The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Woman at Lit Window” is a reflective inquiry in which poet Eamon Grennan considers the possibilities of accurately rendering the details and nuances of a woman he is observing from outside her window while assessing the factors that make it impossible for him to ever quite capture the full dimensions of his vision. The poem consists of three stanzas of roughly equal length (ten, eleven, and twelve lines) divided by a partition of blank space but joined by the continuation of a statement after the line break. Its mood of quiet reflection is established by the contemplative tone that the poet employs in the first line—“Perhaps if she stood for an hour like that”—which creates a feeling of extended time and suspended motion. However, in an almost immediate introduction of opposing impulses, the poet mentions that he would also have to “stand in the dark/ just looking” at the woman, something he doubts he could “stand” to do. The lure of precision carries his thoughts toward a contemplation of the possible components of his verbal portrait, details of such exquisite precision (“etch/ of the neck in profile, the white/ and violet shell of the ear”) that he is held in a kind of rapture of meditation before he considers how his subject might react if she became aware of his presence.

Although he knows that he is invisible to the woman’s gaze, his curiosity about what he would do “if she starts/ on that stage of light/ taking her...

(The entire section is 586 words.)