The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Henry Taylor’s “Landscape with Tractor” is a mid-length poem in free verse, written in twelve four-line stanzas. Although mildly evoking the pacing and feel of blank verse, the poem employs no formal metrical device. In terms of its carefully plotted visual arrangement and disciplined emphasis on rhythm, however, “Landscape with Tractor” establishes and maintains a sense of order and control that reinforces its principal thematic concerns.

The poem is written in the first person, with the speaker relating an apparently hypothetical event in the form of long rhetorical questions. The most unusual aspect is the fact that the speaker continually addresses his reader or listener as “you”; because the person being addressed is also the person performing the apparently hypothetical actions of the poem, the actions are also performed by “you” (“you’re mowing,” “you keep going,” and so on). This device suggests a deliberate attempt on the part of the speaker to distance himself from the action of the poem. It also lends this startling poem its unique character, reinforcing its playful equivocation and offhanded ambiguity.

The poem begins with a rhetorical question that serves as both the formal and thematic locus of the poem. Asking the reader “How would it be if you,” the speaker plunges into a surrealistic narrative reminiscent of the fictive musings of Magical Realists such as Jorge Luis Borges or Franz Kafka. The poem proposes a situation...

(The entire section is 609 words.)