Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The central theme of “One Bone to Another” is as old as poetry itself: the apparent futility of human existence. Popa’s approach to this problem is unique, however, in that he examines it in cosmic terms. He does not speak for the world; rather, it speaks through him, and his ability to see things from its point of view is remarkable. He becomes the vehicle of communication for those other mysterious worlds that exist undetected and interact in the ongoing drama of cosmic life.

A second, more subtle theme that Popa touches on here is the place and function of the psychic realm in daily life. In “Underground,” the fourth poem in the cycle, Popa writes, “Muscle of darkness muscle of flesh/ It comes to the same thing.” This seems to indicate that conscious life—that is, the life of the “flesh”—tends to blind people, to keep them in “darkness” about the true nature of existence. Further, it implies that the meaning which people seek to fulfill their lives can be found only by awareness and investigation of the subconscious world of the psyche, for it is the true foundation of being. Conscious life, with all of its demands, tends to obscure inner, psychic life, so that, inevitably, a person is “swallowed” by it. This preoccupation with the psychic plane and the need to maintain contact with it is a recurring theme in much of Popa’s work. As Charles Simi remarks in the introduction to his translation of Popa’s The Little...

(The entire section is 479 words.)