Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Red Shift" Explication - Early Work

Poetry often features unwritten meaning and messages. Poets often portray these meaning using clues. Clues such as describing the setting as colorless and cold may suggest that the speaker is lonely or depressed. In the poem "Red Shift", the poet Ted Berrigan suggests that the speaker is nearing the end of his days because of the fact that he uses clues such as setting, human reaction, denial, and acceptance.
The poet uses the setting and the speaker's reaction as a way to signify death drawing near. For example, the poet writes that "The air is biting, February" (line 2), signifying that it is the dead of winter, everything is cold and lifeless. Death is often associated with winter; therefore, the writer uses the winter setting to signify death. The speaker is also very bleak, describing the desires of life to be "burning". "Love, children, hundreds of them, money, marriage ethics, a politics of grace, up in the air, swirling, burning even or still, now more than ever before" (lines 15-18). The speaker seems to have lost all of that, indicating that those desires are no longer needed, since they will lose them anyways.
Often times, people reminisce about the past when they know their short for time. The speaker in the poem seems to be lost in the moments of his life throughout the poem. For example, "The Calvados is being sipped on Long Island now twenty years almost ago...” (Lines 10-11), is a direct statement of a memory that is apparently from 20 years ago. Another example is how the speaker talks about the various people they've known. People often think back to those who have impacted their lives, especially nearing death. Denial and then a realization of fate is written by the poet to signify the speaker's inevitable doom. The poet shows the speaker's denial of their demise by writing "I'm 43. When will I die? I will never die, I will live to be 110, and I will never go away.." (31-32). Although the speaker doesn't admit their fate at first, they then reference them self as a "ghost" or "spirit", as if they are already dead. "You will never escape from me who am always and only a ghost, despite this frame, Spirit who lives only to nag" (32-34). Finally, the speaker accepts his fate in the last lines of the poem. "Alone and crowded, unhappy fate, nevertheless I slip softly into the air..." (40-41).
In conclusion, the poet uses many words, metaphors, and symbols to show that the speaker of the poem is knocking on death's door, reluctantly,\nand almost regretfully. Thus ending the poem with a melancholy mood that shows the reader that the speaker accepts his fate, and death is drawing near.

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