(How Poems Work, April 2004)
Phyllis Webb was born in Victoria in 1927. She currently lives on Saltspring Island, on the west coast of Canada. Webb’s most recent book is Hanging Fire published by Coach House Press in 1990. She won the Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry in 1982.
“Proposition” is a strong example of the connection between form and content and how that connection strengthens meaning. It explores the complicated proposition of love: what it is to be divided by or united to another person. The narrator’s hesitation is heightened through the use of the couplet, short lines and punctuation. Webb makes use of white space to slow the eye, allowing the reader to contemplate each line. As we read the propositions become more complex as does the poem’s construction….