Poetry: Poem Analysis Essay

The works we studied within Creative Writing were all helpful in creating my own works to submit to the class. Throughout all of the reading, many of the works inspired me in different ways, whether it was short story plot ideas or word usage in the poems. While crafting my work for the final portfolio, I reviewed many of the poems from our poetry packet in an effort to find inspiration and to create new interesting images. I took the most inspiration for my formal poem, which I found most difficult to write.

One of the poems that was most useful to me was Jilly Dybka’s “Memphis, 1976. ” Dybka’s poem follows the sestina form; I also wrote my last poem in this form, so it helped to follow the form by looking at her poem as an example. Dybka’s poem uses rich imagery and follows the sestina form very well. I found that relying on Dybka’s poem for inspiration really aided me as I composed my formal poem. In writing my final poem for this course, I used Jilly Dybka’s “Memphis, 1976” which uses line breaks, imagery and the sestina form in a clear and interesting way.

Dybka’s “Memphis, 1976” addresses the abuse of Elvis Presley at the hands of America. The poem uses the Sestina form in a nice way, while transforming the use of the word other to a more appropriate form to fit the narrative style of the poem. In class, we discussed that the Sestina form was best suited for poems with a narrative style, because the alternating end words provide a lot of mobility in sentence creation. Dybka very successfully creates a story around America’s destructive view of Elvis, from the detail of how “his fans / have trapped him in his mansion” (lines 6-7).

Through the details of Elvis’s deterioration, Dybka is able to create a sympathetic view of Elvis, while also making him grotesque and uncomfortable. “Memphis, 1976″ follows the Sestina form and Dybka easily creates a version of Elvis that is unlike many depicted versions of him. The line breaks within this poem function, obviously, under the Sestina standards; however, Dybka transforms the original end words to new words as needed to fit the sentences more appropriately. For example, she starts the first stanza with the word “other,” which she later changes into mother or another to fit Elvis’s story better.

Another of Dybka’s most interesting alternating word choice comes from the word pills. The poem uses only one action word change, which is “downers” when using specific examples (line 25). The poem keeps with the Sestina form, but transforms the word to fit the narrative style better. The poem also uses a combination of end-stops and enjambment, which creates a very steady stop and flow rhythm that follows the narrative of the poem very well. While the poem does not use a lot of metaphor for description, there is a lot of imagery.

There is no need for metaphor in a narrative that tells of real events, at least there is not a need for it here. The imagery within this poem is very distinct; many of the words are unflattering or unattractive. The speaker describes Elvis remembering and wishing to be the “younger, other, / Ann-Margaret-screwing Elvis,” which is a loaded image in terms of where Elvis is at the time versus what he wishes that he still was. In a makeshift ode to Elvis, the speaker describes him as “drug-addled and swollen” with “pills on [his] tongue, heavy pinkie rings” which is a very visceral and grotesque image.

The imagery within Dybka’s poem is very rich and emotional just as much as it is primitive and horrifying. Jilly Dybka’s “Memphis, 1976” offers a style of the Sestina in a topic that I found very interesting, so as I began to write my formal poem, I read this work throughout. The speaker in “Memphis, 1976” has a very condescending or upset voice as they describe the grotesque image of Elvis as he deteriorated. I found this image and the voice very interesting and attempted to create a unique voice in my own formal poem.

Where Dybka’s poem follows a narrative style, I used this form to create the how-to poem. Dybka’s work inspired me to create a moving poem that uses grotesque images and interesting imagery. Attempting to use just as much vivid imagery as Dybka, I tried to incorporate as many visceral images that would bring the plain words into more provoking images. Imagery is not as much a strong suit of mine as it is of Dybka. The rich imagery comes in the form of “waxy lips” in “Dead Letters” and the “pushing-breathing-screaming never- / ending Sisyphus” which is also working as a metaphor in “How to Survive. (“Dead Letters,” line 4, “How to Survive,” lines 15-16).

I rely much more on metaphor and Dybka does; obviously with a narrative poem, she is able to do more telling than showing. However, I tried to promote the images through the use of metaphors. Instead of saying that someone is very strong or resilient, I used metaphors for these terms; in “How to Overcome” the lines “you will never / be the sturdy sunflower, the rough roach” (lines 4-5). I found that using metaphors in my poems, along with the imagery, made the poem much more visceral and interesting.

Dybka’s interesting use of line breaks within the Sestina was extremely helpful. In using the Sestina form, the alternating six end words can be difficult to fit in to the stanza in an interesting way. I found Dybka’s alternating use of words very inspiring. I tried to use the word roach in “How to Overcome” as a transition word. Roach was such an interesting word and could be transformed in a few different ways so it was extremely useful. Dybka’s interesting use of end words was very inspiring, and I attempted to emulate her use of transitional words.

With the ability to transform roach into “encroach” and “approach,”| felt that roach was an interesting and useful word to use with the line breaks ( line 9, 26). Throughout writing my poems for this class, as well as my short stories, I frequently read through the works we covered in class. I found Dybka’s “Memphis, 1976” the most useful as I composed my formal poem for the class. Her use of imagery, line breaks, and the form were very inspirational and helped me creatively as I wrote my own poem.