In response to â€˜I Am Whereâ€™
â€˜I Am Whereâ€™ is a poem concerned with transition. Â The poemâ€™s four stanzas, which shift between left and right alignment on the page, are immediately reflective of this. Without knowing the details of the poetâ€™s biography, itâ€™s tempting to assume that when the books described in the poem â€œmove continentâ€, they are enacting the poetâ€™s own crossings. But there are greater depths here to explore.
The poem revels in the turnaround, in the old switcharoo, that starts to seem normal the older we get
The bridge, which in Hart Craneâ€™s poem of this name
becomes a metaphor for metaphor â€” one he hopes will â€œdescend, / And of the curveship lend a myth to Godâ€
â€” is the dominating symbol of the poem.Â The poetâ€™s use of the trope is itself later bridged by ambiguity: in â€œswitch my gaping eyes between book and bridge / transformed into a valleyâ€
, it is unclear across the line break whether it is the opened book or sinking bridge, or both, to which the valley is being compared.Â This use of â€œvalleyâ€ is important â€” as Auden writes (in â€˜In Memory of W. B. Yeats
â€™): â€œpoetry makes nothing happen. Â It survives / In the valley of its making.â€
Â The poemâ€™s transformation of the bridge into the valley gives readers a sense of the importance of these moments of change and later â€œsinking inâ€, of these wrinkles in life, to our poetry.
Finally, the line â€œthe progression of my neon skin to even oakâ€ recalls another kind of transition â€” a metamorphosis akin to that of Ovidâ€™s Myrrha. The poem revels in the turnaround, in the old switcharoo, that starts to seem normal the older we get: the contrast between the mundanity of brands and rote tasks and the hugeness of momentous events.Â It takes its meaning from the tricky juxtaposition of these in our existence.
~ Camille Ralphs
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