What effect does Carolyn Kizer's use of participles in stanzas 1-4 have in her poem, "Night Sounds?"

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Carolyn Kizer's poem, "Night Sounds," the author predominately used "present participles," and it is in the label of the part of speech that we find part of our answer. This kind of participle" has an "-ing" ending which makes the poem sound as if it is taking place right at the moment that we read the poem—it sounds as if it is occurring right now. This effect gives the reader a sense of the freshness of the images shared by the author—the immediacy, in seeing it in the present moment.

Additionally, this technique will not allow the reader to gain any sense of ease in believing that the emotions expressed are in the past, but that they are occurring and affecting the speaker as she speaks: now as we read. We find no relief: the expressions shared are vivid and alive, and this further impresses the reader that the pain the speaker expresses is not dimmed and does not fade away. Each time the poem is read, it is almost as if the emotional response of the speaker is endless, like habitual suffering: and perhaps this is what it feels like to the speaker—that her misery and loneliness continue without respite.

We also find that in almost every use of a participle, the "message" being shared is "heavy-handed" or somehow infers that something is just slightly "off." For example:

Living alone now...A child weeping at nightmares..While coaxing...Always withholding something...Trying not to disturb me...feigning sleep.

What impresses me as a reader with Kizer's choice of words is that she not only gives the sense of living in the present moment, but also that the pain does not stop for the speaker, but continues on...and on.




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