The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Concerning Necessity” is a narrative poem of forty-two lines, which are divided into seven six-line stanzas. Each stanza has inexact, or slant, rhymes in an ababcc scheme. The poem is written in the first person. Although authors often create a persona that is distinct from themselves, the persona of this poem is commonly seen in Hayden Carruth’s poetry: The speaker is a man (a husband and father) who is living in a difficult environment filled with physical labor. To anyone who is aware that Carruth spent more than twenty years of his life as a laborer and handyman in a rural area of Vermont, it is clear that this poem arises from Carruth’s personal experiences.

The poem begins in the first-person plural (“we”), indicating that there are many people who live in the rural hardship described. Stanzas 1, 2, and 3 depict a work-filled, arduous existence, in which he and others live in a “kind of rural twilight.” These stanzas contain precise details of this existence, beginning with stanza 1 and its references to “hard dirt” and “difficult woods.” The emphasis on work is continued in stanza 2, with a catalog of the types of work performed. The use of cataloging, which often occurs in poetry as a list of supportive examples or statements in parallel order, works well here because it intensifies the sense of the relentless labor of these people. The work involved is very physical—for example, driving a wedge, and making a...

(The entire section is 474 words.)