Suknaski offers similarly vague commentary on his

This preview shows page 268 - 270 out of 428 pages.

Suknaski offers similarly vague commentary on his fourth photographic image: the picture “tells something of poetry,” contains an “embroidered pillow” that “suggest[s]” the “gentle love” of “some grandmother,” and includes a “haunt[ing]” image of “the patch” on an anonymous and “proud” man’s eye. In fact, the only significant deviation from purely photographic information in “Prairie Photographs” is the persona’s rather flat allusion to Ross’s “The Lamp at Noon” in section iii; the image is more literary than historical. The general sense that Suknaski’s speaker is confined to the image is what creates his uncertain tone and language: “somewhere,” “someone,” “some grandmother,” “something of poetry.” The numerous uncertainties in Suknaski’s “Prairie Photographs” complement the genuine lack of closure in the poem. Even if “Prairie Photographs” obviously lacks the forceful juxtaposition that drives an imagist poem, it retains the resistance to closure and aleatory accumulation vital to imagism. Section iv helps illuminate the disconnection amongst Suknaski’s four sections and creates a feeling of irresolution: one is haunted by the patch on the man’s eye and must praise and love him
259 this proud man turning one good eye to a new life weaving baskets to survive the lonely winters Suknaski’s four images contribute to a structure based on an apparently aleatory modernist accumulation: the image of a figure awaiting the “arriv[al]” of “grasshoppers” (section i), another person pondering “another winter” (section ii), a family lighting a lamp at noon (section iii), and a family facing a “lonely winter” (section iv) only tenuously connect to each other. A potentially useful link might be the photographer with an “eye for remote beauty” in section i who has some possible relation to the anonymous man with “one good eye” in section iv, but Suknaski makes insufficient use of this parallel. Lacking concrete connections to one another, these photos could have been arranged in any order without noticeably affecting the paratactic structure of the poem. The pictures are linked primarily by their era (The Dirty Thirties) and setting (the prairie), which makes their accumulation appear essentially random. None of these observations is meant to devalue Suknaski’s poem: his speaker’s taciturn speculations nicely texture a welter of anonymous geographies and figures that offer glimpses into the past, even if that past is noticeably fragmented. The more important point is that the poem is effectively unstructured and static. If we pause to consider Barbara Hernnstein Smith’s excellent definition of poetic “closure,” the ways in which Suknaski’s poem resembles an aleatory modernist aesthetic more than a unified development of images become obvious: “We tend to speak of conclusions when a sequence of events has a relatively high degree of structure, when, in other words, we can

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture