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Poetic Tools in Oliver’s “Singapore”, Essay Example

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Essay

In the poem entitled “Singapore,” author Mary Oliver writes about a woman and contrasts the woman and her working environment to that of typical poetic components such as nature with waterfalls and peaceful elements.  It explores the relationship between an actual event in her life and nature through a series of poetic phrases and stanzas that allow the reader to experience the emotional correlation.  The poem narrates the life of a middle-aged woman whose work is cleaning dirty restrooms. Through using narrative language and tools in the poem, Oliver enhances the ability of the audience to gain a deeper appreciation for the wide social significance associated with the events in the poem.

By taking advantage of literary tools, the author uses emotions, visions, and feelings to express the mind of the woman.  The speaker in the poem encounters the woman who is doing her daily cleaning work.  She spends her time cleaning toilets.  The narrator reacts with sheer disgust as seen in stanza 1 line 6, “disgust argued in my stomach,” which quickly followed with a sense of embarrassment at the expression on the janitor’s face.  The speaker tells of how different this poem is, as an ordinary poem usually has rivers, waterfalls, and fountains, as they are pleasant to read.  She intends to show us the face value of this poem that is disgusting as it involves a chore that no one enjoys undertaking.

The poem sways the reader’s emotions by developing and expressing the location and emotional atmosphere of the place.  Emotion is a key element available to a poet to convey a feeling or expression to the audience (Zack 294).  Within the poem the phrase, “Darkness was ripped from my eyes” eludes to the reader that the disgusting site opened up her eyes and startled the speaker.  It also enlightened the speaker’s views and perceptions toward different jobs.  In the fourth stanza, the narrator tells of the woman’s response when she turned and smiled in embarrassment.  They looked at each other and afforded smiles amidst the different thoughts running in their heads.  This simple series of actions described by the narrator immediately convey a feeling to the audience to easily understand how such embarrassment must have felt.

Furthermore, the speaker expresses a series of events and components throughout the poem that allow the audience to correlate the poem to real world experiences and situations.  First of all, the speaker marvels at the “light that shines out of a life” because she sees that we are all humans searching for something better for ourselves.  This line of prose is a simple example of how words can force the audience to apply a broad thought to themselves, outside of just reading the words on a page (Matson 126).  The woman, though embarrassed to be seen working in such an environment, seems to love life and wishes that people would realize that any job must be done. Within stanza 5, line 1 the narrator states “I don’t doubt for a moment that she loves her life.”  This expression by the speaker shows that she has accepted that although disgusting, everyone must take pride in their jobs.  The happiness shared by the two women symbolizes the trees and birds that bring tranquility and harmony in other poems, which further connects the application for the audience between nature and emotional responses.  The janitor smiled for her sake, they smiled together, and this meant that this poem was filled with birds and trees.

The poem “Singapore” has a wide social significance.  Its title is vital in defining place as it accentuates the reader’s visualization of the woman’s job.  It illustrates a situation that is likely in any place in the world while also being significant due to it being the name of a developing nation.  Aside from the environment, the author also uses the blue cloth as a symbol within the poem which is another key tool that many poets use to allow the audience to gain a deeper appreciation for the poem (Zack 294).  The blue cloth used to clean the toilet bowls caught the eye of the narrator.  This could be because it was not the right material to use while cleaning.  In stanza 6, line 4, the narrator expresses shock in the way the woman unfolded and refolded the blue cloth.

In stanza five, the speaker confirms that indeed, “everybody needs a job.”  It is a lesson on humility through the work of other people who may do seemingly disgusting jobs.  It shows how the speaker has come to respect people of all professions and especially the janitor at the airport.  This is contrary to the culture on general treatment of cleaners in by people doing better jobs.  It reminds the reader that a person’s job does not always define personality and the author can take worldwide lessons from the poem to apply to their own life experiences in the “real world.”

Works Cited

Matson, Suzanne. “Disquieting Muses: The Poetics/Politics of Looking.” Harvard Review 7 (1994): 125-28.

Zack, Michael. “On Writing Poetry.” Chest 133.1 (2008): 294-95.

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