Poetry Analysis: “In a Station of the Metro” by Ezra Pound

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Ezra Pound was a rebel and wanted to do things his way in regard to poetry – and so he did.  In the introduction of The Norton Anthology of American Literature (Volume D), it states:  “Pound first campaigned for ‘imagistic,’ his name for a new kind of poetry.  Rather than describing something – an object or situation – and then generalizing about it, imagist poets attempted to present the object directly, avoiding the ornate diction and complex but predictable verse forms of traditional poetry.”

Pound’s 1913 poem “In a Station of the Metro” demonstrates his imagistic motif in a couple of lines:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

This short piece illustrates his imagistic talent because the entire poem deals with images alone.  It is not complex; rather, the two-line poem is straightforward and to the point.  The brevity of the poem intrigues with a deep message regarding the beauty and diversity of human beings.

One word that overshadows all the rest in line one is apparition.  The word apparition alone means a ghostly figure, something strange or unusual that suddenly comes into view.  Pound may have seen different faces in a Paris subway and defined the “faces in the crowd” with the illustration of pure beauty or images of flawless human beings.  The reason for formulating such assertion is because of this:  with the meaning and usage of the word apparition, it enables Pound to convey the expression of shock and awe once he steps into the metro station.  It’s almost as if he discovers the faces in the crowd surprisingly.  More important, he may have not seen the faces clearly and saw only a blur that he interpreted as a vision of attractiveness.

The second line of the poem renders one word that overshadows all the rest:  petals.  Petals are vibrant flowers that have different colors and represent beauty when blossomed, which he identifies as the “faces in the crowd.”  Additionally, petals are flowers that come in various shades, sizes, shapes, and so forth – akin to human beings.  Therefore, Pound perhaps envisioned the people in the crowd as beautiful, for the diversity they embodied.

In all, the poem is incredibly short – but meaningful – and takes the meaning of short poetry to its purest form.  However, the images are captivating and make the poem move beyond the literal, for the two images that stand out are apparition and petals.  When one thinks of apparition, the first thing that comes to mind is a ghostly figure.  When one thinks of petals, something soft and delightful comes to mind as a floral.

Thus, Pound takes the two words and morphs them together as one to get a greater effect, meaning that when he witnessed mysterious faces in the crowd with various colors and shapes, it rendered a good-looking sight in his eyes.  The poem shows that whatever color, size, or shape a person embodies, he or she still has some characteristics of beauty – regardless of his/her outer appearance.
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[Originally Written January 18, 2008]

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Poetry Analysis: “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks

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“We Real Cool” definitely has a powerful message behind it.  Gwendolyn Brooks illustrates the essence of troubled teenagers who will eventually suffer the ill-fated possibility that life renders human beings while engaging in the lifestyle of the streets – death.

The teenagers are obviously not too fond about attending school.  Therefore, they skip and find solace and pleasure at a pool facility.  It seems as if the teenagers really don’t care about their education and go day by day living a happy-go-lucky lifestyle.  The happiness that they are feeling by playing pool supports that theory.

They sing.  They drink.  They ignore the seriousness of life and their future.  In all, they do anything to capture that feeling of ecstasy.  A nonchalant attitude about the players’ personas clearly resonates throughout the poem.

The constant usage of the word “We” may indicate that these boys are proclaiming their arrival at the pool facility as if they have been there before.  The bottom line is apparent:  The seven young men find their comfort at the poolroom, rather than school.

For the most part, the tone of the poem is very upbeat, while simultaneously presenting a dark atmosphere.  The entertainment the boys are engaging in presents happiness. However, the actions of the boys present bleakness with the placements of the words “Lurk late,” “Sing sin,” and “Thin gin.”

These words carry unpleasant meanings.  “Lurk” implies sneakiness with the intent of doing something wrong. “Sin” implies a moral and/or criminal wrongdoing. Being that these boys are street people, it is safe to argue that criminal activities may occur via “lurk[ing] late” at night.  “Gin,” an alcoholic beverage, is not an unpleasant term; however, in the context of the poem, it implies that these boys are drinking heavily (via “Thin”) and could possibly become intoxicated, causing an unpleasant outcome.

The unpleasant tone of the poem amplifies dramatically at the end with the following statement:  “We die soon.”  This one line alone does not only present a chilling end but firmly cements their future.

In a more in depth analysis of the final line (which refers to death), the subtitle of the poem states:  THE POOL PLAYERS.  SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.  The number “seven” has the aura of good fortune while the boys shoot pool.  Moreover, the word “golden” typifies prosperity and happiness, akin to how the boys are feeling.  However, the word “shovel” signifies an ominous sign, relating to death, casket, funeral and later burial.  Brooks implies that street people will eventually die soon.  These young boys are obviously street people because they are not in school.

They live a carefree life and they could not care less about attending school, because they find it tedious.  They lack the presence of mind to grasp the importance of what school offers at the moment and how beneficial it would serve them in the future.  Such carefree mindset will present difficulties as these young boys seek employment.

Their lives have no direction and they don’t really care about anything – not even their wellbeing for the future.  They have no sense of themselves and are not aware of the importance of education, which will sooner or later become their downfall.

Their poor decision serves them no advantages in any way, because they will not be active participants in society.  Without a high school diploma, their journey to find a decent job will be limited.  Such difficulty may possibly turn the boys into criminals to obtain easy money.

Moreover, these young men are clearly dropouts and perhaps Black, supported by the lingo of the poem.  In fact, the title, “We Real Cool,” breaks the rule of proper English because it presents a slang dialect.

Even though the poem was written in 1960, it mirrors the situation of today, for many young boys and even young girls skip school every day – not to mention those who dropout.

Gwendolyn Brooks does an excellent job with this piece.  With its monosyllabic and eight-line stature, the poem is short, straightforward, and to the point.

“We Real Cool” represents an impressive piece that has a profound implication:  No education (i.e., skipping an institution of schooling that provides knowledge) and living a carefree lifestyle as a dropout will most likely lead to an unfortunate end – death.