The Poem (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
“That Moment, Which You Could Love, What of It” is a short free-verse poem, its forty-one lines divided into six roughly equal stanzas. The unusual title indicates both an acknowledgment of the fleeting nature of experience and an irreverent tone. The absence of a question mark following the title heightens the impression of irreverence, but the poem’s serious intent eventually supersedes any initial hints of flippancy or cynicism.
The poem is written in the second person. Although in general usage the second person is employed for direct address, in modern poetry it is often used, paradoxically, as a form of the first person. Dave Smith has chosen to refer to himself as “you” as a way of transcending himself and of including the reader intimately in his vision and experience, an intimacy that would be far less intense had he chosen “I.”
The poem begins with the poet reporting primarily on the time of day—dusk—and the weather—unchanged, below freezing. There is more, however, in the first stanza; when dusk appears with “a newspaper under its arm, gray/ overcoat flapping,” readers rightly begin to feel that they are in for an extraordinary experience.
In the second stanza, the poet takes us from a memory of snow and ice “hunched in the aborted grass” through a swift-moving chain of associations to an immediate perception, in the stanza’s last line, of the objective reality of ice on his window. Just as...
(The entire section is 547 words.)
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Forms and Devices (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
Dave Smith’s poetry is one of solemn extremes. There is nothing jocular—no offhand urbanity or self-mockery—and “That Moment, Which You Could Love, What of It” does nothing to break the pattern. The poem’s diction, its ventures into metaphor and its imagery progressively intensify the poem’s meaning.
The poem opens explosively with a striking first line—“Today, bitch of a day, trembling”—introducing readers to a stark diction that continues throughout the poem. The opening is followed almost immediately by an equally striking personification of dusk, which “rounds corners,/ a newspaper under its arm, gray/ overcoat flapping.” This figure, exemplifying an extreme form of metaphor, shows Smith’s deftness at taking creative risks. In the second stanza, a simile—“snow . . ./ hunched in the aborted grass/ like terror”—is followed by an almost blinding series of metaphorical leaps: snow on a branch is seen as “one snaking/ tongue [which] flares in a small bush/ lost in winter.” Within two short lines of verse, snow becomes a snake, a tongue, and a flame. The effect is startling.
These metaphorical pyrotechnics go far toward establishing the poem’s imagery. In the third stanza, the visual images broaden to include the aural. Thus, the diva’s song transforms, in a peculiar metaphorical connection, into “coilings” and “tendrils” of potted plants hanging in the room. Conversely, the prevailing image of...
(The entire section is 441 words.)