Friday, November 1, 2013

Review of "Tigers" by Melissa Ginsburg

"Tigers" by Melissa Ginsburg, a teacher of creative writing and literature at the University of Mississippi, was offered by's Poem-A-Day on November 1, 2013.  A link to the poem, including the poet's notes, may be found here:

"Tigers" is an elegy for Erik Lemke (1979 - 2012), a fellow poet and dear friend of Mrs. Ginsburg.  A traditional elegy usually consists of three parts in the following order:  a lament for the departed, a review of the life and accomplishments of the departed, and finally an expression of sentiment that the survivors will cherish the memory of and were fortunate to have known the departed.

Mrs. Ginsburg takes a non-traditional, modernist approach in her tribute to her friend.  Her poem is divided into four numbered parts.  A hummingbird is used as a metaphor for Mr. Lemke.

In part 1, "a hummingbird flies into a window that looks like the sky."  The window may be a metaphor for heaven as, "everything around here looks like the sky."  Striped clouds are mentioned--striped like a tiger.  The tiger may be a metaphor for the fierce spirit of Mr. Lemke, as well as a reference to fellow poet William Blake's famous poem, "The Tyger."

In part 2, the hummingbird, too fragile to survive the impact, dies.  When the speaker's husband (presumably the poet's) picks up the bird, it feels "like nothing."  Yet, it is "not dead," but flies away and disappears.  This may be symbolic of the release of the spirit of the deceased.

In part 3, the speaker tangentially evokes feelings of disbelief that her friend has died, as well as feelings of betrayal ("treachery").  The passing of her friend seems like a sick "joke."

Part 4 opens with additional expressions of disbelief.  Then evidence of a party, perhaps a birthday party, is described.  The reason for this is not exactly clear.  Perhaps the speaker's friend was killed on the way to a party, or perhaps it is simply an observation that life goes on.

The final line is at once full of meaning and enigmatic with its image of the sky as a window, and "it," presumably the spirit of the deceased, flying "right through."

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