The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Formally, this short poem is free verse, divided into five uneven stanzas. On the surface it seems obscure, a mixture of statements and images without much connection. There is no identifiable speaker, even though there is a mention of “we.” The poem begins, not with any statement of subject, but with an assertion that “the mind” “feels bruised.”

This sentence mixing abstraction and image, “mind” and “bruised,” is followed by an image of light making white holes through black “foliage,” succeeded in turn by a line that is both abstraction and image: “Or mist hides everything that is not itself.” If the poem seems obscure, however, it nevertheless has a precise meaning. All the assertions and images are Charles Tomlinson’s way of talking about poetry, by demonstration rather than mere precept. Even the apparently vague “we” becomes, clearly, “we poets.”

The alternation of abstraction and image in these first two lines echoes the structure of the rest of the poem, for the second and third stanzas are a series of statements (one should especially note the statement almost in the center that “Proportions/ Matter”), whereas the last two stanzas are almost purely visual imagery. Still, these images require the reader’s mind, as well as the poet’s mind, to work. In those last stanzas, “green twilight” has “violet borders,” a seemingly meaningless image until one thinks of the actualities of colors...

(The entire section is 486 words.)