What image is created in the first stanza of "Eating Poetry"?

The image of a young child happily and sloppily ravishing juicy fruit is created in the first stanza of “Eating Poetry.” Entranced by poetry, the speaker literally eats pages of printed poetry as if he were a mischievous kid unconcerned about neatness and appearance. Ink resembles juice dripping from his mouth. This first stanza’s imagery changes into a grown man chewing on pages and foreshadows his transformation into a playful, ambiguously menacing dog.

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In “Eating Poetry,” Mark Strand expresses the reading of poetry as a life-changing, joyous experience. In the poem’s opening stanza,

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.There is no happiness like mine.I have been eating poetry.

Imagery in this first stanza is complex­—it conveys the...

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In “Eating Poetry,” Mark Strand expresses the reading of poetry as a life-changing, joyous experience. In the poem’s opening stanza,

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

Imagery in this first stanza is complex­—it conveys the speaker’s childlike gustatory elation and foreshadows his later transformation into a dog. As a whole, the three-line stanza creates a picture of a man literally devouring pages of a book.

The first line conjures up an image of a mouth stuffed with fruit. The fruit must be so delicious and succulent that “ink runs” out of the speaker’s mouth like overflowing juice. He appears like a gleeful child eagerly gorging himself with a treat—printed words of poetry as revealed in the third line. If the poet is a grown man, the first line's image transforms him into a playful, somewhat delinquent young kid. After all, an adult is not expected to be ripping pages out of books and eating them.

The speaker tries to justify his actions in the second line; he cannot help himself because he is so jubilant. His figurative consumption of poetry—reading and experiencing words, literary devices, and so on—becomes literal ingestion.

The third line states exactly what he is doing—eating pages from a book of poetry. Between the first and third lines, the image of a harmless child eating overripe, dripping fruit becomes an image of a crazed adult chewing on pages ripped from a poetry book.

The third line’s image as well as its transformation from a child foreshadows the speaker’s later spontaneous and inexplicable mutation into a dog. At the end of the third stanza, canines come running onto the scene.

The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.

Their sudden appearance intensifies this bizarre scenario. They also seem a bit menacing, with rolling eyes (are they rabid?) and rough, burning blond legs. By the end of the poem, the speaker himself has become one of them. After spontaneously licking the librarian’s hand, he declares,

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

No longer an innocent child eating fruit, the speaker is a scary (“snarl”) and playful (but somewhat menacing) dog.

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