Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 426

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.

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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 taken from any of the individual poems in the collection and has therefore been chosen specifically to apply to all the poems in the book. It implies that the struggle to find the language and form for what he sees is not only likely to be difficult and frustrating but also might not even be worth attempting. In “Woman at Lit Window,” Grennan resists this position by proceeding as if it does matter, even if his efforts are inevitably going to come up short of his ultimate intentions. As a demonstration of the validity, or at least the usefulness, of this approach, Grennan concludes the poem with the poet suffused in a light as energizing as that which lit the woman in the window in the first stanza. The striking image of his shadow “skinned with grainy radiance” offers a complicated texture as compelling as the pure light on the woman. The effort to “get it right” has given him an opportunity to share or enter the “radiance” accompanied by the almost magical “host of fireflies” that endow the light with spiritual grace.

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