Hope by Karen Dicdican: an AnalysisPosted: February 16, 2012
(this time let me share a poem I didn’t write, but something I’m still very proud of. It’s by Karen Dicdican, a dear friend and daughter-figure of mine, and it’s her first published work! What follows is my reading of the poem, in which I use the combination of the formalism and stylistics I have been accustomed to using in making literary readings. )
Beneath the threads of
Silver linings, pins of stars
sought to string
these stars together
But the beads would not budge.
bound as a knot.
The main image of the poem is the personification of Hope, and it is that personification’s narrative which dominates the poem. The narrative is parsed into three scenes, each one allotted a stanza. Each stanza (and thus each scene) begins with the word “hope,” and the tendency to “begin with hope” in things is implied. With the word evoking its meaning, the reader is invited to feel hope upon reading the word “hope” at the beginning of each stanza.
The first stanza establishes the personification when hope is given the action “sat down” in the second line, an action only attributed to humans – with the first two lines the “magic” which Don Pagusara argues is the essence of good poetry happens, the reader’s expectation of an abstract concept is set aside for the unexpected personification. The third line has existential connotations: solitude and there-being. The “hope” character can thus also be a human being, one who has hope as she is contextualized as an individual in a particular here. The “here” being referred to is further qualified by describing it as “beneath the threads of silver linings,” a metaphor that demands the reader to go to the symbolic level. First off, we need to paint the picture: the character is sitting beneath the threads of silver linings, and the image that comes to our mind is a meteor shower, with the contrails of the meteors forming thread-like images. Then, we need to point out that “silver linings” is allusive to the common proverb “behind every cloud is a silver lining,” thus lending the phrase “silver lining” the meaning of hope and opportunity. In this sense, “hope,” or rather the subject which is hoping, is sitting under threads of silver linings, i.e., sitting beneath the given-ness of a hopeful disposition. Ere we delve too deep into this meaning, the poem returns us to the literal image with “pins of stars,” but does so by kicking off to another metaphor.
And that metaphor is developed in the second stanza. Hope is portrayed as seeking to “string these stars together,” an image strengthened if we were to see the stars as pins. Though it is not explicitly stated, the “threads of silver linings” could readily be used to string these stars – every image is woven together (pardon the pun)! Here I contend is the most poetic part of the poem, for the reader is forced to depart from literal meaning by the semantic deviation involved and compelled to be writerly as a reader and imagine a deeper meaning in the statement. Stars have historically been said to influence the course of events (hence such occult endeavors as astrology). In that sense then seeking to “string the stars together” means being able to take control of events. Again, we must return to the emphasis of hope, and we can further add that it is the hopefulness of the individual which seeks to take control. And being hopeful, this part of the poem feels highly optimistic and dynamic, emphasized by the flowing characteristic of the oft repeated /s/ sound, which is a sibilant. the repetition also mimics the rythmic fluidity of the act of stringing. But this fluid flow is immediately stopped by the end of the stanza “but the beads would not budge.” The act of stringing was interrupted, and the flowing /s/ is interrupted by the plosive quality of the repeated/b/.
The third stanza is the climax of the poem. This is first emphasized by a break from the established parallel structure of “hope verbed,” when the word “frustrated,” an adjective, followed instead. There is a repetition of the fricative /f/ sound, which also sounds fluid like /s/ but not as fluid because of its labiodental nature (the lower lip covers the mouth, making for less air in articulation). This mimics the semi-fluidity in an attempt to unbound a knot. But the poem ends first with another /b/ in “bound,” then finally with the plosive /t/, which is not even aspirated because it is at the end, making for even less air and this less fluidity. The knot that gets in the way of trying to “string the stars together ” (take control of events) is Fate.
The poem, both on the literal and on the stylistic level, is a very fatalistic poem.