Charles Bukowski

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Analyze the use of figurative language, symbolism, sound, imagery, and tone in three Charles Bukowski's poems.

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Your first step in completing this assignment is to select three of Charles Bukowski’s poems to analyze. To get your started, let’s take a look at “8 count,” “Cold Summer,” and “About My Very Tortured Friend, Peter.” These are just examples to model the technique of analysis. You may like other poems better.

You are to analyze five elements: figurative language, symbolism, sound, imagery, and tone. Let’s look at each of these in the poems.

Figurative language uses descriptions to create comparisons and add vivid details to texts. In “8 count,” for instance, the speaker calls his typewriter a tombstone. This is a metaphor that shows that the typewriter is silent and that indicates that the speaker is experiencing a dead spot in his writing. In the poem about Peter, the author inserts allusions to famous artists as a comparison to the unsuccessful Peter. In “Cold Summer,” the speaker uses the metaphor of “swinging by a thread” to let us know the precariousness of his situation.

Symbolism is a type of figurative language in which an object or person represents or points to something else. In “8 count,” the birds symbolize the speaker’s ideas that won’t stay still long enough for him to write them down. Peter’s poem uses work, or the lack thereof, as a symbol for success, while “Cold Summer” presents swimming as a symbol of perseverance in difficult times.

The sound of these poems is quite rough in many ways. “8 count” is choppy, representing the disconnect of the poet’s ideas. The poem about Peter is much like prose with its dialogue, yet it has one-word lines that stand out sharply. There are pauses in “Cold Summer” as the speaker reflects on what is happening to him.

In terms of imagery, think of the birds and the typewriter in “8 count.” Peter’s poem reflects on work and art and music and the piano to present Peter’s angst. “Cold Summer” shows us a crowded waiting room at the doctor’s office.

Finally, let’s think about the tone of these three poems. In “8 count,” there is more than a hint of frustration and even a note of despair as the speaker watches birds when he should be writing. The dialogue in Peter’s poem alternates between anger and a calm tolerance. “Cold Summer” offers a tone of resignation with just a note of hope beneath it.

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