duhamel to do, and it must have taken her a long time to come up with this idea. I found this poem to be very creative and clever.

I believe that the tone of this poem is a little sarcastic, but sort of like an, "I'm not afraid of you, Sean Penn" feeling. When I read the lines, "You probably think fans like me are your penance for your popularity, your star bulging into a pentagon filled with poets who waddle towards your icy peninsula," I thought the speaker was a little obsessed about Sean Penn. This person already claimed to be a fan of his and seemed to know so much about him already. It was almost a little creepy. Another example of the obsessiveness was in the line, "I tried to be your pen pal in 1987, not because of your pensive bad boy looks, but because of a poem you'd penned." The speaker seems to be teasing Penn and appeared to want to be a part of his life.

However, the speaker takes a turn in emotion and comes to her, "I'm not afraid of you, Sean Penn" feeling when she says, "I want no part of your penthouse or the snowy slopes of your Aspen." She seems to only want to write a poem and doesn't want anything to do with him. I thought the speaker went from being Sean Penn's number one fan and then deciding he's simply an actor and that is all. The poem seemed to be a maturation poem and dealt with change in feelings over time.

In the poem, "Please Don't Sit Like a Frog, Sit Like a Queen," the line, "Don't sit like a frod, sit like a queen" was repeated at the end of every other stanza and then repeated at the end of the last stanza. That was the sestina. It emphasized an idea that the speaker wanted the readers or target audience to embody.

I believe that the speaker was poking fun at how women behave and I thought she was trying to give advice. I saw this in lines, "Remember to pamper, remember to preen," and "Keep your breath minty and your teeth white and clean." It seems as though the speaker wants women to be the best they can be. However, I felt a change in tone with the poem, espeically in the line, "Smile, especially when you're feeling mean." I originally thought this meant for women to take the high road in tough situations, but when I looked at it again, it seemed to be a little catty. It's like hiding real emotion and being fake by smiling. This poem has a dual mood to it, with helpfullness and meanness.

In, "Anagram America," Duhamel uses a clever trick again. This poem is a sestina, because at the end of every line, the word "america" is spelled in some way. In some cases, the word is backwards or the letters are jumbled around, out of order. I thought the speaker seemed optimistic about America, because she lists different activities to do, like go to the In Skate-a-Rama, the Dollar-Rama, stay at the Ramada Inn, and watch Hollywood films. The speaker even says, "Now that's America." I thought this was going to be a total pro-America poem, but it didn't seem that way after I read the line, "I watched The Crying Game but not to better understand the IRA." That line doesn't deal with anything American and mentions the IRA. The IRA is in Ireland.

I thought this poem was decent, but it became a little silly and too-pointed. Duhamel appeared to be too focused on the anagram, so the poem became confusing. The sestina had more of an effect than the actual poem itself.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rachel,

    This post has plenty of interesting analysis of the poems and it actually seems like all of it has to do with tone in formal poetry. But can you make it clear that that's your topic? Right now, you seem to be meandering a bit.

    Also, only one of the poems you mention is a sestina and there are other avoidable mistakes here.

    That said, I appreciate your engagement with the poetry and I think you offer some creative readings, especially of "Frog" and "Penn."