Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This poem is alternately disturbing and comical. One thing to be said for this poem is that it definitely upsets the status quo. The title “courtship” gives the reader a heads up as to its subject, but it does not prepare her or him for the unconventional manner in which this subject is to be treated. I surmise that the poem was probably influenced, to some degree, by the writings of Sigmund Freud. Though the lives of Freud and Strand overlap by only a few years, some of the ideas that are expressed in this poem align so well with Freudian concepts that the correlation would be quite uncanny if not intended. The basic idea that humans are struggling to suppress their animalistic natures, and repressing them for the sake of polite society, is very Freudian and seems to be embodied by the male character in this poem. There is also a reference to the idea that man’s deepest woes are caused by the fact that he can’t bear children. Weather these ideas are honored, or parodied is unclear.

The tone of the poem is kind of absurdist in its treatment in the ritual of human courtship (assuming we take the title at face value). At the very beginning, the author introduces a commonplace sort of occurrence: “there is a girl you like.” He addresses it with a statement which seems intended to shock: “so you tell her/ your penis is big.” This statement immediately gets the reader’s attention. One interesting dynamic which creates a rhythmic and logical back and forth in this poem, and therefore serves as a structural element, is the way that the female character in this poem seems to react logically or normally, while the man seems to respond inappropriately (or extremely) in every exchange. The relationship in this poem is treated as an awkward and uncomfortable exchange, in which there is no real communication, which is glossed over by society with the polite term “courtship.”

“Courtship” at the beginning of the poem is balanced by “marry” at the end of the poem, and these two terms encapsulate all of the unpleasantness in-between. Marriage, which is supposed to be the ultimate expression of romantic love, is a term for a relationship which is held in even higher esteem by society than courtship (which sounds very polite and elegant). It is almost sacrilegious to view the underpinnings of such a revered institution in this light. The idea that this messy process of miscommunication and awkward/lewd advances, if born out, would lead to marriage seems ridiculous.

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