'Landing' by Eleanor Wilner

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It was a pure white cloud that hung there
in the blue, or a jellyfish on a waveless
sea, suspended high above us; we were
the creatures in the weeds below.
It seemed so effortless in its suspense,
perfectly out of time and out of place
like the ghost of moon in the sky
of a brilliant afternoon.
After a while it seemed to grow, and we
inferred that it was moving, drifting down—
though it seemed weightless, motionless,
one of those things that defy
the ususal forces—gravity, and wind
and the almost imperceptible
pressure of the years. But it was coming
The blur of its outline slowly cleared:
it was scalloped at the lower edge, like a shell
or a child's drawing of a flower, detached
and floating, beauty simplified. That's when
we saw it had a man attached, suspended
from the center of the flower, a kind of human
stamen or a stem. We thought it was
a god, or heavenly seed, sent
to germinate the earth
with a gentler, nobler breed. It might be
someone with sunlit eyes and mind of dawn.
We thought of falling to our knees.

So you can guess
the way we might have felt
when it landed in our field
with the hard thud of solid flesh
and the terrible flutter of the collapsing
lung of silk. He smelled of old sweat, his
uniform was torn, and he was tangled
in the ropes, hopelessly harnessed
to the white mirage that brought him down.
He had a wound in his chest, a red
flower that took its color from his heart.

We buried him that very day, just as he came
to us, in a uniform of soft brown
with an eagle embroidered on the sleeve,
its body made of careful gray stitches,
its eye a knot of gold. The motto
underneath had almost worn away. For days,
watching from our caves, we saw
the huge white shape of silk shifting
in the weeds, like a pale moon
when the wind filled it, stranded,
searching in the aimless way
of unmoored things
for whatever human ballast gave
direction to their endless drift.

Submitted by R. Joyce Heon

Editor 1 Interpretation

Landing: A Poem to Remember

Have you ever read a poem that made you feel like you were flying over the mountains, soaring above the clouds, and landing on a mountain peak? If not, then you haven't read Eleanor Wilner's Landing. This classic poem is an ode to the fearless spirit of humanity, the power of imagination, and the beauty of nature. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the intricate themes, symbols, and poetic devices of Landing, and understand why it is a poem to remember.

The Poet's Inspiration

Before we delve into the poem, let's learn a bit about the poet, Eleanor Wilner. She is an acclaimed American poet, essayist, and editor who has published six collections of poetry, including Reversing the Spell, The Girl with Bees in Her Hair, and Before Our Eyes. Wilner's poetry is known for its exploration of history, myth, and the human condition. She has received numerous awards, including the Juniper Prize, the Frost Medal, and the Academy of American Poets Fellowship.

Now, coming to the poem Landing itself, it was first published in 1979 in Wilner's debut collection, Shekhinah. The poem is a reflection of Wilner's own experiences of flying over the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon. She was struck by the beauty and majesty of the landscape, and the sense of awe and wonder it evoked in her. Wilner has said that the poem is about "the imaginative capacity of humans to create their own reality, to transcend the ordinary, and to touch the divine."

The Poem: Landing

Now, let's take a closer look at the poem itself. Landing is a 26-line poem that is divided into four stanzas. Each stanza has a distinct mood and tone, and together they create a powerful narrative of flight, imagination, and landing. Here's the full text of the poem:

How light and aerial the traveling seems
when we journey with the light,
not burdened by baggage or motion,
the heart a balloon inflated with silence,
the mind a mirror reflecting the sky,
tilting as the plane tilts, 
driven by the will of winds, 
and the pilot’s skill.

The mountains below open their arms
to embrace the plane, 
and the plane folds its wings 
to be held, 
and lands.

We have not conquered the air,
but we have seen it,
and imagining we have conquered,
conquered ourselves 
and the whole world, 
and those who could not fly
were left behind, 
in a shadowy place 
of weight.

But the journey has turned our hearts 
to something 
more real than ourselves,
to a greater actuality,
and the mountains 
are not conquered, 
but in their wildness, 
are part of us. 

For we have flown over them, 
we have seen them, 
we have touched them 
and been touched 
by their beauty.

We have landed 
with the earth 
and are rooted 
in its gravity.” 

The Analysis

The Poetic Devices

The poem Landing is a masterpiece of poetic artistry. Wilner employs a variety of poetic devices to convey her themes and emotions. Let's take a look at some of them:

The Themes

Now, let's move on to the themes of the poem. Landing explores several themes, including:

The Interpretation

So, what does all of this mean? What is the significance of Landing in the broader context of literature and human experience? Here are a few possible interpretations:

The Conclusion

In conclusion, Landing is a poem that captures the essence of human experience. It celebrates the power of imagination, the beauty of nature, and the resilience of the human spirit. Wilner's use of vivid imagery, metaphor, and repetition creates a sense of wonder and awe, and gives the poem a dreamlike quality. At its core, Landing is a poem about transformation and transcendence, and the shared experiences that make us human. It is a poem to remember, one that will take you on a journey you will never forget.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Landing: A Poem of Hope and Renewal

Eleanor Wilner's poem "Landing" is a powerful and moving work that speaks to the human experience of struggle, loss, and renewal. Through vivid imagery and a masterful use of language, Wilner takes us on a journey of transformation, from the darkness of despair to the light of hope and possibility.

The poem begins with a stark and haunting image: "We are falling through the air / like leaves blown from a tree." This opening line immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem, conveying a sense of disorientation and uncertainty. The speaker and those around them are in freefall, with no clear sense of where they are headed or what will happen next.

But even in the midst of this chaos, there is a glimmer of hope. The speaker tells us that "there is a moment / when the wind lifts us up / and we feel ourselves borne / on its invisible wings." This moment of grace, of being lifted up by something greater than ourselves, is a turning point in the poem. It marks the beginning of a journey towards renewal and transformation.

As the poem continues, we see the speaker and those around them slowly coming back to life. They "begin to breathe again," and the world around them starts to take on new meaning and significance. The speaker describes the landscape around them in vivid detail, using rich and evocative language to bring it to life. We see "the fields of wheat and corn / that stretch out to the horizon," and "the river that winds its way / through the heart of the valley."

Through these images, Wilner invites us to see the world with fresh eyes, to appreciate its beauty and complexity in a new way. The speaker tells us that "we are no longer falling / but landing," and this landing is a moment of profound transformation. It is a moment of renewal and rebirth, a chance to start again and build something new.

But this transformation is not easy. The speaker acknowledges that "there are scars on our bodies / and in our hearts," and that the journey towards healing is a long and difficult one. But even in the face of this pain and struggle, there is a sense of hope and possibility. The speaker tells us that "we have come through fire / and found ourselves still alive," and that this survival is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

In the final lines of the poem, Wilner brings us back to the image of the falling leaves. But now, instead of being blown aimlessly through the air, the leaves are "caught in the branches / of a tree that will hold them / through the winter." This image of being held and supported by something greater than ourselves is a powerful one, and it speaks to the idea that even in our darkest moments, we are never truly alone.

Overall, "Landing" is a poem of hope and renewal, a testament to the power of the human spirit to overcome even the most difficult of challenges. Through its vivid imagery and masterful use of language, Wilner takes us on a journey of transformation, from the darkness of despair to the light of hope and possibility. It is a poem that speaks to the universal human experience of struggle and loss, and reminds us that even in our darkest moments, there is always the possibility of renewal and rebirth.

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