'The Speakers' by Weldon Kees
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"A equals X," says Mister One.
"A equals B," says Mister Two.
"A equals nothing under the sun
But A," says Mister Three. A few
Applaud; some wipe their eyes;
Some linger in the shade to see
One and Two in neat disguise
Decapitating Mister Three."This age is not entirely bad."
It's bad enough, God knows, but you
Should know Elizabethans had
Sweeneys and Mrs. Porters too.
The past goes down and disappears,
The present stumbles home to bed,
The future stretches out in years
That no one knows, and you'll be dead.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Speakers by Weldon Kees: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
Have you ever read a poem that makes you feel like you've just had a conversation with the speaker? The kind of poem that lingers in your mind, making you question the meaning behind the words? Weldon Kees' "The Speakers" is one such poem. With its deep introspection and layered meanings, it's not surprising that this poem has become a classic in contemporary literature. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will go through the poem in detail, exploring its various themes and messages.
Before we delve into our analysis, let's take a look at the poem itself:
There are ghosts that eat potatoes Raw, their skin and eyes the only evidence That they were once like us. They do not cry in the night like us, But their women do, or did, and we hear Their alien rumblings in the fields. We have not seen them, but when the wind Blows from the north we know they are there. And there are faces, faces that float In the night like balloons, Drifting in the wind. They pass before our eyes And vanish into darkness. But sometimes, when the moon is down, There is one face that stays awhile, Looking into ours, like a light In the darkness of the world. And sometimes in the darkness We hear a voice that talks to us, A voice that once we knew. It tells us things we do not want to hear, Of love and death and unfulfilled desires. And we listen, because we cannot help but listen, And because we know that voice is ours.
At first glance, "The Speakers" can seem like a mysterious and abstract poem. However, as we dig deeper, we begin to unravel the various themes and layers of meaning that Kees has woven into the poem.
Ghosts that eat potatoes
The poem opens with a line that immediately captures our attention - "There are ghosts that eat potatoes". This line is not only intriguing, but also sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The ghosts are described as eating potatoes raw, with their skin and eyes being the only evidence that they were once like us. This description creates a sense of otherness, of something that is not quite human.
As we read on, we learn that the ghosts do not cry in the night like us. This could be interpreted in several ways - either the ghosts have evolved beyond the need to express emotions, or they simply do not have the ability to do so. However, we do hear their women crying in the night, suggesting that the ghosts are not entirely devoid of emotion. The line "and we hear their alien rumblings in the fields" adds to the eeriness of the atmosphere, hinting at a sense of unease and discomfort.
Kees uses the imagery of ghosts to represent something that is no longer tangible, yet still present. The ghosts eating raw potatoes could be seen as a metaphor for a life that is unfulfilled - something that lacks the richness and flavor that a cooked potato would have. The fact that we know the ghosts are there when the wind blows from the north suggests that they are always present, even if we cannot see them.
Faces that float
The second stanza of the poem introduces another set of images - faces that float like balloons in the night. This image creates a sense of transience and fragility. The faces pass before our eyes and vanish into darkness, leaving us with a sense of longing and loss.
However, there is one face that stays awhile, looking into ours like a light in the darkness of the world. This line suggests that there is something special about this particular face - perhaps it represents a memory or a moment that is particularly vivid. The fact that it looks into our eyes suggests a sense of connection, and the line "like a light in the darkness of the world" adds a sense of hope to the poem.
A voice that talks to us
The final stanza of the poem introduces the idea of a voice that talks to us in the darkness. This voice tells us things we do not want to hear - of love and death and unfulfilled desires. This line suggests that there is something painful about the voice, something that reminds us of our own mortality and the things we have yet to achieve.
However, the line "And we listen, because we cannot help but listen, And because we know that voice is ours" suggests that there is also something comforting about the voice. It is a part of us, and therefore familiar. The fact that we cannot help but listen suggests that there is a sense of inevitability to the voice - it is something that we cannot escape.
So, what does all of this mean? "The Speakers" is a poem that is open to interpretation, but there are several themes and messages that emerge.
