The Poem

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 448

“Corsons Inlet” is a poem of 128 lines recounting the poet’s reaction to what he sees, thinks, and feels during a morning walk along a seashore. It becomes an almost ecstatic celebration of change, of form as temporary but beautiful because it cannot endure. The poem is written in what seems to be free verse, but while it avoids rhyme there are frequent echoings of sound. While the line lengths vary from one syllable to as many as fifteen, there is something approaching a pattern in the arrangement of the lines; while there are no stanzas or strophes, the patterns formed by groups of lines bear a shifting resemblance to one another.

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This avoidance of clear patterns while suggesting that patterns do exist is a reflection of the central idea of “Corsons Inlet.” As the poet walks, he finds himself liberated from the “straight lines, blocks, boxes, binds/ of thought” into a world of sensation and motion. His mind can move freely, and he characterizes his work as “swerves of action” like the changing shape of sand dunes. He can cope with details, no matter how small, but the question of whether there is a single meaning in the process, some all-encompassing pattern, is not his to answer: “overall is beyond me.”

Having rejected wide-ranging philosophies, the poet proclaims his openness, his willingness to accept what he sees and to allow the forms to define themselves. He describes the transitions in the natural world, which have no clear boundaries, no sharp edges. He paints a vivid picture of the violence of nature: a gull eating to the point of vomiting, a different gull cracking and eating a crab. In the natural world “risk is full: every living thing in/ siege: the demand is life, to keep life.”

His attention then turns to a small system. Autumn is bringing “thousands of tree swallows” to eat bayberries and to gather themselves for flight, and he sees that what appears to be chaotic may be part of an order: “the possibility of rule as the sum of rulelessness.” He recognizes that there is order also in the small details. Still, he insists that there are, “in the large view, no/ lines or changeless shapes.”

As the poem moves toward its close, he arrives at a point of serenity; he will accept, but not try to force anything. There are orders, but around them “the looser, wider forces work.” In his poetry he will try to “fasten into order enlarging grasps of disorder” but will revel in the freedom of the knowledge that he will never find definitive answers, that change will continue, “that tomorrow a new walk is a new walk.”

Forms and Devices

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 508

The appearance of total disorder when in fact there are large kinds of order is both the theme of “Corsons Inlet” and its form: change is “not chaos.” The poem is divided into groups of lines too irregularly to allow the divisions to be called stanzas, but these divisions are not random. Many consist of two or more long lines followed by very short lines, sometimes consisting of a single syllable or a single word, which are followed in turn by more long lines. The divisions are of different lengths, but generally range between three and nine lines, with most containing six or seven.

The movement of the poem is also less random than it seems at first. If there is no regular meter, there is rhythm, conversational for the most part, with stresses used chiefly to emphasize significant passages. The narration follows the course of a walk along the dunes, returning “along the inlet shore.” The imagery of sight, sound, smell, and touch is all drawn from the natural surroundings, as are the metaphors; early...

(The entire section contains 956 words.)

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