Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Throughout his work, Grennan has explored the range of light across a continuum from its absence in total darkness to its fullest manifestations, both in poems written prior to “Woman at Lit Window” and in subsequent ones such as “I Lie Awake Each Morning Watching Light.” Although it is not an exact equivalency, light, for Grennan, is often conceived as an analogue for artistic vision. Its occurrence affords the opportunity to see an object or subject with an exceptional clarity. In “Woman at Lit Window,” Grennan is transfixed by the illuminated image he sees and is then characteristically inspired to try to capture or convey its essence in language. The persistent problem he faces is that there are always impediments to the ultimate completion of his conception, including the circumstances of his observation, the elusiveness of his subject, and perhaps most significant, the complex of personal responses that occur beyond his ability to predict or restrain them. This is what makes the situation so challenging and, sometimes, so frustrating.

In addition, the title of the collection in which the poem appears, As If It Matters, is an expression of one of Grennan’s fundamental tenets. He is plagued by a sort of hovering uncertainty about the importance of his work and perhaps even the direction of his life. This is not an overwhelming obstacle, but it affects his attitude toward the world and is a factor in many poems. The title is not...

(The entire section is 426 words.)