Thursday, April 3, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Big Game" by Brenda Shaughnessy

"Big Game" by Brenda Shaughnessy is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for April 3, 2014.  A link to the poem may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23119.  "Big Game" was written "after Richard Brautigan's 'A Candlelion Poem.'"  A link to Mr. Brautigan's poem may be found here:  http://skyraftwanderer.blogspot.com/2011/09/candlelion-poem-and-good-talking-candle.html.

Brenda Shaughnessy (b. 1970) (pictured) is a creative writing teacher at Princeton University and the editor of Tin House magazine.  She is the author of two award-winning poetry collections, and her poetry has appeared in numerous prestigious poetry serials.  Reference to this and additional information about this up-and-coming poet may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/765.


"Big Game" is organized as thirty lines of semi-rhyming free verse arranged in stanzas of two to three lines, except for the final stanza which is one-line in length.  The many, inconsistent end-line and internal rhymes do not detract; on the contrary, each comes as a nice surprise and falls gently and musically upon the ear.  

The opening two stanzas are evocative of Mr. Brautigan's poem.  In his poem, Brautigan uses the conceit that a candle turned inside out and viewed wick-end on would look in silhouette like a lion viewed from the tail-end.  Shaughnessy plays with this concept, using the conceit of a lit candle to represent a mind that burns with or for knowledge.  

The poet summons her future self, finally "the sharpest knife in the drawer," using this cliché adroitly to recall a time when that was perhaps not the case (and perhaps that fact was thrown in her face).  A clever pun on "pride" follows (pride as in "proud" and as in "a group of lions").  The poem ends with further lion imagery as metaphor for a mind that is constantly full of the fire of new ideas.

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