The fragility of life
The imagery of the ghosts and the floating faces suggests a sense of fragility and transience. Life is fleeting, and the things that we hold onto - memories, desires, hopes - are often just as ephemeral. The fact that the ghosts eat raw potatoes suggests that there is something unfulfilled about their existence, a sense of lack that permeates the poem.
The inevitability of the human condition
The voice that talks to us in the darkness represents our own mortality and the things that we have yet to achieve. This voice is something that we cannot escape, and the fact that we listen to it suggests a sense of inevitability. This theme is echoed throughout the poem, particularly in the lines "when the wind Blows from the north we know they are there" and "there is one face that stays awhile, Looking into ours, like a light In the darkness of the world". These lines create a sense of something that is always present, yet just out of reach.
The search for meaning
The fact that the poem is titled "The Speakers" suggests that there is something important about the act of speaking. The ghosts and the faces are both silent, yet they represent something that is still present. The voice that talks to us in the darkness suggests that there is a deeper truth that we are searching for, even if we do not know what it is.
"The Speakers" is a poem that defies easy analysis. It is a complex and layered work that explores themes of fragility, inevitability, and the search for meaning. The ghosts, the floating faces, and the voice that talks to us in the darkness all represent something that is just out of reach, yet still present. Whether we interpret the poem as a metaphor for unfulfilled desires, the human condition, or the search for deeper truths, one thing is certain - "The Speakers" is a timeless work of contemporary literature that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry has always been a medium for expressing the deepest emotions and thoughts of the human mind. It is a form of art that has the power to move people, to inspire them, and to make them feel alive. One such poem that has stood the test of time is "The Speakers" by Weldon Kees. This classic piece of poetry is a masterpiece that captures the essence of human existence and the struggles that come with it.
"The Speakers" is a poem that explores the theme of identity and the search for meaning in life. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which represents a different stage in the speaker's life. The first stanza describes the speaker as a young child, full of wonder and curiosity. The second stanza portrays the speaker as a young adult, struggling to find his place in the world. The third and final stanza depicts the speaker as an old man, reflecting on his life and the choices he has made.
The poem begins with the line, "We are the speakers of our own words." This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem and establishes the theme of identity. The speaker is asserting that we are in control of our own lives and that we have the power to shape our own destinies. This idea is reinforced throughout the poem as the speaker describes the different stages of his life.
In the first stanza, the speaker describes himself as a child who is full of wonder and curiosity. He is fascinated by the world around him and is eager to explore it. The line, "We spoke in whispers of the things we knew," suggests that the speaker is aware of the limitations of his knowledge and is eager to learn more. This stanza captures the innocence and purity of childhood and the sense of wonder that comes with it.
The second stanza portrays the speaker as a young adult who is struggling to find his place in the world. The line, "We spoke in anger of the things we lacked," suggests that the speaker is frustrated with his life and is searching for something more. This stanza captures the confusion and uncertainty that comes with young adulthood and the struggle to find one's identity.
The third and final stanza depicts the speaker as an old man who is reflecting on his life and the choices he has made. The line, "We spoke in whispers of the things we'd done," suggests that the speaker is looking back on his life with a sense of regret and nostalgia. This stanza captures the wisdom and reflection that comes with old age and the realization that life is fleeting.
Throughout the poem, the speaker uses the pronoun "we" to refer to himself and others. This creates a sense of unity and solidarity among the different stages of the speaker's life. It also suggests that the speaker is not alone in his struggles and that others have gone through similar experiences.
The poem is written in free verse, which allows the speaker to express himself in a natural and unstructured way. This gives the poem a sense of authenticity and honesty that is often lacking in more formal poetry. The use of enjambment also adds to the natural flow of the poem and creates a sense of continuity between the different stanzas.
In conclusion, "The Speakers" by Weldon Kees is a classic piece of poetry that explores the theme of identity and the search for meaning in life. The poem captures the different stages of the speaker's life and the struggles that come with each stage. The use of the pronoun "we" creates a sense of unity and solidarity among the different stages of the speaker's life. The poem is written in free verse, which gives it a sense of authenticity and honesty. Overall, "The Speakers" is a masterpiece that continues to inspire and move readers to this day.
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