“New Rule” starts by setting the scene. It is: “A New Year’s white morning of hard new ice.” The fact that the ice is new means that it has probably just arrived, perhaps through an ice storm. Right away, the reader knows that the action of the poem is taking place in winter and probably in a northern climate. The fact that the poet defines the ice as “hard” probably has some significance, since this is a statement of the obvious. In poetry, every word counts, and to make a good poem the poet must ruthlessly trim any unnecessary words. It could be that the poet just wants to help the reader visualize the setting. However, at this point, the reader cannot tell for sure. As the poem progresses to the next line, the setting gets more specific. Now, with the discussion of “frozen branches,” it is clear that the poet is, in fact, witnessing the aftermath of an ice storm, which has coated a tree with ice. High up on this tree, the poet sees “a squirrel jump and skid.”
At this point, the squirrel is merely a woodland creature that has had the misfortune to be stuck on a frozen, slippery tree. However, with the third line, the poem becomes more fantastical, as the poet begins an imaginary conversation with the squirrel: “Is this scary? he seemed to say and glanced”— the line stops here, in mid-sentence, running over into the next stanza. The reader can only assume that the squirrel’s imaginary thoughts are in...
(The entire section is 2074 words.)
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