Poem with an explanation: the hill, the valley, and the mountain

the hill
did look down
on the valley
and chastised it
for being so low

the wind blew
the rain fell

the mountain
looked toward the sky

 

This poem is about care for the elderly and perspective.  It is about relative positions in life.

In the poem there are three people: the valley, the hill, and the mountain.  The valley represents the elderly person.  The hill represents the adult child of the elderly person.  The mountain represents the child of the adult child.  This is three generations.

In the poem, the adult child is frustrated with their elderly parent.  They look down on them and chastise them for their physical incapability.  They can’t understand why the elderly person can’t be like themselves.

The adult child is oblivious to the progression of life.  In the poem there are three stages: a mountain, a hill, and a valley.  As a mountain erodes it becomes a hill.  As a hill erodes, it becomes a valley.  The adult child is criticizing their elderly parent for their physical incapability, not realizing they are moving in the same direction.  They don’t see their own erosion (represented by the wind and rain).  They don’t see where they’ve been, and they aren’t realizing where they are going.  They don’t realize they will be elderly someday, and therefore they don’t have compassion on someone who is elderly.

The mountain, representing the person in the third generation, has their focus somewhere else.  They don’t see the hill or the valley.  This shows that they are oblivious both to the treatment of their elderly relative, and of the reality that they will one day be in that position.  They don’t see the future implications for themselves.  They are concerned with other things.

It can sometimes occur in the care of the elderly, that the caregiver doesn’t see themselves in the one they care for.  They don’t see that they too will be in that position.  It can also be the case that younger generations are concerned about other things and don’t see the actions of caregivers or the condition of the elderly.  The poem is meant to highlight these things.

Poem with an explanation: a whole new meaning

Words you can’t pronounce
take on a whole new meaning
when they’re inside of you
or someone you know.

 

This poem is about cancer.  Cancer is filled with all sorts of terms.  There are disease names, medicine names, names for things in blood tests, and more.  The terms are often about complex ideas and they can be hard to pronounce.

If a person doesn’t have cancer, or isn’t close to someone who has it, these terms don’t have much meaning.  A person not close to cancer might hear them in an ad for a medicine for example, and they don’t know what the terms mean and don’t pay much attention to them.

The experience though is different for a person with the disease or for someone close to them.  These obscure terms all of a sudden have a meaning and significance.  A measure of something in the blood or a medicine name have a whole new meaning when they’re personal.

The idea of this poem is to point out the idea of perspective; the idea that importance depends on situation.  This idea comes up at many instances in life.  How many times, for example, have you heard a news story about something unrelated to you?  What happened?  You may have forgotten about it right after you heard it.  If though, the story was personal to you, you may have listened intently and even acted on what you heard.  There is a difference based on situation.

This notion applies to so many things.  Debt, prison, disease, natural disasters, and a multitude of negative things, take on a whole new perspective when they are personal.  All of a sudden information about them matters.

This is an important idea for people.  Realizing it can help promote empathy.  Once you realize that something obscure to you can be important to someone else, you can better put yourself in their situation and can better understand how they feel.

Poetry essay: Empathy in poetry

There are different perspectives in poetry.  A poet sometimes writes about themselves.  They might write about society.  They might write about a societal group.  They could write about a specific person.  They could write about a fictional person.

In writing poetry about others, one concern is that of empathy.  When a poet writes about the experiences of others, they could be concerned with letting the others know they have some sense of their feeling.  This can be important if a poet writes a poem about someone specific, or even if a poet writes a poem about a specific type of person.

Think, for example, of a poet writing about grief.  They might not be experiencing any grief at the moment, but they still want to write about it.  They might know someone who is experiencing grief, or they may want to communicate with those who are experiencing grief in their audience.

If a poet does this, the might find it important to be sensitive.  They are writing about people experience something difficult.  They don’t want to make light of the subject.  Additionally, they don’t want to seem out of touch.  They don’t want to use clichés or write things that people experiencing grief might not relate well to.

This same idea applies to other subjects as well, particularly those that have a negative component.  A poet wants to write something that reaches people in a way that they can relate to.

There are some steps a poet can take to improve the empathy of their poetry.

