Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Speakers and listeners interact on several levels in “The Mind-Reader.” As the mind-reader speaks, she makes it clear that she is talking to a privileged listener. In speaking of “truly lost” things, she mentions that such things are “Unseen by any, even by you or me.” The “you,” the “professore” who is finally addressed directly at poem’s end, is not specifically identified. Presumably she addresses the poet, who then transfers the monologue to the reader. Yet the possibility exists that she addresses another poetic persona, who may or may not be the poet. Moreover, her words make clear that, in this poem, speaker and listener are linked in the activity indicated by the title. Both “read” minds.

She refers to this directly only at the end of the poem, in a joking manner. After mentioning that she is “drinking studiously until my thought/ Is a blind lowered almost to the sill,” she responds to her listener: “Ah, you have read my mind. One more, perhaps . . ./ A mezzo-litro. Grazie, professore.” This ending pair of lines is the only suggestion that the “professore” has said anything at all. He may in fact have said nothing verbally, since he knew he was dealing with a mind-reader. He may have simply conceived the thought of buying her a drink, a thought which she then “read.” Earlier she spoke of the “professore” as being understanding of her situation. Presumably, as a mind-reader, she could accurately...

(The entire section is 552 words.)