Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Pieces That Fall To Earth by Kay Ryan

One could
almost wish
they wouldn't;
they are so
far apart,
so random.
One cannot
wait, cannot
abandon waiting.
The three or
four occasions
of their landing
never fade.
Should there
be more, there
will never be
enough to make
a pattern
that can equal
the commanding
way they matter.


The first question one must ask about this poem is, what is they? Without answering the question, the poem will not have any meaning.  'They' refers to "the pieces that fall", and I take that to mean meteors. Another thing to note is that this poem uses repetition frequently; at least once in every stanza, except the third, and often more. 

In the first stanza the word "wish" gives the stanza a regretful tone. By saying "almost wish they wouldn't" it draws attention to the fact that "the pieces that fall" are not bad by emphasising the word "almost".  The poet then tells us that they are "so far apart, so random" the repetition of "so" tells us that a lot of time passes between the falling pieces, and that there is no way to know when it will happen.

The length of the stanzas link them together, the first stanza is six lines long, and the second stanza is half that length with three lines, so the stanzas are connected to each other. The second stanza is a commentary on the first stanza. Once again, repetition is utilized by emphasizing "cannot" and "wait". This stanza is also an oxymoron, "cannot wait" and yet "cannot abandon waiting". Contradiction freezes action, and the poet is in limbo waiting for pieces to fall, and also not wanting to wait.

In the third stanza the poet turns to the subject of the "pieces" themselves. There is no use of repetition in this stanza, which makes it stand out. The poet is very specific, there have been only "three or four" occasions when these pieces have fallen, so we now know these events are rare. Then we learn that "their landing never fade". The diction in the third stanza tells the reader that the event of the falling pieces is a big event for the poet, and that the event leaves lasting marks. This stanza is four lines long and is linked with the fourth stanza which is eight lines long. 

The fourth stanza opens with the words: "should there be more" suggesting that the poet is unsure whether more pieces will fall, or if she will live to see it. The tone in this stanza is very serious and sentimental. Even if more fall and a pattern should develop, it will "never be enough" to "equal" the "way they matter". 

This poem alludes to, but never directly states the subject. On the surface, it is a simple and powerful statement about the beauty and mysteries of meteors. However, because the subject is not stated, the poem could be about any subject the reader projects onto it. For example, the poem could also be about lovers, and how they rarely and randomly fall into our lives, changing us forever. This is what makes the poem so powerful, it transforms into something different for every reader. 

The use of paired repetition, careful diction, and the fluid and choppy syntax manipulates the readers emotions along with the poets very powerfully, and was quite successful at portraying the purpose of the poem.

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