The Image of the Fat Frogs in “The Sound of the Night” by Maxine Kumin Understanding a poem necessitates paying close attention to the words and particular images used in it and a reader needs to search both for the denotations and connotations of words and images by associating them with the social milieu, culture, beliefs and the historical background. Images in poetry bring about mental pictures in the minds of the readers and as the authors point out “one of the beauties of poetry is that it reconnects us to the world of our senses and thus to a world of wonder” (Schakel &. Ridl 552). Every piece of literature whether it is a story, poem or a novel has the power to evoke ‘mental representation of an object or action that can be known by one or more of the senses” (Schakel &. Ridl 552).
There are a number of verbal images in Maxine Kumin’s poem “The Sound of the Night” that describe the sights and sound of night at a Lakeshore cottage which appeal to the mind’s eye and ear of the reader. The first stanza of the poem offers the reader with the images of birds, bats and the fat frogs. The image of the birds crowding the trees and making the air “thick with their vesper cries” is appealing. The image of the bats with their “seven-pointed Kites” is outstanding. strong verbs such as ‘squeak’, ‘chirp’, ‘dip’ and ‘slum’ add to the image of the bats and such words appeal both to the reader’s senses of sight and hearing. However, the image that stands out in the first stanza as well as in the whole poem is that of the image of the fat frogs. The phrases that describe the fat frogs-“wake and prink wide lipped”, “noisy as ducks”, drink on the boozy black”, and “gloating chink chunk”- are the best in the poem (Schakel &. Ridl 552). The reader can clearly draw the picture of the fat frogs in his/her mind and can experience their noise that resembles the ducks. However, a good reader can go beyond these images to find the implied connotations in all these images.
Assignment two: The Tone in the poem “My Old Man”
It is important to understand the voice and tone of the narrator in a story or a poem. One should keep in mind the fact that even in first personal poems the ‘I’ in the poem is not always the author or someone who is quite identical to him. The ‘I’ in the poem could be “a character separate and different from the author” (Schakel &. Ridl 571). Charles Bukowski’s poem “My Old Man” narrates the relationship between a father and the son and the reader understands from the second stanza of the poem that Henry is the narrator of the poem and that he is not a persona of the author. A close reading of the poem shows that the whole poem is narrated through the point of view and perspective of Henry and therefore the reader needs to “listen for the voice of the poem behind Henry’s words and attitudes” (Schakel &. Ridl 575). The tone suggests the mood of the narrator and the tone of a poem can be “serious, playful, exaggerated, understated, poignant, distanced, formal, informal, ironic, blunt or something other than these” (Schakel &. Ridl 576). The poem “My Old Man” has multiple tones: the first stanza of the poem reveals the desperate and depressed tone of the speaker and the next stanza depicts the tone of anxiety and fear in the voice of Henry’s mother. However, the poem ends in an optimistic tone: the changes in the father’s outlook and perspective towards his son results in an optimistic tone and the reader can hope for positive changes in the life of Henry. Thus, one can conclude by stating that the poem begins with a gloomy tone and ends in an optimistic note.
Form and Type in Countee Cullen’s “Incident”
The form and type of the poem are two important factors that affect the appeal and appreciation of a poem by the readers. The form of a poem is referred to as the “external structure, the way the poem looks on the page-which may relate to the type of poem it is (to its “genre”) and to what the poem is dealing with” (Schakel &. Ridl 600). Thus, the form of the poem varies in accordance with the type of the poem: for instance, the form of the poem will be different for a sonnet from that of a ballad stanza. It is the form of the poem that offers rhythmic quality for the lines and a good poet focuses on the division of lines, stanza patterns and stanza forms. The most commonly used stanza form is the quatrains (four-line stanzas). Countee Cullen’s “Incident” makes use of the ballad stanza form-“four line stanzas rhyming abcb with eight syllables in the first and third lines, six in the second and fourth” (Schakel &. Ridl 603). For instance, in the first stanza the words ‘glee’ (second line) and ‘me’ (fourth line) rhyme each other and the first and third lines of the stanza do have eight syllables:
Once/ ri/ding/ in/ old/ Bal/ti/more
I/ saw/ a/ Bal/ti/mo/re/an
In the same way, the second and fourth lines have six syllables each. The form of ballad stanza adds to its melancholic tone and emotional power. Each of the stanzas has a climax of its own and “the lines help control the rhythm leading us to pause after each line and focus on each statement individually, letting its point sink in” (Schakel &. Ridl 604). Also, the second and fourth line of each stanza is indented to give additional charm to the form of the poem.
Schakel, Peter and Ridl, Jack. Approaching Literature. 2nd edn. Bedford/St. Martin’s: USA, 2008.