One thing a poet can do is talk to people experiencing something.  They might not ask, “So what is this like?” but they can try to get a sense of an experience through conversation.

As a corollary to this, and where appropriate, a poet could observe people who are experiencing something.   For example, if a poet wanted to write about loss in sport, they could observe sport teams and athletes when they lose.  They could look at their reactions and see what they say in interviews.  Of course, this isn’t appropriate for all situations, but it can help in some.

Another thing a poet can do is learn about a subject.  The more a poet knows about something, the more a poet can understand what someone experiencing it is going through.  Although it’s not the same, it can it least improve some understanding.  A poet could read articles, blogs, and books about a subject, and they could watch videos related to it.

As another technique, a poet could imagine themselves in a situation.  For example, if a poet wanted to express empathy for those who lost their jobs, they could imagine what it might be like to lose their own job.  They could try to imagine how they would feel.

Another thing a poet could do, and only where appropriate, is experience something themselves.  Of course, this isn’t right for all situations, but it can work for some.  For example, where they are physically able and with a doctor’s approval, a poet might skip a meal to experience a little bit of what hunger is like.  This could help a poet who wants to write for those experiencing hunger.

As another idea, a poet could draw on some past experience.  The experience might not be the same as what they are writing about, but as long as it relates it could help.  A poet could translate what they felt in the past experience to the new subject they are writing about.

 

Expressing empathy in poetry can be hard.  If a person hasn’t gone through something, it can be hard to express what that something feels like.  Still, there are steps a poet can take to improve the empathy of their work.  By doing so, a poet can better reach those who have gone through what they are writing about.

Post Series: The Poems with Explanations Series: Twenty doors

Twenty doors

Door 1: no one
Door 2: no one
Door 3: a sign
Door 4: a peer from the window
Door 5: a shout
Door 6: no one (but noise)
Door 7: 1/5 of the speech – no
Door 8: 1/4 of the speech – no
Door 9: a sign
Door 10: the whole speech, a catalog, eighteen minutes – no
Door 11: door opens, door slams
Door 12: a shout
Door 13: a sign
Door 14: no one
Door 15: 1/5 of the speech – no
Door 16: A yes.  Only small, but a yes.
Door 17: the whole speech – no
Door 18: half of the speech with the door closed – no
Door 19: told to leave a card
Door 20: no one

 

This poem is about the experience of a door to door salesman.  The salesman experiences of variety of responses.

At some doors, no one is home (1, 2, 14, and 20).

At some doors there is a sign about not soliciting (3, 9, and 13).

At some doors somebody shouts to go away (5 and 12).

At some doors a portion of the sales speech is said with the door open, followed by a no response (7, 8, and 15).

At one door, no one answers, but someone peers from the window (4).

At another door, no one answers, but there is noise from inside (6).

At one door, the whole speech is given, the catalog is gone through, eighteen minutes are spent, but it ends in a no (10).

One door opens then slams shut (11).

At one door, the whole sales speech is given, but the answer is no (17).

At one door, whoever is inside won’t open the door.  They do listen to half the speech though before saying no (18).

One door won’t open, but the person on the other side says to leave a card (19).

One door, leads to a small sale (16).

The idea of the poem is to promote empathy for someone who has to go through something like the above on a daily basis.

Post Series: The Poems with Explanations Series: Understanding

Today will be the start of a new post series on M. Sakran’s blog of and about poetry and poetry related things.  Past post series have been: The Christmas Series, Seven Apples, The Citrus Series, The Tea Series, and The Orange Series.  This will be The Poems with Explanations Series.

This series will be a series of poems with explanations.  Poems with explanations have appeared frequently on this blog, and this will be a series of them.

The series will start with this post and contain nine other posts.  The series will run from today through Friday March 18, unless something interrupts it.

The idea of poems with explanations, is to help readers understand how poems are written, learn to see symbolism in poems, get ideas for symbolism in poems, and learn how form affects poems.  Hopefully readers will enjoy the series.  Here is the first poem with an explanation:

Understanding

A sledge hammer is swung,
collapsing,
a hope for the bell,
but the crowd roars.

No one counts,
a few slaps to the face,
here’s some water,
then hail stones fall.

A hope for cotton,
there it is,
dabbing a forehead,
pulling back,
the battering ram swings.

There on the ground,
amid the tiny particles,
there’s no darkness.

So there’s spinning,
and revolutions,
and there on the outside,
the former stands.

Looking in,
seeing nothing,
but a tap with a feather,
a shout,
and a force,
and then,
as h taps the shoulder,
an understanding,
and cotton flies.

 

This poem is about understanding the illness or physical pain of others.  Often when someone complains of illness or physical pain, it is easy to be dismissive.  It is easy to say, “That pain’s not real.  It’s not that bad.  It’s just in your head.  Just deal with it.”  It’s easy to be frustrated or annoyed with the illness or pain of another, if that illness or pain causes some inconvenience.  Obviously, these feelings are wrong, however, they can be easy to feel – until of course, a person stops and thinks back to a pain or illness they have had or felt and what it was like to hear dismissive words.  Then a sense of empathy can arise and feelings can change.

The poem uses a number of metaphors to express the main idea.  The main metaphor is that of boxing.  The poem uses boxing to describe an illness someone has and then to describe when they are on the other side of someone else’s illness.

The first stanza describes a boxer being hit and falling down.  The boxer is hoping the round will end, but it doesn’t.

In the second stanza, the boxer, after being hit, is hoping for the referee to count them out, so the match can be over.  Instead, they get to their feet, and go to their corner.  In their corner, their coach slaps them in the face a few times to wake them up and splashes some water on them.  The boxer goes back to fight and gets hit again.

In the third stanza, as the boxer is being hit, they are hoping their coach will throw in the towel.  Instead, when they look at their coach, their coach is using the towel to clear some sweat from their own forehead.  As the boxer glances, they are hit with a hard blow.

In the fourth stanza, the boxer is on the ground, but doesn’t pass out.  They are counted out, but still feel the pain.

In the fifth stanza, years go by and the boxer is now a coach standing on the ringside while their own fighter fights.

As they watch the fight, they see their boxer get hit, but think of the blows as not hurting.  They shout for their fighter to keep going and fight harder.  Then, they have a memory.  They think back to when they fought and what their coach had done.  As they feel a sense of hypocrisy, they feel an empathy for their fighter, and throw in the towel.

Poem Series: Experimental Poetry Forms: Eight: The dog outside

A plate of food with knife and fork,
  the dog outside does make a sound,
a feeling of some right and wrong,
and though inertia adds a weight,
the thought of justice fills the mind,
and so the chair is pushed on out,
and steps go to the nearby door,
and food goes in the bowl with sound.

The work is done, a glass is filled,
  the dog outside pants in the heat,
though rationality does speak,
and though it sounds most clearly sure,
a sense the words it says are false,
does cause the legs to move away,
the handle then is slowly turned,
and water flows for the poor hound.

The lightning strikes and thunder cracks,
  the dog outside whimpers in fear,
the logic says that all is fine,
that what is feared is far away,
that there outside all is alright,
but then the thought of being there,
does cause the hand to turn the knob,
and have the dog feel like it’s found.

An ache is felt within the back,
  the dog outside takes time to stand,
and though it seems to be excess,
as the small pills fall in the hand,
those words come back and fill the ears,
and as the pain does the twinge again,
a note is made on the short list,
and the next day new pills abound.

Alone without a voice nearby,
  the dog outside is still and stares,
and though the sense is felt inside,
it takes some time to realize,
that there outside it is felt too,
and so a thought does then occur,
and the small ball is carried out,
and the dog jumps with a large bound.

The dog next door did run away,
  the dog outside sits by the fence,
and though a search is made for days,
the importance of it is low,
until the eyes of the dog stare,
and ask for help without loud words,
and then again the search goes on,
as cars do drive and search around.

The vet was called, the time was set,
  the dog outside did hesitate,
the words were said that this was good,
and words were said of benefit,
but in the car the dog did shake,
and as it went some tears did fall,
and then the sense of this from past,
had empathy grow in a mound.

The man outside did fall and cringe,
  the dog outside did understand,
and the dog barked at the near fence,
and the dog barked with a loud sound,
and men did come in uniforms,
to make the dog have silence then,
but they did see the man who fell,
and then the dog did bark unbound.

 

(38/40) Experimental Poetry Form: Eight