“Planting a Cedar” was written while Hogan was living in a large city, Minneapolis. This represents a change in her working style; her earlier work was composed in a quiet environment rather than in a noisy urban one. As a result, the poem exhibits what Hogan calls “faster language” in comparison to her earlier work. This phrase, she explained, means that the flow of her words is faster, at a “clipped pace,” and that she uses more jargon and humor. The form of her poems changed as well; she explained that she will use a cliché and then “use it against itself.”
“Planting a Cedar” begins with the image of black ants, “the old dark ones/ fierce as slaves,” hurrying from underneath a stone to protect the “new white larvae/ from danger or sun.” The young larvae are “surrounded by white swaddling” through which they must eat their way to the outside world. Hogan compares these young insects pushing at walls to human children, who are “covered in so many words/ there is nothing left for them to know.” With this image, Hogan seems to be describing modern American urban culture, in which children must find their own ways through a wordy barrage of information.
The poem’s narrator then says that she “did not mean to disturb plain life/ or sit this long/ beside the stone’s country. It is late.” After being lost in the natural world, she has become aware of the passage of time and the presence of city life: men...
(The entire section is 471 words.)