Poetry Review, Tumblr Style

Perhaps you’ve seen this image floating about on the Interwebs:


Of course it’s hilarious if you’ve ever read The Lord of the Rings, but it’s also fairly instructive at reinforcing some simple poetry analysis. Let’s take a look:

STRUCTURE: Divisions within a poem, like stanzas, present ideas in smaller chunks to consider. The clearest division in this poem obviously occurs between the first two lines and the four that follow. The division is signaled not only by the line break, but also by the switch to all caps.

DICTION, IMAGERY, and PERSONIFICATION: Note the difference between the verbs “stop,” “go,” and “wait” in the first two lines and “kneel” and “stares” in the final four, which add to the sense of foreboding. In a like manner, the personification of the normal and friendly red, green, and “twinkling” yellow lights shifts to the “demon light” of the final four lines, its “eye of coal” a dark and unsettling presence in the driver’s world. Not only does it exist, but the “demon light” “knows your license plate,” suggesting that perhaps you might slow down a bit and stop throwing trash out the window when you think no one’s looking.

METER: The repetitive pattern of the first two lines stresses the initial verbs to give them emphasis, followed by an almost sing-song rhythm of explanation ending in the throwaway rhyme and thin “ee” vowel sound of “green” and “between.” After the shift, the metrical pattern changes. Although “kneel” receives the same initial emphasis, the following line contains a different pattern, with stress falling on the “de” in “demon,” “eye,” and “coal.” The lighter rhythm of the first two lines is supplanted by harsher words and harder accents. The new pattern’s stresses lean harder on the words “coal” and “soul,” adding to the negative tone of the second part of the poem.

ALLUSION: Anyone who’s read The Lord of the Rings or seen the films is familiar with Sauron, who forged the One Ring of Power during the Second Age to rule the rings he created for the kings of men, elves, and dwarves. Sauron’s blazing eye is the key disembodied antagonist threatening Frodo and the Fellowship and their mission to destroy the One Ring in Mount Doom and free Middle Earth. Alluding to Sauron reinforces the idea that the “demon light” not only knows your license plate, but ideas about yourself and the secrets you’re hiding.

Quite a lot for such a little poem, but there’s always more to think about in a poem if you’re willing to look closely.

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