A poem with an explanation: Illuminate the darkness

Poems are generally like art in that each viewer (or reader) can interpret the poem in different ways.  Often no explanation of the poem is provided by the poet.  While this is beneficial, it can also be beneficial to understand the poet’s perspective of a poem.

The following has two sections.  The first section has a poem with no explanation.  Please read the poem a few times to develop a personal perspective.  After the poem, an explanation is given. Please read the explanation to understand the poet’s intention.

The poem:

Illuminate the darkness

Darkness fills like a cloud that has no form.

At the point,
lights shine,

but in a way,
do not illuminate the darkness.

Nearby,
lights shine,

but in a way,
do not illuminate the darkness.

In the distance,
lights shine,

but in a way,
do not illuminate the darkness.

Closely,
a light shines,

and it,

illuminates the darkness.

The explanation:

This poem is a dual-level poem.  The first level is the literal level – what the poem is actually describing.  The second level is the metaphorical level – what the poem is conveying.  The poem is meant to be read at the second level.

The first level of this poem is a very simple idea: the Earth in space.  It references the Earth in space with the Sun, stars and planets.  In a literal sense, this is what the poem is describing.  The poem, however, is not meant to be read at this level.  In fact, reading the poem at this level, may make the poem seem less impactful.  This level though is used as a tool to implement the second level of the metaphor – in this case, a person overcoming a problem.  The idea of light illuminating darkness is the main metaphor used.  This is the level that the poem is meant to be read at.

Poem title: Illuminate the darkness

This title was chosen for three reasons.  First, it has an interesting symbolism.  The idea of illuminating darkness can be very symbolic, as well as literal.  Second, it has a “poetic” sound.  Having a certain sound in poems often makes an important difference.  Third, because of this poetic sound, the title was repeated in the poem.  In writing the poem, the repeat of the phrase in the poem inspired the title, rather than the title inspiring the repeat of the phrase.

First line: Darkness fills like a cloud that has no form.

The first line of the poem is set apart from the rest.  It is written as a single line.  This first line is meant to have a certain “darkness” of tone that is represented by the actual darkness being described.  In the literal sense, this line is describing the dark space that is around the Earth.  The darkness fills the space, but at the same time, has no form.  This line is in a sense describing the place.  In the metaphorical sense, this line introduces the problem that is being faced.  No specific problem is mentioned, but the problem is represented by darkness that fills.  It is meant to represent a significant problem.

From this point the four stanzas follow a similar four line form.  The first line describes a location.  Four locations are used: at the point, nearby, in the distance and closely.  The second line is the same for three of the stanzas: lights shine.  In the last stanza it reads “a light shines”.  The third line also takes two forms.  It reads “but in a way” in the first three stanzas and reads “and it” in the last stanza.

First stanza:

At the point,
lights shine,

but in a way,
do not illuminate the darkness.

In the first stanza the location is “at the point”.  In the literal sense, this “point” is the Earth itself.  In the metaphorical sense, this location is signifying the turning point in how a person is facing a problem.  It is a turning point, because up to this point the “darkness” of the problem was over the person and not illuminated.  This time period is described in this stanza and the next two.  In a literal sense, the first stanza could read:

On the Earth,
there are electrical lights,
but these lights,
do not diminish the darkness of space around Earth.

In a metaphorical sense, this first stanza is describing an internal type of help, something that the person realizes internally.  At first, it seems to provide some assistance, but it does not overcome the problem.

The first two lines of the stanza are set apart from the second two.  The first two lines provide a situation and some hope, but the second two lines, indented for separation and to cause a pause, are introduced with the word “but” and show that the hope did not solve the problem.

Second stanza:

Nearby,
lights shine,

but in a way,
do not illuminate the darkness.

In the second stanza, the literal meaning could be read:

The planets in the solar system,
give off light,
but this light,
does not diminish the darkness of space around Earth.

In this stanza, the metaphorical meaning to the location “nearby” is that since the person could not solve their problem with an internal discovery, they look “nearby” for help, or in some sense to help that is readily available.  Similarly though, this does not solve the problem.

Third stanza:

In the distance,
lights shine,

but in a way,
do not illuminate the darkness.

In the third stanza, the literal meaning could be read:

The stars,
give off light,
but this light,
does not diminish the darkness of space around Earth.

In this stanza, the metaphorical meaning to the location “in the distance” is that since the person could not find help to their problem by looking near to themselves, they take the opposite end and look far away.  Similarly though, this does not solve the problem.

These first three stanzas describe a time period up to the turning point the person will face.  Up until this point, the person has not found help to their problem.  All of these stanzas, in a literal sense, describe how the light of the lights on Earth, the stars and the planets are unable to illuminate the darkness of space that is around the Earth.

At first glance it may seem that the lights of the lights on Earth, the stars and the planets are unable to illuminate the darkness of space around Earth because they are insufficient.  This is not the case.  They are unable to illuminate the darkness that is around the Earth, not because of their weakness, but because of the strength of something else.

Fourth stanza:

Closely,
a light shines,

and it,

illuminates the darkness.

This stanza could be written literally as:

The Sun,
gives off light,
and it,
does diminish the darkness of space around Earth.

This final stanza is purposely kept with the preceding three.  The change is meant to be surprising.  The reader is not intended to expect it.

The location “closely” at first may seem strange to the reader.  Up until this stanza, the locations have been progressively getting farther away: at the point, then nearby, then in the distance.  This location may seem strange in that it is closer than “in the distance” but it is unclear whether it is closer than “nearby” or not.  This was done intentionally to symbolize that help to the problem was not in a place that was looked for.  It was close and in some sense overlooked.  In a literal sense, closely represents the Sun.  It is closer than the stars and some planets to Earth, but not as close as some other planets to the Earth.

The second line in the stanza is also an abrupt change.  The three preceding stanzas described “lights”.  This stanza describes “a light”.  The intention was to signify that there is something different about it.  In a literal sense, the Sun is one light, while the other lights are many lights.

The third line continues the change.  Rather than having the negative word “but” there is the positive word “and”.  Additionally, the preceding three third lines were vague with the phrase “in a way”.  The literal idea is that the lights have some effect on the darkness, but do not overtake it.  The line in this stanza is not vague: it says “and it”.  The literal idea is that the light of the Sun has a much larger impact than the other lights.

The last line of this stanza is indented more than any other line.  This is done so to signify its importance.  This line literally describes how the light of the Sun illuminates the darkness of space that is around the Earth.  Metaphorically, this line is on the other side of the turning point.  The person has found hope for their problem that will actually solve their problem.

 

This poem takes something literal: the Earth in space with various lights affecting the darkness around it, and uses it to describe something metaphorical, a person overcoming a problem.  The poem follows a path of the person failing to overcome their problem by trying different things, until they look in a new place and find hope to solve their problem.

This blog entry has been an example of a poem with an explanation.  Hopefully learning the poet’s intent of the poem has provided additional meaning to it.

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