(How Poems Work, February 2005)
… In the poem, “12 O’Clock News”, Bishop looks at our ability to feel alienated from the world around us, even when that world is occupied by familiar objects.
Each object on the left and each description on the right works in interplay between object and image to create metaphor. The objects from her desk are metaphors for the descriptions that go with them, but the descriptions are also metaphors for the objects, for the wider world, the mass media and the writer herself. Bishop builds from the light (i.e. her gooseneck lamp) and works outward to show all the objects that are illuminated and what they are capable of being.
The poem can be read as a commentary on the mass media and how it portrays foreign landscapes. During the early part of the Iraqi war the grey-green surveillance footage depicted an alien world in a way that could only heighten the viewer’s sense that Iraq is different and its people “in the dark”….
(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….
(How Poems Work, March 2004)
The ghazal (pronounced “guzzle”) is a Persian form of poetry brought to Canada by John Thompson with the posthumous publication of his second book, _Stilt Jack_ in 1978.
Though Thompson and those after him have simplified the English form, the ghazal remains image-based rather than narrative: the poet ties couplets together through recurring objects and images.
_Ghazal XXI_ is a series of nine couplets. The poem is a slow, visual progression from poem to fish hook out into the world of nature and back. It is broken into two sentences, but punctuated to show the relationship between lines in couplets and objects in those lines, so that the poem is the hook, the women are the wind….