"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
— Ernest Hemingway
In “His Father, Singing” by Leslie Norris, the speaker describes the tone in which and reasons that his/her father sang. The father does not sing happily or contentedly, but achingly and in anguish. The speaker tells of one specific incident in which the father comforts his son by singing to him. As his singing breaks into “pain and anger”, the speaker takes notice. So much important art is born out of pain, anxiety, and social unrest. It is these wounds we most want to explore. We want to see if they look like our own. I think there is a secret vulnerable part of all of us. Our quest for intimacy and the popularity of sad stories is our desperate need to show someone. The father in this poem, while usually singing quietly in the garden, reaches a point where for whatever reason he shows his wounds. Perhaps he relates to the child crying, perhaps he knows that the baby will not remember or repeat his song, perhaps he just can’t hold it in anymore. Either way, the speaker hears it and instinctively knows that “someone should be listening.”
Hemingway’s quote is apt-all good poetry, even the happy kind, seem to come straight from the writer’s heart, body and soul, to be their blood. A good poem pumps through are veins, drives our movement, becomes a vital part of us. Even the most ecstatic poetry should wrench one’s heart. The best poetry, like the father’s song, does not just tug on the heartstrings; it jerks them out of place. And someone should be listening.
Voice is everything in Jane Kenyon’s “Briefly It Enters, And Briefly Speaks”. In fact, rather than saying it has a speaker, I would almost just say it is a voice-after all, it seems to be an abstract idea that is speaking. The voice is intimate, particularly in the last stanza. It is first person, which always makes the reader feel as if the speaker is talking to him/her specifically. This contrasts with the actual diction of the poem; words which are speaking of a kind of universality between humanity.
It is the contrast between this intimate voice and wide range of subjects that create the magic of the poem. This is done most effectively by using first person. If the one line second stanza was changed to “It is the maker, the lover, and the keeper. . . .” the intimate connection with humanity is lost and it remains simply an ideal. By presenting the speaker as It (humanity, hope, love), the reader really believes that there is that connection, that It exists.
The imagery in the stanza that reads “I am the heart contracted by joy. . .the longest hair, white before the rest. . . .” is compelling, again for it’s contrast. A heart contracting is a very dynamic, violent image. A hair that is white before the rest simply is, and there are no other verbs in the phrase. White is purity, white hair is age, and it paints a very serene picture. With the contrast between these two images, we know that the voice resides in the youthful ecstasy of joy and the serene peacefulness of age.