Literary criticism is a form of literary analysis that has dominated the literary world in the recent times. Since time immemorial, several readers have been criticizing various literary texts in various ways depending on their perspectives. Many early writings were developed in poetic formats rendering them the most critiqued of all literary forms around the world. Some critics have looked at stories, poems and plays from perspectives such as the moral stance, depending on the manner in which values are represented in a text. Besides, another reader can come in and critic the same poem based on its form. Recent literary critics have gone deeper into the art of literary criticism to focus on more additional factors other than the form and stance that dominated the former criticisms. For instance, the present critics have analyzed literary texts by looking at what the author tries to address in the text. Such include the authors’ views about the society, political spheres, and relations.
Besides, other critics have looked at matters relating to sex and sexuality, how the society perceives matters relating to gender and sexuality over time and in various societies. Two forms of literary criticisms strongly emerged during the 20th and 21st century. These include reader-response criticism and the new criticism approaches. These two forms of criticism have dominated criticism aspects across the world. According to Leitch, et al., reader-response criticism looks at what the writer addresses within the text at face value as well as trying to read the mind of the writer. In essence, reader-response critics try to relate the text to what goes on in the minds of the reader. New criticism, besides, is a formalist form of criticism mainly common among American critics. The approach looks mainly at the how a literary text functions in isolation from the writer. In other words, the new criticism looks at what the text says without going into the psychological happenings on the writer’s mind as in the case with readers-response approach. This paper uses the new criticism approach to analyzing the poem Poussin by Tom Mandel.
The poem Poussin by Tom Mandel was graded a very powerful poem owing to the ideas addressed it. The poem is pregnant with many points addressing pertinent issues common in the 21st century. The poem beginning with the powerful words, ‘One must wake to make oneself understood.’ The words give a powerful opening to the poem by providing suitable opening remarks to the poem. Poetry has a system of addressing issues using a closed language that is hard to understand unless the reader understands the underlying matters that prompted the writer to develop the piece. The poem Poussin has deviated from this norm by using a rather open way in addressing its issues. The language used by the poet, as opposed to the other poems uses a direct form of language throughout the poem.
However, unlike other poems, Mandel presents his issues using a hidden language that is devoid of many poetic styles such as rhymes, rhythm, similes. In fact, the format adopted by the poet is rather prosy especially when read and rewritten afresh. Throughout the poem, every stanza presents a complete thought just like a sentence in a prose format. Most poetic writings address issues that are common in the society and how the society perceives certain issues. Literature, as Leitch, et al., is the mirror of the society as it addresses issues that happen in the society. Mandel has used his poem to point out various issues that are commonly experienced in the current society, among which, oppression and corruption that are common phenomena in the current society.
Considering the flow of words and the opinions used in the poem, Mandel skillfully connects his words to provide a smooth flow of the issues addressed. As has been mentioned earlier in this text, each stanza completely organized to present a clear and complete thought about the issues addressed. For instance, he opens by asserting that for one to be able to express him or herself in a clear manner, they have to speak out their minds to the public. Here, Mandel uses the most obvious statement just as a reminder of the first steps to expression. In normal sense, one has to open his mouth essentially in order to produce words. This expression, though looks normal and somehow rhetorical, it bears many symbolic meanings to the reader and the entire poem. The vigor and manner in which the opening statement has been asserted acts as a command to the reader prompting them to gather courage and speak out their minds a strong emotional assertion.
Each stanza, in the poem, is artistically connected to the other in terms of thought and sentence structure. Each stanza acts as an opening statement in the following stanza. The thoughts and ideas expressed in a stanza are further elaborated in the one that follows giving the poem smooth flow from the beginning to the end. The connection between the words and lines as well portray a strong connectivity giving the poem a pretty form and organization. This impression captures the interest of the reader by making the entire poem more interesting and appealing to the reader.
Unlike the other poets, Mandel avoids the use of stylistic devices such as rhymes, rhythms, onomatopoeia, similes, as well as other open devices. Poets to provide poems with musical characteristics and make them easy to read by the intended consumers always use these devices. By omitting these styles in his work, Mandel still manages to compensate for this miss out by organizing the poem into a smooth flowing piece that is easy to read as well as understand. It is easy for the readers to develop their rhythmic patterns by varying their intonations between words, phrases, and stanzas. Owing to the fact that the poem is written using open words that are easy to read and understand, it is as well easy for the readers to device a rhythmic, rhyme patterns, and compensate adequately for the purported loss.
In the third stanza, Mandel has utilized the sense of repetition to drive his point home in a very powerful way. Several poets use repetition as a means to emphasize certain points and show how important they are to the poem, poet and to add weight to the ideas being passed on to the reader. Mandel as well has artistically used repetition to pass his point accurately in this stanza. The words ‘nothing’ and ‘visible’ have been intentionally and purposefully repeated in the poem in order to send a powerful message to the readers. A formal interpretation and understanding of nothing as used in the poem is to refer to ‘complete’ or ‘absolute absence of’. That not even the smallest thing can be seen by anyone in the absence of light is the reference made to the aspect of invisibility that is referred to in the poem. Mandel’s main concern in this stanza is to emphasize the fact that in the absence of expertise, there is no transparency and people cannot see the truth even in clear statements. Mandel uses these words, light and visibility to express the importance of transparency in revealing the truth.
Mandel uses a lot of symbolism in his poem. Most poems utilize the aspect of symbolism and imagery in order to say true things in an indirect way. Truth hurts, and many people hate the hard-told truth about the ills they have committed in the society. Most literary writers, for this reason, chose to use symbolism and words full of imagery in order to drive their points home without necessarily directly offending the people whose mistakes the seek to address. Using such languages is a true sense of literary maturity and which presents a writer’s power to mold every aspect of the society in the shape they desire.
Mandel has portrayed this sense of maturity and ability to utilize language as a literary tool, a medium of expression for the most pertinent thought about the society. Literary writers use language as the tool to correct and to rebuke the evils being committed in the society. For instance, Mandel says the following;
You opened eyes that saw along with others’ false opinions common to all that unconscious observe life unfold a surface of lines and colors imitating everything under the sun to the end of someone’s delectation (stanza 2).
The use of symbolism and imagery in the poem allows Mandel to pass his points with great ease in a rather flowery language and without using any directly offensive language to his targets. In this way, the message carried by the poem is expressed in a complete manner allowing the readers to interpret and fill in the gaps presented through imagery. Besides the use of artistic language gives the poem a form of originality, even though, the meanings may be common. Mandel promotes aesthesis in his work while at the same time maintaining originality.
To conclude, several literary writers adopt different ways of writing depending on their level of understanding as well as the message they seek to drive home. Most poetic writings purposively use imagery and symbolism as a means of conveying their message. Several critics around the world to appraise various texts have used the new criticism approach. The formalist approach mainly common with the Americans has formed the core of criticism for literary texts in the 21st century. Using this approach, we can conclude that Mandel’s poem Poussin has met a completely relevant poetic structure for the current society. Taking into account every aspect of the literary world, Poussin uses the sense of imagery and symbolism to convey pertinent information to the society without offending anyone.
Leitch, Vincent, B. , et al.,. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001.