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Is it a case of explicit or implicit subjectivity in a poem if "the poet" is mentioned,...

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jk1103 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 19, 2010 at 4:00 AM via web

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Is it a case of explicit or implicit subjectivity in a poem if "the poet" is mentioned, as in the last stanza of Bill Manhire's poem, "Summer"?

Last stanza of "Summer" by Bill Manhire:

Or, this word may be a boulder,
or this, or this

or this, which is a stone,
on which the poet sits, somewhat alone,
saying, "Hell, another masterpiece."

 

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted December 22, 2012 at 3:12 PM (Answer #1)

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To start with, let's define our terms.

  • subjective/-ity: internal; personal; an individual's thoughts, moods etc
  • explicit: clearly and fully stated
  • implicit: indirect, not clearly stated

So when you ask if a poetic reference is subjectively explicit or subjectively implicit, you are really asking whether the poet clearly states their personal presence in the thoughts, ideas, moods, etc of the poem (explicit) or whether the poet only suggests their personal presence by implying an indirect, not clearly stated presence (implicit).
 
Perhaps the best way to clarify this is to compare Manhire's subjectivity to another poet's subjectivity and see what the difference indicates.

A good poem to compare Manhire's to is William Wordsworth's "A Few Miles above Tintern Abbey." In the first, second and final stanzas, Wordsworth writes:

... Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; (1st)

.. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild (2nd)

We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came ... (final)

Here, Wordsworth clearly identifies himself as being subjectively present in the poem with the first-person pronouns "I" and "we"; since he clearly identifies his subjective presence, this is a case of explicit subjectivity.

Your quotation is the ending of Bill Manhire's poem "Summer." This is a metafictional poem that discusses the creative poetic process while it is being undertaken: "Supposing this page is a paddock / under snow ...." The last stanza speculates about what metaphoric imagery the words being written on the page might represent. In this speculative or imaginative contemplation, Manhire suggests the word might be a boulder for "the poet" to sit upon:

[This] word might be a boulder,
or ...
... a stone,
on which the poet sits, somewhat alone,

Compare Manhire's subjective reference to Wordsworth's subjective reference. While Wordsworth clearly states his subjective presence with "I", Manhire is less clear: Manhire implies his presence with "the poet"; he does not directly state his presence, rather he indirectly suggests his subjective presence.

Our conclusion, then is that there is a great difference between how Wordsworth and Manhire approach revealing subjective presence. Therefore, if Wordsorth's direct approach is a case of explicit subjectivity (and it is), then Manhire's must be a case of implicit subjectivity. Is this true? Yes, it is: his is implicit because he does not clearly state, rather he implies and indirectly suggests his presence as "the poet."

Look at this from the other direction for extra clarity: If Manhire had said "on which I sit, somewhat alone," this would have been explicit subjectivity like Wordsworth's, but he didn't, he said "the poet," which is an implicit expression of subjectivity.

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