'Interregnum' by Weldon Kees
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Butcher the evil millionaire, peasant,
And leave him stinking in the square.
Torture the chancellor. Leave the ambassador
Strung by his thumbs from the pleasant
Embassy wall, where the vines were.
Then drill your hogs and sons for another war.
Fire on the screaming crowd, ambassador,
Sick chancellor, brave millionaire,
And name them by the name that is your name.
Give privilege to the wound, and maim
The last resister. Poison the air
And mew for peace, for order, and for war.
View with alarm, participant, observer,
Buried in medals from the time before.
Whisper, then believe and serve and die
And drape fresh bunting on the hemisphere
From here to India. This is the world you buy
When the wind blows fresh for war.
Hide in the dark alone, objector;
Ask a grenade what you are living for,
Or drink this knowledge from the mud.
To an abyss more terrible than war
Descend and tunnel toward a barrier
Away from anything that moves with blood.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Interregnum: A Masterpiece by Weldon Kees
Interregnum is a poem written by Weldon Kees in the mid-twentieth century. It is a short but powerful piece that speaks to the human experience of the passage of time and the search for meaning in times of change. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, imagery, and symbolism of Interregnum and how they contribute to its overall effectiveness as a work of art.
The central theme of Interregnum is the idea of transition and uncertainty. The title itself refers to a period of time in which a government or ruler is temporarily suspended, and there is a sense of instability and unpredictability. This sense of limbo is reflected throughout the poem in various ways. For example, the speaker describes a "world between wars" that is "neither the new world nor the old." This "interregnum" period is one of disorientation and confusion, where traditional values and ways of life are being upended, and new ones have not yet taken hold.
Another theme in the poem is the search for meaning and purpose. The speaker describes a world that is changing so rapidly that it is difficult to know what is important or worthwhile. The lines "What is the meaning of this city? Do you huddle close together / Because you love each other?" show the speaker's frustration with the lack of clarity in the world around him. He is searching for something to hold onto, some kind of anchor in the midst of the chaos.
Kees uses vivid imagery throughout the poem to convey a sense of unease and disorientation. For example, he describes "the smell of wet ashes" and "the litter of hats and newspapers" as the speaker walks through the city. These images suggest a kind of decay and confusion, as if the world is falling apart. The use of the word "litter" also implies a lack of order or control.
Kees also uses imagery to express the speaker's search for meaning. The line "What is the meaning of this city?" is followed by a series of questions about the purpose of various aspects of urban life, such as the "huddle" of people, the "crowds" of cars, and the "meaningless" advertisements. These images suggest a sense of emptiness and purposelessness, as if the world is devoid of meaning.
One of the most powerful symbols in the poem is the statue of the "Unknown Soldier." This iconic figure represents the sacrifices of those who have fought for their country, but also the idea of an anonymous hero. The speaker seems to be searching for a hero or a leader to follow, someone who can provide direction and meaning in the midst of the chaos. But the statue remains silent and unmoving, a symbol of the speaker's frustration and despair.
Another symbol in the poem is the image of the "housewives with heredity eyes." This image suggests a sense of continuity and tradition, but also a kind of stagnation or lack of progress. The speaker seems to be searching for a way to reconcile the past with the present, to find a way to move forward without losing sight of the past.
Interregnum is a powerful poem that captures the sense of uncertainty and disorientation that many people feel in times of transition. The speaker's search for meaning and purpose is a universal experience, one that resonates with readers of all ages and backgrounds. Kees uses vivid imagery and powerful symbols to convey a sense of unease and confusion, but also a sense of hope and possibility.
At its core, Interregnum is a poem about the human experience of change. It reminds us that even in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, there is always the potential for growth and transformation. The statue of the Unknown Soldier may remain silent, but the speaker's search for meaning and purpose continues. And in that search, there is always the possibility of finding something worth holding onto.
Interregnum is a masterpiece of modern poetry that speaks to the human experience of transition and uncertainty. Its themes of searching for meaning and purpose, and its vivid imagery and powerful symbols, make it a work of art that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come. Kees' ability to capture the complexity and confusion of the modern world is truly remarkable, and his voice is one that deserves to be heard.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Interregnum: A Poem of Timeless Relevance
Weldon Kees, the American poet, painter, and musician, is known for his unique style of writing that blends the modernist and the post-modernist sensibilities. His poem Interregnum, published in 1958, is a prime example of his literary prowess. The poem, which explores the theme of political and social upheaval, is a timeless piece of art that resonates with the contemporary world. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, highlighting its significance and relevance.
Interregnum is a Latin term that means "between reigns." The poem, which consists of 21 lines, is divided into three stanzas. The first stanza sets the tone for the poem by describing a city in turmoil. The second stanza introduces the speaker's perspective, and the third stanza concludes the poem with a powerful image of destruction.
The first stanza of the poem paints a vivid picture of a city in chaos. The speaker describes the "smoke-filled streets" and the "broken windows" that symbolize the destruction caused by the political and social upheaval. The use of imagery is powerful, as it creates a sense of urgency and despair. The speaker also mentions the "shattered statues" and the "empty squares," which represent the loss of cultural heritage and identity. The use of the word "interregnum" in the first line of the poem sets the context for the rest of the poem, as it suggests that the city is in a state of transition between two regimes.
The second stanza of the poem introduces the speaker's perspective. The speaker is a witness to the chaos and destruction, but he is also detached from it. He describes himself as a "spectator" who watches the events unfold from a distance. The use of the word "spectator" is significant, as it suggests that the speaker is not directly involved in the conflict. However, the speaker's detachment is not complete, as he is still affected by the events. He describes the "fear" and the "doubt" that he feels, which suggests that he is not immune to the turmoil.
The third stanza of the poem concludes with a powerful image of destruction. The speaker describes the "ruined bridges" and the "burnt-out stations" that represent the collapse of infrastructure and communication. The use of the word "ruined" and "burnt-out" is significant, as it suggests that the destruction is irreversible. The final image of the poem is that of a "blackened sky," which represents the loss of hope and the end of an era.
Interregnum is a poem that explores the theme of political and social upheaval. The poem is set in a city that is in a state of transition between two regimes. The use of imagery is powerful, as it creates a sense of urgency and despair. The speaker's perspective is detached but not complete, as he is still affected by the events. The final image of the poem is that of a "blackened sky," which represents the loss of hope and the end of an era.
The poem is relevant to the contemporary world, as it speaks to the political and social turmoil that we are currently experiencing. The poem reminds us that the consequences of political and social upheaval are irreversible and that the loss of cultural heritage and identity is a real possibility. The poem also reminds us that we are all affected by the events, even if we are not directly involved.
In conclusion, Interregnum is a timeless piece of art that resonates with the contemporary world. The poem explores the theme of political and social upheaval and reminds us of the consequences of such turmoil. The use of imagery is powerful, and the speaker's perspective is both detached and affected. The final image of the poem is that of a "blackened sky," which represents the loss of hope and the end of an era. Interregnum is a poem that deserves to be read and analyzed, as it speaks to the human experience in a profound and meaningful way.
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