Please explain the poem "Lucky Life" by Stern. Although I joined enotes, I cannot obtain the full overview. I will be answering questions on this poem in my literature class and I want to be sure...

Please explain the poem "Lucky Life" by Stern. Although I joined enotes, I cannot obtain the full overview. I will be answering questions on this poem in my literature class and I want to be sure my interpretation is accurate. Thank you.

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Michael Ugulini | (Level 3) Educator

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An explanation of the poem “Lucky Life” by Gerald Stern would have to start with the fact that the poem is a free verse piece that flows wonderfully as one reads it. There is a rhythmic vitality to this poem that moves the reader along elegantly to its end.

In this poem, Gerald Stern contemplates the big question in life – Life itself. He indicates that life isn’t always painful and trying, that respites of “…peace, and pleasure…” are a part of life as well.

The poet appreciates that he has his own “vistas” in life to wake up to and to return to as part of a day’s respite. He is thankful of where he is from and the society and culture in which he was born and grew up.

However, Stern is also realistic about life. He knows that each year lived brings him one year closer to his death. He says that, fundamentally, as time churns, all the years “get lumped together.” What is left are the many memories of people and events, old friends and all they did together. He is reminiscing about good times and not so good times as well.

Gerald Stern contemplates beautiful times at the beach and the simple pleasure of enjoying a nice coffee with a companion on a porch and overlooking the water. Whatever trials he faced that year, there was still the beachfront and companionship to behold and enjoy.

The poem continues with Stern talking of his dream. He is walking around Phillipsburg, New Jersey. It is telling that he is, in the dream, pondering a statue of Christopher Columbus. It is like he is contemplating two world views as he decides which statue of Columbus to look for:

“…the one with him slumped over and lost in weariness or the one with him vaguely guiding the way with a cross and globe in one hand and a compass in the other.”

It seems that Stern sees that life can be tiresome and defeating sometimes. At other times, he seems to say that when we have verve or energy, we still often lack focus on our life journey, "vaguely" conducting our affairs. It’s not that Stern is saying that life is bad; on the contrary, he’s saying that life is fine, but can be challenging.

In essence, Stern is asking that the waves, which he ponders, let him live and experience life in all its ways. He is not afraid of hard times; he is not afraid of good times either, as some people are because they do not trust enjoyable times and prosperity (they feel that payback in terms of hard times will occur after the good times).

Stern knows that tough times will still come – “Will you drown out my scream?” He also knows that there is still joy to be had in life – “Will you fill me with that old salt feeling?”

In concluding, Stern alludes to water being purified. He indicates that renewal is possible for everyone, that they can be washed clean and enjoy life again and again, despite hard times and life’s incongruities and challenges. It is almost a baptism that occurs when individuals can be refreshed and embrace life fully once again, and again, and again, after numerous trials.

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