Wednesday, January 28, 2009


In the second-to-last issue of The New Yorker, this poem surfaced and it caught my eye. It's innovative in the fact that it takes one word and makes so many different meanings out of it. It also uses it to describe marriage, which I think is pretty interesting.

I am always excited to see how poets can create new forms and new techniques in their poetry. Check out this one.

The use of little words like "oh" and "eh" and "ah" leave it up to your imagination but point in a way to a meaning that is clear, so very clear, to understand.



by Natalie Anderson

Eh he said and she
dreamed eh. It was
like that between them.

Not that his lips dreamed,
out that his dreamed lips
parted. Eh he'd say

and her dream was eh,
was all eh, all and
only. Sometimes

a near kiss an almost tide
drawn back withdrawn withdrawing.
Sometimes the hackled wave

raised, drew back its lip, sheered
its teeth, coughed its raw
gutteral. Or

she herself voicing
involuntary eh
his whatever, his

what-it-is. But
sometimes his naked eh
with her ah alongside--

the rocked bulls nudging muzzling
or was it scraping what
did she care? Would his eh

oh? How fast she'd
founder, taking on water,
mouth emptying full.

By day she'd hear on the air
his syllable, turn
toward or away, does it

matter? If she said ah
would he dream ah? Oh--
not like that between them.

So what are the meanings of "oh" and "eh" and "ah" or do they constantly change? And why is the title of the poem "Eh?" especially with a question mark involved?

At first "eh" seemed to be the obvious dullness and boringness of their marriage. There are no sparks; they don't like to make love; they simply coexist. But then "eh" turns into something sexual next to her "ah" -- and she wants nothing to do with it. "It's not like that between them."

The poem uses a lot of changing verb tenses and words, like "withdraw, withdrawn, withdrawing" and "lips dreamed/dreamed lips" -- this suggests to me that the states between them are always changing but pretty much consistent with the same old things. Good days, bad days, but the end result is always the same: they are always still together in a boring, dull state of marriage or togetherness (I don't know why I'm assuming marriage).

Two concepts are big in this poem besides the two letters words aforementioned. We have the concept of "dreams" and the concept of the "wave." They dream throughout the poem, both of them. It seems to be some sort of escape for the world they're already in. They are both dreaming of another life but remain in the one they're in, even though it is not satisfying and it doesn't make them happy.

The wave comes up when it seems that they try to be intimate. The tides withdraw, but then a wave pushes forward. The other seems to draw back like an animal "sheering its teeth" and "coughing gutteral," unless this refers to the sexual act itself which she makes out to be utterly disgusting and nonenjoyable.

So what do you think of the poem "Eh?"

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