The “new sentence,” as discussed by Perelman in his essay, “is more or less ordinary itself, but gains its effect by being placed next to another sentence to which it has tangential relevance…” I found this idea to be interesting because it makes us look at language and writing differently. When we read a novel or a poem, we take it for granted and assume that each line will connect and form a coherent story. However, after I read these poems, I learned otherwise. In our society, we watch television and movies, receive information, and just absorb. The “new sentence” forces our minds to do the opposite.
At first glance, Bob Perelman’s “Chronic Meanings” structurally looks like any poem we have read in class. As I started reading I noticed that I did not understand what the first stanza was saying. I decided to read it again and yet, I still took no message away. Quickly after I made the connection to his essay and I realized that it wasn’t my lack of understanding poetry that was the problem here- the lines really did not connect to each other to form a coherent message. Or did it? The first line of every stanza ends abruptly as if it should continue but cannot. For example, the speaker says, “On our wedding night I ” (17). Then what? I found this to be frustrating, but thought about it as a way for the reader to fill in the blanks and really engage in the reading. In addition, each line has no connection to the next. Reading it, I almost felt as if a man was literally pulling lines out of a hat to determine what the next line should be.
After reading, I asked myself what the point of the “new sentence” is. I know that it definitely forced me to think a lot more than if I had read a different type of poem. I had to constantly try my best to make connections between lines and tried to make some sense of the random words. In many of the stanzas I was able to find a general theme. For example, I concluded that the ninth stanza as a whole discusses time, and the eleventh stanza talks about nature. However, I was not able to create a theme for every stanza that I had read. While I might be able to make some sense of each stanza, I was not able to make sense of the poem as a whole.
- What do you think is the point of using this writing style? Does it say something about the speaker?
- Do you think it is possible to come away with a message after reading the poem in its entirety, or only through each stanza alone?