Note: If you haven't already, please read Sonnet I of The Everything Poem before reading this writeup.


For me, this poem is about language change. Language is always changing, as vowels and consonants shift, accents mix and intermingle, and people invent new words while abandoning others. But as long as there has been language, it seems, there have always been grammar nazis who try to forestall language change by telling people that certain words or constructions are "incorrect" or "slang" or "bad grammar." This sonnet provides an answer to the pervasive pedantry of these surly curmudgeons within clever juxtapositions of high- and low-sounding language.

The poem begins with wrinkly's lofty first line that conforms to perfect iambic pentameter, which seems to indicate that we will be reading a very old-fashioned, and even inaccessible, poem. Other appeals to the traditional Shakespearean style include the capitalization of "Winter" and the use of an archaic word for frost: "hoar."

But in the next line, ^Davion^ returns to the very simple English of everyday speech: "and she took all the life she could steal." Every word is monosyllabic, and as simple a word as "steal" is about as complex as the vocabulary gets. Moreover, the sudden shift from iambic to anapestic meter sends a message that this poem will not be conformist.

In the third line, thisisfred once again returns to the high tone of the first line. The turgid grammatical structure, the return to strict iambic pentameter, and the very words "wings" and "soar" all help the reader return to the lofty heights of tradition and conformity.

If Lometa's slightly irregular line 4 does not provide the same stark metrical contrast as ^Davion^'s does, it achieves the same purpose, shearing our wordy wings and dragging us down into the grime of "brittle" earthbound "ghettos." A conflict has emerged in the first four lines, between the perfect meter and high diction of lines 1 and 3 and the freewheeling nonconformity of lines 2 and 4, between the "brittle" and "surreal" sounds of the "ghetto," and the lofty language of the poets of yore.

Lines 5 through 8 expound the viewpoint that the poem will ultimately reject. In line 5, "Panic spreads like a contagious syndrome" as people fear that their pure, correct language is being bastardized by the next generation, little realizing that they did the same thing to the language when they were young. To combat this menace, they create the "accursed tome" - the grammar book with its innumerable rules that every child must memorize, and pedants interrupt fascinating conversations to tell people they should have said "well" instead of "good," "may" instead of "can," or "were" instead of "was." For these fearmongers, language is perpetually on a "slippery slope" toward miscegenation, slang, ultimately (if they are not heeded), a total inability to communicate intelligently.

The next four lines strive for a rapprochement. Line 9 declares, "there is hope in the aurora's lasers." Here, new forms of language are equated with one of the most positive images of newness - aurora, the dawn of a new day. The immense power of new language to penetrate the "coldest dark anecdotes" of those who fear it is asserted. Moreover, lines 11 and 12 assert, although the common people, the "peasants," are taking a "razor" to the language of their forebears, there is still "hope" that older forms of language can persevere in poetry. After all, the poem seems to suggest, do we not still read and enjoy Shakespeare, perhaps more than ever? Has not the language of the Middle English period been so ably preserved in the poetry of Chaucer and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?

The poem's true perspective is at last fully revealed in the final two lines. The biting sarcasm of the word "wrecked" in line 13 clearly pits the poem firmly against those who would freeze language permanently in the hoary "Winter" of immutable grammar rules and unassailable dictionary definitions. Just as few people would view the coming of spring as a "wrecking" of winter, the poem suggests, people should not view the birth of new types of language as a ruination of the old, but rather as simply another stage in the endless cycle of language change. Winter must give way to spring, so that new words, new ways of speaking, and knew ways of understanding can flower. How tragic it would be if we could only "soar" poetically by using "others' breath" - language invented by those long dead. Nay, we must grow our own "wings." We should not fear the surreal sounds of the ghetto or the language of the peasants in the field. Their razors cull the old so that the new may be sowed.


Obviously, this is merely my own interpretation. Feel free to add your own!

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