Paula Gunn Allen Essay - Paula Gunn Allen Poetry: American Poets Analysis

Paula Marie Francis

Paula Gunn Allen Poetry: American Poets Analysis

Paula Gunn Allen’s first book of poetry, The Blind Lion, contains some of the author’s most personal work. The poems in its three sections—“The Blind Lion,” “The Amorclast,” and “The Separation”— chronicle the dissolution of romantic love, while only subtly referencing her cultural background. The first section records a metamorphosis from the warm comfort of familiarity in “Definition” to colliding and opposing elements in “The Orange on Your Head Is on Fire,” in which the man is the “fire/ bird” and the woman is the “cold wind.” The lion of the title poem, an animal normally associated with dominance, pride, and courage, is made impotent by its blindness and is transformed into a weeping and pitiable creature. The lion thus becomes a metaphor for the relationship now reduced and defined by isolation. “Cool Life” further elucidates the couple’s relationship complications, of which the narrator states: “between us/ we are ice . . .” and “outside of us/ dandelions bloom.”

The second section of The Blind Lion denotes the irreparable breakage of traditional love and the institution of marriage. The language of the poems becomes increasingly dark and volatile, as the narrator in “The Amorclast” describes, “your fist expresses the rain-/ drops flying around us,” culminating with the stark language and imagery of the lover “twisting the handle/ revealing the bone/ of your contempt.” Other poems within this section similarly portray the escalating turbulence within the relationship—often represented by aspects of nature such as fog, frost, wind, and shadows. Here, Allen experiments with and reinvents the poetic form in order to fully portray the sporadic and often irrational ways in which people cope with failed relationships.

The third section, “The Separation,” portrays the narrator’s reclaiming and reinvention of herself, reflected in the increasingly prevalent spiritual and feminist tones of the poems. In “Shadows,” the narrator struggles with her sense of identity as “The room comes to me a stranger,/ its familiar things turned/ unfamiliar, as though/ I, a visitor, had just walked in. . . .” Her former life having been forever altered, the narrator cannot recognize where she belongs in her newly realized solitude. “Liebestraume” (German for “dreams of love”) is perhaps the darkest piece in the collection, wherein “pestilence,” “plague,” and “rotting velvet” lie under the covers that “half-hid the...

(The entire section is 1036 words.)