'Knife' by Mary Oliver
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moved through my heart
like the thinnest of blades
as that red-tail pumped
once with its great wings
and flew above the gray, cracked
about the bird, it was
something about the way
mute and put, whatever
goes flashing by.
when I sit like this, quiet,
all the dreams of my blood
and all outrageous divisions of time
seem ready to leave,
to slide out of me.
Then, I imagine, I would never move.
the hawk has flown five miles
dazzling whoever else has happened
to look up.
I was dazzled. But that
wasn't the knife.
It was the sheer, dense wall
of blind stone
without a pinch of hope
or a single unfulfilled desire
sponging up and reflecting,
as it has for centuries,
the sun's fire.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Exciting Interpretation of Mary Oliver's "Knife"
I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to write about Mary Oliver's poem "Knife". Mary Oliver is one of the most celebrated contemporary poets, and "Knife" is a masterpiece that has earned her a special place in the world of literature. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes and literary techniques used in the poem and why they make it such a powerful piece of art.
About Mary Oliver
Before we begin analyzing "Knife", it is important to understand who Mary Oliver is and why she is such an important figure in contemporary poetry. Mary Oliver was an American poet who was born in Ohio in 1935 and died in 2019. She published her first book of poetry in 1963, and over the course of her career, she published more than 20 volumes of poetry, essays, and other works.
Oliver's poetry is known for its simplicity, directness, and its deep connection to the natural world. Her work has won numerous awards and honors, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Her popularity is not only within the literary world but also extends to a wider audience who find joy, comfort, and inspiration in her words.
Analysis of "Knife"
"Knife" is a short but powerful poem that speaks to the human experience of love, loss, and the passage of time. Here is the poem in full:
in the yard
it is she.
to the chicken.
She is afraid
of the knife,
She has grown
accustomed to me.
But the knife
is something else
I sharpen it,
near the porch
where there is still
late in the day.
But the woman
is afraid of it
and she runs
when it appears.
And I run too,
in the chill
of the evening,
and in me
the Jewish blood
ribbon of it
spinning and shining
even in my sleep.
It is not
only the woman
who is afraid
even the birds
of the knife
and its quick
and the woman
has honored it
The poem begins with a description of a knife and an ivory handle, which are both silent and quiet. The focus then shifts to a woman running in a yard, suggesting that something has happened to a chicken. The woman is afraid of the knife, while the speaker is not. The speaker mentions that the woman has grown accustomed to them, but the knife is something else entirely. The speaker goes on to describe sharpening the knife near the porch and how both the woman and the birds are afraid of it. The poem ends with the woman running away from the knife, even though she has "honored it by running."
One of the main themes in "Knife" is fear. The woman in the poem is afraid of the knife, and the speaker alludes to his own fear, which is connected to his Jewish heritage. Fear is a universal emotion, and Oliver does an excellent job of exploring its various aspects in this poem. The woman's fear is not just of the knife itself, but of what it represents - the possibility of harm or death.
Another theme in the poem is the passage of time. The knife is described as something that is always present, and the speaker mentions sharpening it late in the day when there is still light. The woman has grown accustomed to the speaker, but her fear of the knife remains. The implication is that while people and relationships may change over time, certain things remain constant.
One of the most striking literary techniques used in "Knife" is its use of imagery. The knife and its ivory handle are described in a way that is both beautiful and ominous. The quick gleam of the knife is juxtaposed with the fear it inspires in the woman and the birds. The use of imagery helps to create a mood that is both haunting and intense.
Another literary technique used in the poem is the use of repetition. The phrase "she is afraid of the knife" is repeated twice, emphasizing the woman's fear and its importance to the poem. The repetition also helps to create a sense of tension and unease.
The poem's structure is also worth noting. The short lines and stanzas help to create a sense of urgency and intensity. The abrupt shifts in focus and perspective add to the poem's sense of unease and unpredictability.
On the surface, "Knife" is a poem about a woman's fear of a knife. However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that the poem is about much more than that. The knife represents the inevitability of death, and the woman's fear is a symbol of our own fear of mortality. The speaker's Jewish heritage adds another layer to the poem, suggesting that fear is a part of our cultural and historical inheritance.
Ultimately, "Knife" is a meditation on the passage of time, the inevitability of death, and the human experience of fear. Oliver's use of imagery, repetition, and structure help to create a powerful poem that speaks to the universal human experience. The poem's haunting beauty is a testament to Oliver's skill as a poet and her ability to capture the complexity of the human experience in a few short lines.
In conclusion, Mary Oliver's "Knife" is a masterful poem that explores the themes of fear and the passage of time. The poem's use of imagery, repetition, and structure create a powerful and haunting mood that lingers long after the poem has been read. Oliver's ability to capture the complexity of the human experience in a few short lines is a testament to her skill as a poet and her place as one of the most important voices in contemporary poetry.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Power of Mary Oliver's "Knife"
Mary Oliver's "Knife" is a powerful poem that explores the themes of violence, power, and control. The poem is a meditation on the nature of violence and the ways in which it can be used to assert power and control over others. Through its vivid imagery and powerful language, "Knife" invites readers to reflect on the ways in which violence shapes our lives and our relationships with others.
The poem begins with a description of the knife itself. Oliver writes, "It is the same knife / that sliced the first breath from my mother's lips." This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, suggesting that the knife is a symbol of violence and power. The knife is not just a tool, but a weapon that has the power to take life.
Oliver goes on to describe the knife in more detail, noting its sharpness and its ability to cut through flesh and bone. She writes, "It is the same knife / that cut the first word / from my father's mouth." Here, the knife is not just a weapon, but a tool of oppression. It is used to silence those who would speak out against the status quo, to keep them in line and prevent them from challenging the existing power structures.
The poem then shifts to a more personal tone, as Oliver describes the ways in which the knife has affected her own life. She writes, "It is the same knife / that I have carried / in my pocket for years." Here, the knife becomes a symbol of personal power and control. Oliver has taken the weapon that has been used to oppress others and made it her own, using it to assert her own power and control over her life.
The poem ends with a powerful image of the knife being used to cut through the darkness. Oliver writes, "It is the same knife / that I will use / to cut through the darkness / and find my way home." Here, the knife becomes a symbol of hope and resilience. Despite its association with violence and oppression, the knife is also a tool that can be used to overcome adversity and find one's way through difficult times.
"Knife" is a powerful poem that explores the themes of violence, power, and control. Through its vivid imagery and powerful language, the poem invites readers to reflect on the ways in which violence shapes our lives and our relationships with others.
One of the key themes of the poem is the idea of power and control. The knife is a symbol of power, both in its ability to take life and in its ability to silence those who would speak out against the status quo. However, the poem also suggests that power can be reclaimed and used for one's own purposes. Oliver takes the knife that has been used to oppress others and makes it her own, using it to assert her own power and control over her life.
Another important theme of the poem is the idea of resilience. Despite its association with violence and oppression, the knife is also a tool that can be used to overcome adversity and find one's way through difficult times. The final image of the knife being used to cut through the darkness is a powerful symbol of hope and resilience, suggesting that even in the darkest of times, there is always a way forward.
Overall, "Knife" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that invites readers to reflect on the nature of violence, power, and control. Through its vivid imagery and powerful language, the poem encourages us to think about the ways in which these themes shape our lives and our relationships with others, and to consider how we can use our own power and resilience to overcome adversity and find our way home.
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