Tuesday, June 9, 2009


I found this poem in The New Yorker, and I guess I'm looking for someone to help me come to the root of its meaning. I looked up Newfane and came up with some towns across the country, one particularly located near Niagara Falls, NY. Any signifance to the title?

Here is the poem. Let's see what you think.


by D. Nurkse

How we loved to create a world.

Out of gray we made the pin-oak leaves
with their saw teeth and odd waxy sheen,
dry and matte to the touch, out of granite
we made the marriage house, and always
we added a flaw that we called fire
or time or the stranger.

A drop of water on the lip of a jug,
trembling, trying to hold on
for another second to the idea of sphericity--
that was us, our nakedness.

We worked to thwart our happiness
because it was so unexpected;
suffering tasted like our mouths.

We had a flagstone path, a pond, four birches,
a dog racing in tight circles, helpless
against the dream of fresh snow.

In the future, the red Schwinn with training wheels
must find a way to pedal itself.

World like a child who learned to walk
beyond our outstretched hands.

So here is what I get from the poem: This seems like a poem where the poet reflects back on his/her childhood. Moments from the poet's childhood are reflected here, specific memories and objects that take the poet back. These are life lessons learned by the poet in childhood. Perhaps the poet named the poem after where he/she grew up.

This poem reflect the imagination of the child, the child who uses his/her imagination and "creates a world." I really liked how this child created realistic worlds where there are flaws, specifically time, strangers, or fire--real problems for adults that are simplified to children. They must see these problems in their parents lives and incorporate them into their play. Maybe they figure out the world this way.

I wanted to see about the reason for using italicized words in the first stanza. Why THOSE words? Perhaps they are new concepts to the children? Perhaps they are used in play and thus are emphasized? What do you think?

"Our nakedness:" such a great way to describe childhood. They are so open, naive, and vulnerable. They are learning and soaking in the world as it comes at them. They explore it through play. They approach the world "like a child who learned to walk beyond our outstretched hands." The child will fall, but the child will get back up and learn from those mistakes. Everyone learns to walk, everyone has a childhood, and it's what we do with that experience and beginning experience that molds who we are.

Innocence screams throughout this poem: nakedness, flaw, hold on, unexpected, suffering, helpless, dream, snow, training wheels. It seems to be a constant thread throughout the poem.

I love these innocent images spruced throughout the poem. I get the image of a child who is trying out life for the first time, the child who uses training wheels to learn how to ride the bike. The child who plays house to try out being an adult. The child who learns to walk.

Why have 5 sections of the poem? Why is five significant?

If anyone has further insight on the poem, please feel free to provide some insight on how you see the poem!

So, what do you think of "Newfane?"

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