poetry explication of skunk hour robert lowell
Skunk Hour by Robert Lowell
The poem skunk Hour by Robert Lowell is an expression of the poet’s life, perception, and fears. The poet frames the piece through the symbolic representation of matriarchal images. The poem kicks off with a reflection on the coastal town. The poet shifts his focus to a rich elderly woman living in isolation. Sporadically, the writer introduces yet another focus on the decadence of the area and the depleted beauty of the place. Later the poem progresses in a rather bleak mood after the poet shifts focus to himself and his depressed feelings over the turnouts of events (Shmoop 1).
The entire poem is figurative in its presentation. Robert Lowell introduces “Nautilus Island’s heiress” as the first matriarchal image. In the first stanza, the poet uses the pronoun “her” to represent the hermit heiress who lives a luxurious life but in isolation. The protagonist is focused on materials and possession other than a meaningful relationship with other people. However, a critical analysis of the character would reflect the poet himself. Robert is scared that he might end up being an isolated character living in his old age with everything but no social life. The poet uses the clause “an island dweller facing an empty shore” (Kennedy & Dana, 860), as a matriarchal image representing a rich but lonely soul.
The poet chooses his words carefully depicting aristocratic status such as the selectman, heiress, and hierarchic. He further refers to phrases that would remind the reader of the old tyranny governments and rulers such as the “Queen Victoria’s Century” and significant eras such as the “Spartan cottage”, which symbolized the presence of a totalitarian form of leadership different from the various liberal societies. The hermit heiress desires to preserve her bubble of privilege as she ventures in real estate.
Robert Lowell metaphorically reveals the conflict going on inside him. The poet is in a dilemma as he fights the wilder impulses with his civilized self. In the third stanza, the poet introduces some red color images to the audience such as the “red fox stain”. The third stanza is very categorical in informing the audience of the losses encountered. This is later followed by a different clause in stanza six of the blood cell (red in color) which houses Lowell’s sobbing spirit. We also find the “red fire” linked to the skunks in the same stanza (6). Another “red” aspect is introduced in stanza seven when the poet refers to “moonstruck eyes,” (Jollimore 1) As seen in the analysis, some of the imageries used are linked to animals as the poet connects them to himself. The analogy and connection of the various “red” imageries depict the kind of conflict the author faces within himself.
The poet introduces the skunks who are presented as rebels and outside figures who have interfered with the activities of the peaceful town of main. They represent the presence of power in the town rather than the kind of privilege the hermit heiress talks of. The poet uses the sharp contrast in colors to distinguish them from the commoners and the Wan. Robert uses the moonstruck color of their eyes and the white stripes to differentiate them from the “chalk-dry” of the “Trinitarian church.” Lowell admires them because the skunks represent a form of freedom that the poet would wish to find.
The poem takes a symmetrical structure in presenting the ideas and plot of the poet. Robert dedicates two of the stanzas to matriarchal figure, other two stanzas to the society or town in a form of crisis due to depletion of its beauty. The poet then uses two stanzas to present the form of crisis he is in as an individual and finally, the poet dedicates two additional stanzas to a figure that comes out as a savior to the existing dilemma. The symmetrical presentation is significant to attend comprehensively to all poetic aspects that the poet would wish to use in assessing the events.
The emotion of the poem is gloomy. The poet feels disillusioned with himself and the environment he represents. The poet is in conflict as he strives to confront the realities with his natural self. He reflects and agonizes over the fact that he will turn out as a lonely person with no social ties to the community. In the third stanza, the poet touches on the losses encountered, “the season’s ill, we have lost our summer millionaire,” (Kennedy & Dana, 860). The entire poem lacks some form of excitement as it touches on pertinent issues affecting an ailing society.
The poem has an irregular sound with no rhythm or rhymes. The words used in the piece are pretty dull with no form of alliteration. However, the poet was keen to use some form of repetition in some of the wordings. The poet uses some very incomprehensible analogies as well as phrases making it difficult to point out the exact message in some of the extracts. Some would argue that the entire piece is symbolic to reflect on the various contemporary issues affecting the society such as corruption, greed and other decadences of America. It makes it difficult to point out the exact interpretation of the poem.
Jollimore, Troy. “Skunk Hour By Robert Lowell : Poem Guide : Learning Lab : The Poetry Foundation”. Poetryfoundation.org. N.p., 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.
Kennedy, X. J, and Dana Gioia. Literature. Boston, Mass.: Pearson, 2012. Print.
Shmoop,. “Skunk Hour Summary”. N.p., 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.