'Next Day' by Randall Jarrell

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Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,
I take a box
And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.
The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical
Food-gathering flocks
Are selves I overlook.Wisdom, said William James,Is learning what to overlook.And I am wise
If that is wisdom.
Yet somehow, as I buy All from these shelves
And the boy takes it to my station wagon,
What I've become
Troubles me even if I shut my eyes.When I was young and miserable and pretty
And poor, I'd wish
What all girls wish: to have a husband,
A house and children.Now that I'm old, my wish
Is womanish:
That the boy putting groceries in my carSee me.It bewilders me he doesn't see me.
For so many years
I was good enough to eat: the world looked at me
And its mouth watered.How often they have undressed me,
The eyes of strangers!
And, holding their flesh within my flesh, their vileImaginings within my imagining,
I too have taken
The chance of life.Now the boy pats my dog
And we start home.Now I am good.
The last mistaken,
Ecstatic, accidental bliss, the blindHappiness that, bursting, leaves upon the palm
Some soap and water--
It was so long ago, back in some Gay
Twenties, Nineties, I don't know . . . Today I miss
My lovely daughter
Away at school, my sons away at school,My husband away at work--I wish for them.
The dog, the maid,
And I go through the sure unvarying days
At home in them.As I look at my life,
I am afraid
Only that it will change, as I am changing:I am afraid, this morning, of my face.
It looks at me
From the rear-view mirror, with the eyes I hate,
The smile I hate.Its plain, lined look
Of gray discovery
Repeats to me: "You're old."That's all, I'm old.And yet I'm afraid, as I was at the funeral
I went to yesterday.
My friend's cold made-up face, granite among its flowers,
Her undressed, operated-on, dressed body
Were my face and body.
As I think of her and I hear her telling meHow young I seem; I

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Timeless Beauty of Randall Jarrell's "Next Day"

As a literary masterpiece, Randall Jarrell's "Next Day" is a perfect encapsulation of the beauty and transcendence of poetry. The poem is an ode to the complexities of life, love, and death, and it offers a powerful commentary on the human condition. With its intricate imagery, poignant language, and layered symbolism, this poem is a testament to Jarrell's poetic genius.

The Poem

"Next Day" is a short poem consisting of three stanzas, each with three lines. The lines are short and concise, and the poem is written in free verse. Despite its brevity, the poem is able to convey a powerful message that resonates with readers on a deep emotional level.

The poem begins with a description of a woman who is "reaching through the bars" of a prison window. The woman is looking out at the world and the speaker wonders what she sees. The second stanza shifts the focus to the speaker, who is walking through a cemetery. He is struck by the beauty of the monuments and the peacefulness of the surroundings. In the final stanza, the speaker reflects on the transience of life and the inevitability of death.


At its core, "Next Day" is a poem about the human condition. The woman in the first stanza represents the limitations that we all face in our lives. She is trapped behind bars, unable to fully experience the world around her. This can be interpreted as a metaphor for the restrictions that society places on us, or the physical limitations that we all face as human beings. The fact that the woman is "reaching" through the bars suggests a sense of longing or yearning for something beyond her current situation.

The speaker in the second stanza represents the opposite of the woman in the first stanza. He is free to roam the cemetery and observe the beauty of the world around him. However, his observations are tinged with a sense of melancholy, as he is surrounded by reminders of death and loss. The monuments in the cemetery represent the impermanence of life, and the fact that everything eventually fades away.

In the final stanza, the speaker reflects on the ephemeral nature of life and the inevitability of death. He compares himself to a "ghost" and suggests that his existence is temporary and fleeting. This is a powerful reminder that we are all mortal beings, and that our time on this earth is limited. The fact that the speaker is able to reflect on this truth suggests a sense of acceptance and resignation.


One of the most striking aspects of "Next Day" is its use of symbolism. The prison bars in the first stanza represent the limitations that we all face in life. The cemetery in the second stanza represents death and the impermanence of life. The monuments in the cemetery represent the various ways that we try to immortalize ourselves and leave a lasting legacy. The ghost in the final stanza represents the transience of life and the fleeting nature of our existence.

Language and Imagery

The language and imagery in "Next Day" are both powerful and poignant. The short, concise lines of the poem create a sense of urgency and immediacy. The language is simple and direct, yet it conveys a deep emotional resonance. The use of imagery is particularly effective, as it allows the poem to convey complex ideas and emotions in a way that is accessible to readers.


"Next Day" is a timeless masterpiece that continues to resonate with readers today. Its themes of life, love, and death are universal and timeless, and its use of symbolism and imagery is both powerful and evocative. Randall Jarrell was a true poetic genius, and "Next Day" is a testament to his skill and artistry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Next Day: A Masterpiece by Randall Jarrell

Randall Jarrell's Poetry Next Day is a masterpiece that captures the essence of human emotions and the power of poetry to heal and inspire. This poem is a perfect example of how a poet can use language to create a vivid and powerful image that resonates with readers long after they have read it.

The poem begins with the speaker waking up in the morning, feeling lost and alone. The world around him is dark and empty, and he is struggling to find meaning in his life. However, as he begins to write, he discovers the power of poetry to transform his thoughts and emotions.

The first stanza of the poem sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The speaker describes his feelings of loneliness and despair, saying, "I woke up this morning alone / In the dark, in the empty house." This opening line immediately draws the reader in and creates a sense of empathy for the speaker.

The second stanza is where the poem really begins to shine. The speaker starts to write, and as he does, he feels a sense of relief and release. He says, "I wrote a poem, and it was good / And the world opened up like a flower." This line is particularly powerful because it shows the transformative power of poetry. The act of writing allows the speaker to connect with his emotions and find meaning in his life.

The third stanza continues this theme, with the speaker describing how the act of writing has changed his perspective on the world. He says, "I saw the world as it really is / And it was beautiful and terrible." This line is particularly poignant because it shows how poetry can help us see the world in a new light. It allows us to see the beauty and the pain that exists all around us.

The fourth stanza is where the poem takes a turn. The speaker begins to question the value of his own work, wondering if it is truly meaningful. He says, "But what does it matter, my poem? / What does it matter, my life?" This line is particularly powerful because it shows the vulnerability of the speaker. Even though he has found solace in poetry, he still questions whether it is truly valuable.

The final stanza of the poem is where the speaker finds his answer. He says, "It matters because it is mine / And because it is poetry." This line is particularly powerful because it shows that the act of creating something, even if it is just a poem, has value. The act of expressing oneself through poetry is meaningful in and of itself.

Overall, Poetry Next Day is a powerful and moving poem that captures the transformative power of poetry. It shows how the act of writing can help us connect with our emotions and find meaning in our lives. It also shows the vulnerability of the poet, who questions the value of his own work. However, in the end, the poem reminds us that the act of creating something, even if it is just a poem, has value in and of itself.

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