The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Marriage” is a lengthy comic meditation in free verse on the topic announced by the poem’s title. More specifically, the opening line poses two questions: “Should I get married? Should I be good?” The male speaker considers these questions, though he has no intended companion in mind. Rather, the meditation considers the various social archetypes of married life and whether they suit the speaker, who seems to see himself as a subversive of sorts. The poem is divided into seven verse paragraphs of varying length, and it is organized by a variety of scenarios the speaker imagines.

The longest of these scenarios imagines a conventional marriage to “the girl next door.” This fantasy envisions a courtship that mixes the odd (“Don’t take her to movies but to cemeteries”) with the romantically orthodox (“she going just so far and I understanding why”). A familiarly comic scene of meeting the fiancée’s parents follows, as does a description of the wedding and the honeymoon. At the imagined Niagara Falls honeymoon, the speaker is so horrified by the corny lasciviousness of the honeymoon ritual that he chooses not to consummate the marriage. He will, he imagines, stay up all night staring at the hotel clerk and “Screaming: I deny honeymoon! I deny honeymoon!” Eventually, he will abandon his marriage and live beneath Niagara Falls itself as “a saint of divorce,” a crazed spirit bent on disrupting the marriage consummations in the...

(The entire section is 577 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Tone is a central issue in interpreting this monologue. By invoking and exaggerating orthodox images of matrimony, Gregory Corso comically burlesques the social order. The use of hyperbole and stereotypical images interspersed with absurdist proclamations (“yelling Radio belly! Cat shovel!”) creates a humorous incongruity. Indeed, ironic or surprising juxtaposition accounts for much of the poem’s originality and comedy. The image of hanging a picture of Arthur Rimbaud on the lawn mower juxtaposes the romantic decadence of the youthful French poet with the most conventional tool of suburban lawn maintenance. Such an incongruity, Corso implies, parallels the incongruity of the speaker’s free spirit entering into orthodox matrimony. That Rimbaud abandoned his poetic vocation at a very young age and became a conventional businessman heightens the irony of the juxtaposition.

The poem progresses through a series of such tensions in which idyllic visions of marriage are quickly countered by nightmarish ones. Similarly, the conventional is repeatedly subverted by the unorthodox. The alternations of this poetic dialectic are reflected in the use of “but” and “yet” to mark the shifts in thought that lead to the rejection of traditional marriage and “goodness” in response to the questions of the opening line. The comic exaggeration and manic intensity of the frequent exclamations—the poem has thirty-five exclamation points—is balanced by...

(The entire section is 479 words.)