Will assemble where peonies gave their colour to the air

(Weissbort, 1986:98)

For a moment, as we read, the world becomes centred on these flowers growing in what sounds like a rubbish dump: 'In a wasteland' in the first part of the poem, 'among great clods, cans, boxes' in the second. This is an urban poem set in the northern United States where the poet now lives. Far from being portrayed in a static position, as in some vase or still life painting—every petal given in beautiful detail—these flowers are not being admired for any decorative qualities they may have, but for something we don't usually associate with plants—their organising power, their promise of plans, of order, almost like a military campaign. But then the dramatic change occurs. This year, order is supplied by other means. If you have been reading the first part as a kind of celebration of action and energy, the second part shocks you out of that. Nevertheless the peonies persist. 'We'll soon get things straightened out here!' We hear this line with a sense of dramatic irony—or, worse, pity, or fearfulness. The plot has changed. Notice how the poet introduces voices, makes a line stand out by using a capital letter: 'Like a great sigh' splits the poem into two stanzas; 'Not this year.' creates metaphors for cars which make us see them as brainless destroyers. All these are forms of dramatic effects in poetry, generating surprise, impact, and, ultimately, emotion. We can say this poem has point of view, action, consequences, crisis, a type of story—the features we recognise more easily in other genres, simply because we expect them to be there. But they exist in poems as well.

Seeing certain objects as transmitters causes us to view the world in unfamiliar terms, so that as we read, as we write about them, sets of rearrangements start to occur, new force-fields; old polarities subside. You can try this by looking around at your present surroundings, seeing what might be a transmitter. What is it about that object, that place, which attracts your attention? Almost every word in Daniel Weissbort's poem— adjective, noun, verb, participle —serves a forward movement. By contrast, the transmitter in the following poem by Sharon Olds develops enfolding qualities. It might seem from our story-directed position that dramatisation must be forward-oriented, involving words such as 'upthrust...promise of future...sap busy', but that isn't so here:

'The Hand'

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