In response to ‘I Am Where’
‘I Am Where’ is a poem concerned with transition. The poem’s four stanzas, which shift between left and right alignment on the page, are immediately reflective of this. Without knowing the details of the poet’s biography, it’s tempting to assume that when the books described in the poem “move continent”, they are enacting the poet’s own crossings. But there are greater depths here to explore.
The poem revels in the turnaround, in the old switcharoo, that starts to seem normal the older we get
The bridge, which in Hart Crane’s poem of this name
becomes a metaphor for metaphor — one he hopes will “descend, / And of the curveship lend a myth to God”
— is the dominating symbol of the poem. The poet’s use of the trope is itself later bridged by ambiguity: in “switch my gaping eyes between book and bridge / transformed into a valley”
, it is unclear across the line break whether it is the opened book or sinking bridge, or both, to which the valley is being compared. This use of “valley” is important — as Auden writes (in ‘In Memory of W. B. Yeats
’): “poetry makes nothing happen. It survives / In the valley of its making.”
The poem’s transformation of the bridge into the valley gives readers a sense of the importance of these moments of change and later “sinking in”, of these wrinkles in life, to our poetry.
Finally, the line “the progression of my neon skin to even oak” recalls another kind of transition — a metamorphosis akin to that of Ovid’s Myrrha. The poem revels in the turnaround, in the old switcharoo, that starts to seem normal the older we get: the contrast between the mundanity of brands and rote tasks and the hugeness of momentous events. It takes its meaning from the tricky juxtaposition of these in our existence.
~ Camille Ralphs
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