Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yanneka King: "An Argument: On 1942"

On its face, this poem seems to provide the reader with a very nonchalant perspective of Japanese internment camps during the second World War. However, when one looks into it deeply, it seems that this poem covers up a sense of loss or anger about the situation. It is an even that the author will never be able to forget, no matter how hard he attempts to trivialize it and the structure and rhyme scheme of the poem seem to suggest just this.
The author begins the poem with an introduction much like that of a Shakespearean play. He instills upon the reader a scene, a time, and a place, all in rhythm and rhyme. He urges readers to place themselves in, what one may assume to be, his youth. With this entrance, the author immediately sets forth the tone of the entire poem. By choosing a Shakespearean play-like entrance, he almost trivializes the poem (just as his mother will try to trivialize the events later), but the content of his entrance makes it memorable and utterly unforgettable, perfectly placing the reader into the exact scene he is describing. The rhyme-scheme of the entrance seems very whimsical and much like a nursery rhyme, further presenting a trivial face. However, when one takes a deeper look into the introduction, at the imagery presented by the author, the beginning of the poem is almost made unforgettable, just like the events described by the poem.
Another significant way that the author tries to present a trivial face is by presenting the reader with a set of very trivial images along with very subtle and more unforgettable images. The author tells us of "women cooking and sewing" and "children hunting stones, birds, wild flowers," but also presents us with images of "barbed wire" and "guards in the towers." The contrast shows us that although the mother is attempting to forget all that she had seen during that period, she has still seen it and recalls the vivid imagery of it. Although the mother can trivialize it with the gentle images of her childhood, she still cannot forget the unpleasant images of her youth. Lastly, by ending the poem with the phrase "David, it was so long ago - how useless it seems..." the author again presents us with this contrast of the trivial versus something unforgettable. Although the mother tells David it was so long ago that it was useless, the ellipses suggest that it is something that she continues to think about. It is something that she can't really let go of. The content of this poem is laden with the contrasts of trivial versus memorable.
The complicated rhyme scheme of the body of the poem also seems to suggest this theme. Although it is very difficult to decipher, the poem begins with a very simple and non-complicated aabb. The author then changes the scheme to aabc and aaba, until finally ending with one simple line. The beginning of the rhyme scheme suggests that the poem should be simple and easy to read through (and poems with simple rhyme schemes are often very hard to remember), however the author really switches it up by the end of the poem. This gives the reader a sort of jolt and at least left an imprint upon my memory.
An Argument: On 1942 is a very complicated, but enjoyable poem with many different possible interpretations and ways of thinking. Although, the author may definitely be suggesting that the reader simply leave the past as it is, it is also interesting to consider that the author is demonstrating how hard it is to forget some parts of the past. Even by simply recalling different parts of her stay in the camps, the mother shows the reader that no matter how hard she tries to make it seem as if it were a simple part of life, the camps have impressed upon her more than that.

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