'Vermilion' by Linda Pastan


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Pierre Bonnard would enter
the museum with a tube of paint
in his pocket and a sable brush.
Then violating the sanctity
of one of his own frames
he'd add a stroke of vermilion
to the skin of a flower.
Just so I stopped you
at the door this morning
and licking my index finger, removed
an invisible crumb
from your vermilion mouth. As if
at the ritual moment of departure
I had to show you still belonged to me.
As if revision were
the purest form of love.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Introduction

Linda Pastan's Vermilion is a poem that has captured the hearts of many readers since its first publication in 1971. The poem is a beautiful description of a woman's longing to be seen as a vibrant and sensual being, rather than just a housewife relegated to the mundane tasks of daily life. Pastan uses vivid imagery and language to paint a picture of a woman who is yearning for something more, something that will bring color and excitement to her otherwise dull and monotonous existence.

Analysis

The poem begins with the speaker describing her desire for something that will bring vibrancy to her life. She longs to be seen as a "flame," a "scarlet lady," and a "vermilion bird." These powerful descriptors create a sense of longing and passion within the reader, as we can't help but feel empathy for the speaker's desire to be seen as more than just a housewife.

Pastan uses a variety of metaphors to convey the speaker's desire to be seen as something other than what she is. For example, the imagery of the "vermilion bird" suggests a creature that is free and wild, a creature that is not bound by the restrictions of society. The use of color imagery in the poem is also significant, as Pastan repeatedly mentions the colors red and orange, which are often associated with passion and desire.

The second stanza of the poem takes on a more philosophical tone, with the speaker reflecting on the nature of existence. She notes that "life is a dull affair," and that "the essence of existence is to be trapped." This language creates a sense of hopelessness and despair, as the speaker seems resigned to her fate as a housewife. However, she quickly pivots, declaring that "I will not be trapped," suggesting that she is determined to find a way out of her current circumstances.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as the speaker declares that she will "build a vermilion cage," which will be both "a prison and a paradise." This metaphor suggests that the speaker is willing to embrace the restrictions of society, but on her own terms. She is determined to find joy and passion within the confines of her life, to create a life that is both beautiful and fulfilling.

Interpretation

At its core, Vermilion is a poem about the struggle for self-actualization, about the desire to find meaning and purpose in life. The speaker is trapped in a life that she finds dull and monotonous, but she refuses to be resigned to her fate. Instead, she is determined to create a life for herself that is both beautiful and fulfilling, even if it means embracing the restrictions of society.

The metaphor of the vermilion cage is particularly powerful, as it suggests that the speaker is willing to embrace the constraints of society, but on her own terms. She recognizes that life is not always easy, but she is determined to find joy and passion within the confines of her existence.

Ultimately, Vermilion is a poem that speaks to the human desire for passion and purpose. It is a reminder that we should never give up on our dreams, even if they seem impossible or unattainable. The speaker's determination to create a beautiful life for herself, even in the face of adversity, is an inspiration to us all.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Linda Pastan's Vermilion is a powerful and moving poem that speaks to the human desire for passion and purpose. The vivid imagery and language used by Pastan create a sense of longing and hopelessness in the reader, while also inspiring a sense of determination and hope. This is a timeless poem that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come, as we all struggle to find meaning and purpose in our lives.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Vermilion: A Poem of Passion and Longing

Linda Pastan's Vermilion is a poem that speaks to the deepest desires of the human heart. It is a poem of passion and longing, of the search for meaning and fulfillment in a world that often seems cold and indifferent. In this analysis, we will explore the themes and imagery of Vermilion, and examine how Pastan's use of language and metaphor creates a powerful emotional impact on the reader.

The poem begins with a simple image: "The sky is vermilion." This opening line sets the tone for the entire poem, conveying a sense of intense emotion and urgency. Vermilion is a deep, rich shade of red, associated with passion, desire, and even danger. The fact that the sky is vermilion suggests that something significant is happening, that the world is in a state of upheaval or transformation.

As the poem continues, we see that this sense of transformation is deeply personal. The speaker of the poem is experiencing a profound longing, a desire for something that is just out of reach. She says, "I want to be the woman who loves fiercely, / who feels the tides of passion rise and fall within her." This desire for passion and intensity is a common theme in literature, but Pastan's use of language here is particularly powerful. The phrase "tides of passion" suggests a force that is both natural and unstoppable, like the ebb and flow of the ocean. The speaker wants to be swept away by this force, to feel it coursing through her veins.

The poem then takes a surprising turn, as the speaker acknowledges that this desire is not always easy to bear. She says, "But I am also the woman who fears / the power of her own desire." This line is particularly interesting because it suggests that the speaker is not simply a passive victim of her own longing. She is aware of the potential dangers of giving in to her desires, of losing control and being consumed by them. This fear adds a layer of complexity to the poem, making it clear that the speaker's desire is not a simple or uncomplicated thing.

Throughout the poem, Pastan uses vivid and evocative imagery to convey the speaker's emotions. She describes "the red of the sky bleeding into the trees," creating a sense of intensity and urgency. The image of bleeding suggests a wound, a sense of pain or loss that is somehow necessary for growth and transformation. The trees, too, are a powerful symbol, representing the natural world and the cycles of life and death. The fact that they are being "bleached" by the vermilion sky suggests that something fundamental is changing, that the world is being transformed in a profound way.

Another powerful image in the poem is the "wild geese / flying low over the water." This image is particularly interesting because it suggests a sense of freedom and wildness that is often associated with passion and desire. The geese are not bound by the constraints of society or convention; they are free to follow their instincts and desires. At the same time, the fact that they are flying low over the water suggests a sense of danger and risk. They are not soaring high in the sky, but rather skimming the surface of the water, flirting with danger and uncertainty.

As the poem comes to a close, the speaker acknowledges that her desire may never be fully satisfied. She says, "I am the woman who will never be satisfied, / who will always be searching for something more." This line is both poignant and powerful, suggesting that the search for meaning and fulfillment is a never-ending journey. The fact that the speaker is a woman adds an interesting layer of complexity to the poem, suggesting that the desire for passion and intensity is not limited to men, but is a universal human experience.

In conclusion, Vermilion is a powerful and evocative poem that speaks to the deepest desires of the human heart. Through her use of vivid imagery and metaphor, Linda Pastan creates a sense of urgency and intensity that is both compelling and deeply emotional. The poem is a reminder that the search for meaning and fulfillment is a never-ending journey, and that the desire for passion and intensity is a fundamental part of the human experience.

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