Growing up in a small city outside Seattle, I lived a very normal life with parents who loved me and always supported my younger sister, Rebecca, and me in whatever it was we chose to do. This mundane existence in part is what drove me to choose a theme based upon pain and suffering. The poems allow me to recognize the appeal in the tranquility that in my childhood I seemed to float through. The speaker grabs hold of my soul and wrenches it around as I go through the poem, bringing me to a new understanding of human nature. That in their most sorrowful moments, humans have the capability to express a pain more profound than any I have known.
Some poems, such as "Annabel Lee" (Edgar Allan Poe) seem to come as a public speech, as if the man pining for Annabel were standing in a public place and, while he told his story, a crowd of people gathered around him. Others, however, such as "Iím A Fool To Love You" (Cornelius Eady) appear to be a reflection, as if he is simply talking to a friend, or even to himself.
It has always been intriguing to me to read a poem where the speaker is in a lot of pain, whether it be mourning for a loved one or a physical battle wound. There always seems to be an indescribable tremble in their voice that originates deep down in the pit of their stomach, making the tone one of anguish, pleading, or raw misery. These expressions give a new depth to human emotion. Itís as if "an angel, who had a bright key" ("The Chimney-Sweeper," 17) has given us the power to unlock a door in a personís soul that had never been opened before, and all of a sudden this rush of emotion overtakes them, and what results is the tone of the speakers in these poems.
I chose the name The Thorns of a Rose because of its irony. Something that smells so sweet and looks so beautiful is covered in a road of tiny daggers. It reminds me of how life is supposed to be a wonderful gift, but too often we "ĎCurse thee, Life" and swear that we "Ďwill live with thee no more!í" ("The Suicide," 1) Just as life is supposed to be wonderful, a rose is supposed to be wonderful. And just as life can be miserable, a roseís sharp thorns can also inflict pain.
This anthology is organized so that you will find poems with themes not only of suffering, but also of hope. Surrounded by poems with a style that is less than optimistic, William Blakeís "The Chimney-Sweeper" sheds a light on the dark side, using diction such as "angel" (17), "free" (18) and "happy and warm" (27).
Twice I used Emily Dickinsonís poems. My eye was lured not only by the story she tells, but the metaphors, images, rhythm, and line breaks that she uses to enhance her writing.
This excerpt is from "XVI." Dickinson takes physical objects and physical pain and then applies it to human emotions, in this case the broken heart. The "whip so small you could not see it" (3), is referring not to the mark a loved one can leave behind, but rather the person which has committed this attack on their loverís soul. "Yet that whipís name / Too noble then to tell." (7-8) Dickinson is addressing in this particular poem from her book of love the process of getting over a relationship once it has ended. For once the damage has been done one must realize that "shame need not crouch / In such an earth as ours" (13-14) and that after the fall one needs to pick themselves up because "the universe is yours." (16)Not with a club the heart is broken
Nor with a stone
A whip so small you could not see it
There was one particular poem where the style was especially effective. In "Poí Boy Blues," Langston Hughes used echoes to help emphasize certain points that he was trying to make. Each stanza is one sestet, and the first two couplets always repeat themselves, so as to run into your mind what it is heís trying to say.
Some of us live in a world where pain is an everyday occurrence, suffering is the norm, and hope is the only hopeless thing there is. As you embark on a journey of emotional struggle and tears, I invite you to keep in mind those who live their lives with the hope that, one day, their pain may cease.
|"Poí Boy Blues"||Langston Hughes|
|"The Chimney Ė Sweeper"||William Blake|
|"To the Moon" (fragment)||Percy Bysshe Shelley|
|"The Suicide"||Edna St. Vincent Millay|
|"If We Must Die"||Clause McKay|
|"From War Music"||Christopher Logue|
|"Long Distance, II"||Tony Harrison|
|"The Voice"||Thomas Hardy|
|"Iím A Fool To Love You"||Cornelius Eady|
|"Apart (Les Separes)"||Marciline Desbordes-Valmore|
|"Annabel Lee"||Edgar Allan Poe|