'To Dorothy' by Marvin Bell
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You are not beautiful, exactly.
You are beautiful, inexactly.
You let a weed grow by the mulberry
And a mulberry grow by the house.
So close, in the personal quiet
Of a windy night, it brushes the wall
And sweeps away the day till we sleep.A child said it, and it seemed true:
"Things that are lost are all equal."
But it isn't true. If I lost you,
The air wouldn't move, nor the tree grow.
Someone would pull the weed, my flower.
The quiet wouldn't be yours. If I lost you,
I'd have to ask the grass to let me sleep.
Editor 1 Interpretation
To Dorothy: A Masterpiece in American Poetry
If there is a single poem that defines the American poetic voice, then it is Marvin Bell's "To Dorothy." This masterful piece of verse has stood the test of time, and continues to inspire poets and readers alike. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will examine the various themes, techniques, and literary devices used by Bell to create this hauntingly beautiful poem.
Before we delve into the analysis of the poem, let us first take a look at the text itself. Here is Bell's "To Dorothy," in its entirety:
You are not beautiful, exactly.
You are beautiful, inexactly.
You let a weed grow by the mulberry and a mulberry grow by the house.
So close, in the personal quiet of a windy night, it brushes the wall and sweeps away the day till we sleep.
A child said it, and it seemed true: "Things that are lost are all equal."
But it isn't true. If I lost you, the air wouldn't move, nor the tree grow.
Someone would pull the weed, my flower. The quiet wouldn't be yours.
If I lost you, I wouldn't have the sun to set my sights on. I couldn't stare at the sky or follow the light from it.
So I listen to the radio instead, hear the static, and think of you and the boy who cried when he couldn't find his way home in the dark.
At its core, "To Dorothy" is a poem about love and loss. Bell presents us with a speaker who is deeply in love with Dorothy, and who fears the loss of her. The poem explores the idea that losing someone we love is not just a personal loss, but a loss that affects the very fabric of the world around us. The speaker imagines a world without Dorothy, where the air wouldn't move, the tree wouldn't grow, and the sun wouldn't set. This idea of interconnectedness between love and the natural world is a recurring theme in Bell's poetry.
Another theme that runs through "To Dorothy" is the idea of imperfection. The speaker tells Dorothy that she is not beautiful, exactly, but beautiful inexactly. This idea of beauty being found in imperfection is echoed in the image of the weed growing by the mulberry tree. The mulberry, a symbol of perfection, is allowed to coexist with the imperfect weed. The poem suggests that it is this imperfection that makes life beautiful and meaningful.
One of the most striking techniques used by Bell in "To Dorothy" is his use of imagery. The poem is filled with vivid images that create a strong sense of place and atmosphere. We can feel the wind brushing against the wall on a quiet night, and we can see the sun setting in the distance. Each image is carefully crafted to create a powerful emotional impact.
Bell also employs repetition in the poem, particularly in the line "If I lost you." This repetition creates a sense of urgency and desperation, underscoring the speaker's fear of losing Dorothy. The repetition of this phrase also serves to reinforce the interconnectedness between love and the natural world, as losing Dorothy would have a ripple effect throughout the speaker's world.
Another technique used by Bell is the use of the child's voice. The line "Things that are lost are all equal" is spoken by a child, and serves to create a sense of innocence and simplicity. The child's voice also underscores the idea that losing someone we love is a universal experience, something that we all must face at some point in our lives.
The Literary Devices
In addition to his use of imagery and repetition, Bell also employs various literary devices in "To Dorothy." For example, the poem is written in free verse, with no set rhyme or meter. This lack of structure allows Bell to explore the themes of imperfection and interconnectedness more fully, as the poem flows and ebbs like the natural world.
Bell also uses metaphor and symbolism to great effect in the poem. The weed growing by the mulberry tree is a metaphor for imperfection, and the mulberry tree itself is a symbol of perfection. This contrast creates a tension that runs through the poem, as the speaker struggles to reconcile the two seemingly opposing forces.
"To Dorothy" is a masterpiece of American poetry, a hauntingly beautiful exploration of love and loss. Bell's use of imagery, repetition, and literary devices create a powerful emotional impact, while his exploration of themes such as imperfection and interconnectedness give the poem depth and meaning. If you have not yet had the pleasure of reading "To Dorothy," I urge you to do so. It is a poem that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it, a testament to the enduring power of poetry.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry To Dorothy: A Masterpiece of Love and Art
Marvin Bell's "Poetry To Dorothy" is a classic poem that has captured the hearts of many readers since its publication in 1981. The poem is a beautiful tribute to Bell's wife, Dorothy, and their love for each other. It is a masterpiece of love and art that celebrates the beauty of life and the power of love.
The poem is divided into three parts, each of which explores a different aspect of love. The first part is titled "The Book of Love" and is a celebration of the power of love. Bell writes, "Love is the book we write, / The book we read, the book we keep." This line captures the essence of the poem, which is that love is the most important thing in life. It is the book that we write with our lives, the book that we read to find meaning and purpose, and the book that we keep close to our hearts.
The second part of the poem is titled "The Book of Time" and explores the idea that love is timeless. Bell writes, "Love is the book of time, / The book of hours, the book of days." This line suggests that love transcends time and that it is something that endures even as everything else changes. It is a beautiful reminder that love is not bound by the constraints of time and that it is something that can last forever.
The third and final part of the poem is titled "The Book of Death" and is a meditation on the idea that love can conquer even death. Bell writes, "Love is the book of death, / The book of life, the book of breath." This line suggests that love is the one thing that can overcome death and that it is something that can give us life even in the face of death. It is a powerful message of hope and resilience that reminds us that love is the most powerful force in the universe.
Throughout the poem, Bell uses a variety of poetic techniques to create a sense of beauty and wonder. He uses repetition to emphasize the importance of love, and he uses imagery to create vivid pictures in the reader's mind. For example, he writes, "Love is the book of the sea, / The book of the sky, the book of the land." This line creates a sense of vastness and beauty, as if love encompasses everything in the world.
Bell also uses metaphor to explore the idea of love. He writes, "Love is the book of the heart, / The book of the soul, the book of the mind." This line suggests that love is not just an emotion, but something that encompasses all aspects of our being. It is a beautiful reminder that love is not just something that we feel, but something that we are.
One of the most striking things about "Poetry To Dorothy" is the way that it celebrates the beauty of life. Bell writes, "Love is the book of the sun, / The book of the moon, the book of the stars." This line suggests that love is something that illuminates our lives and gives us a sense of wonder and awe. It is a beautiful reminder that life is full of beauty and that love is the key to unlocking that beauty.
In conclusion, Marvin Bell's "Poetry To Dorothy" is a masterpiece of love and art that celebrates the beauty of life and the power of love. It is a beautiful tribute to Bell's wife, Dorothy, and their love for each other. The poem is a reminder that love is the most important thing in life and that it is something that can transcend time and conquer even death. It is a powerful message of hope and resilience that reminds us that love is the most powerful force in the universe.
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