Sunday, March 9, 2014

Maggie's Explication of Carolyn Kizer's "Bitch"

Now, when he and I meet, after all these years,
Carolyn Kizer
Now, when he and I meet, after all these years,
I say to the bitch inside me, don’t start growling.
He isn’t a trespasser anymore.
Just an old acquaintance tipping his hat.
My voice says, “Nice to see you,”
As the bitch starts to bark hysterically.
He isn’t an enemy now,
Where are your manners, I say, as I say,
“How are the children? They must be growing up.”
At a kind word from him, a look like the old days,
The bitch changes her tone; she begins to whimper.
She wants to snuggle up to him, to cringe.
Down, girl! Keep your distance
Or I’ll give you a taste of the choke-chain.
“Fine. I’m just fine,” I tell him.
She slobbers and grovels.
After all, I am her mistress. She is basically loyal.
It’s just that she remembers how she came running
Each evening, when she heard his step;
How she lay at his feet and looked up adoringly
Though he was absorbed in his paper;
Or, bored with her devotion, ordered her to the kitchen
Until he was ready to play.
But the small careless kindness
When he’d had a good day, or a couple of drinks,
Come back to her now, seem more important
Than the casual cruelties, the ultimate dismissal.
“It’s nice to know you are doing so well,” I say.
He couldn’t have taken you with him;
You were too demonstrative, too clumsy,
Not like the well-groomed pets of his new friends.
“Give my regards to your wife,” I say. You gag
As I drag you off by the scruff,
Saying, “Goodbye! Goodbye! Nice to have seen you again.”
The poem “Bitch” is describing one of those moments that we are all far too familiar with – when you run into that ex whom with which not everything is completely finalized with closure and your feelings tucked away contently. “Bitch” is the speaker of poem, quite clearly a metaphor for the female dog as well as the slang word used to describe a mean woman.
This metaphor of “Bitch” plays a huge role in the meaning of this poem. Carolyn Kizer is a feminist poet. She uses the metaphor of a bitch to signify the impact that destructive male-roles have on females. The “bitch” represents the wounded characteristics of females who “bark hysterically” but also “whimper” and “cringe” at “careless kindness”. It also takes the feminist approach by saying that she was too “demonstrative” and “clumsy” compared to his friends’ “well-groomed pets” women are trained to be. The women are expected to “lay at his feet…adoringly” though he was “absorbed” in something else ignoring her until her was “ready to play”.
“Bitch” is 34 lines with only one stanza and no obvious rhyme scheme. The point of view from this piece is very interesting. In the first 28 lines the piece is in first person talking about the “Bitch” in third. However, in the last six lines it changes to second person referring the “Bitch” as “you”. Throughout the piece there are multiple different examples of assonance for example the words “slobber” and “grovel”. There are also examples of alliteration as seen in “careless kindness” or “casual cruelties”. I also like the use of dialogue in the poem. I think it helps to make the poem more interested and realistic. I think it helps the reader to understand the speaker’s true feelings. She may be asking how the children are but in all honesty, that seems to be the last thing on her mind.
The tone of this poem seems to be rather angry and sad with a sense of desperation. Throughout this conversation it seems to reflect on conflicted nostalgia – wishing she could go back but convincing herself she does not want to. I also think that the speaker used great imagery and word choice that helped allow the reader to understand what exactly had happened. Some of my favorite words throughout the poem were; “grovels”, “choke-chain”, and “gags”. I think these words also happen to represent the poem very well. Repetition is also used saying “Goodbye! Goodbye!” or “I say, as I say.”
Overall I absolutely loved this poem. I really appreciated how the speaker kept referring back to the “Bitch” and relating her life to it.

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