The Geometry Of Grief Essay Research Paper

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The Geometry Of Grief: Essay, Research Paper The Geometry of Grief: Analysis of Poems by Denis Johnson and Gerard Manley Hopkins Among the most potent subject matter for any writer is grief. In secret, in the dark, we have all felt a pain too powerful to convey. It is for this reason that describing a poem as mournful is generally a compliment. Why do we rave about books and films that make us cry? We love these works because they give us a glimpse into another soul, one with some of the same problems and vulnerabilities as we have. We cry with artists because they are like us: imperfect. We cry and wipe away tears and go on to smile again. The reconciliation that comes after a time of mourning is rejuvenating. There is sometimes a feeling of such cleansing after crying as to

make one wonder if happiness is all it is cracked up to be. To touch upon the subjects of grief and its reconciliation or lack thereof are among the poet s chief concerns. Denis Johnson s poem, Sway, and Gerard Manley Hopkins No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief are examples of how poets of different eras deal with the sorrow inherent in human life. Denis Johnson s title, Sway, is an interesting metaphor that attempts to sum up his feelings concerning grief and happiness, or harmony and divergence (Johnson 10). The term itself is at once comforting and unsettling, achieving a duality of feeling in line with the subject matter. To sway is to be accepting, to move with the winds of change like a stalk of barley. When something sways, it does not bend too far and

break off but bends one way then another, always turning to a new direction as its guiding force changes. This movement is reinforced by the use of the repeated phrase, harmony and divergence, which gives a sense of swaying in its sound. There is, in the idea of swaying a comfort. Johnson does not view grief as a crushing thing, something from which one does not recover. Instead grief is a portion of the cyclical flow of life. Divergence may influence one s life, but harmony is on the horizon. Sorrowfully, the reverse is also true. The alternate connotation of sway leaves less room for optimism. When one sways, it is from lack of control. Swaying is a result of a powerful force acting on a less powerful entity. Like field of barley swaying in the wind, the speaker is helpless to

change the movement of his/her own life. The only other mention made of the movement of the speaker is when he/she says, from bar to bar in terror I shall move / past Forty-third and Halsted, Twenty-fourth / and Roosevelt (Johnson 2-4). The speaker conveys this information as if it matters, as if taking a cab further downtown will provide a release from the helplessness of losing love. The mistake in this notion is suggested in subsequent lines. Having moved in terms of geographical location, the speaker finds only fire-gutted cars, / their bones the bones of coyote and hyena (Johnson 4-5). When one tries to run from grief, the impotence of that action is made clear to him. The unavoidable sway is a sad story the story that begins / I did not know who she was / and ends I did not

know who she was (Johnson 11, 12-14). The usage of tense here is odd. Why in both cases of this repeated phrase does the speaker use the past tense to indicate, I did not know who she was ? Perhaps the speaker realized too late who she was. Perhaps this poem is a reflection of the grief manifest in that moment of belated realization. In the most literal characterization of sway in the poem, Johnson calls it the sway / of all of us between harmony and divergence (Johnson 8-9, 10). This phrasing reflects the reason that audiences love to read works of grief. Johnson s idea of a sway may be bleak in part, but it is the sway of all of us. As much as we lament the terror and sorrow brought on by lost love, we also find solace in the idea that this is a common lament. While Johnson may