Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Miniature” appeared in the first of two collections called Parentheses (1946-1947 and 1950-1961). In terms of mathematics and symbolic logic, these short poems are “parenthetical” in that they contain unified propositions, symbolic or psychological. In terms of human relationship, writes Edmund Keeley in Ritsos in Parentheses (1979), “the two signs of the parenthesis are like cupped hands facing each other across a distance, hands that are straining to come together, to achieve a meeting that would serve to reaffirm human contact between isolated presences.”

This is certainly the human theme of “Miniature,” but this is also a poem about the dual nature of experience, the ways in which imagination informs and enriches reality. Lemon slices may spice a cup of tea or inspire a fairy tale; both are necessary. It is the poetic moment that connects the real world with the imaginary. In such moments one makes one’s meanings. As Ritsos says in another poem, “an endless interchange shaped/ the meaning of things.”

The poetic moment also unites time and timelessness. The chatter and business of everyday life, like preparing tea, is ruled by the clock, but the imagination exists between moments, when “The clock/ holds its heartbeat.” At these moments, all such sound and fury are suspended, but the stilled “heartbeat” of the clock is also associated with death, which is brought in the fairy tale’s...

(The entire section is 578 words.)