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Poetry - Assignment Example

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Summary
The Mutes: A Close Reading Denise Levertov’s poem “The Mutes” is a 41-line haunting piece that explores the hidden emotions and longings of men and women as they wander the streets and subways of an unnamed city. Though the poem seems not to follow a specific pattern in regard to how its stanzas are set up, its disjointedness increases the intense feelings of uncertainty and a lack of fulfillment that are present throughout…
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Poetry

While Levertov explores these two notions separately, when they are combined the poem reveals both a devastating sadness that the female protagonist feels at being unloved by the strangers that take notice of her, and the inability of the men to put their feelings into coherent words. The opening stanza shows a scene that many people are familiar with, whether they have experienced it firsthand or have witnessed it: an attractive woman being passed on the street by men who jeer, whistle, or make vulgar remarks as the woman retreats. Levertov focuses on the possible meanings of the groans of the men in the second, third, and fourth stanzas, deciding if the moans suggest feelings of lust for the passing woman, or are merely the sounds of men desperate to say something but are unable to find the words. For the first scenario, in which the moans “tell her she is a female and their flesh knows it” (lines 4-5), the woman finds the sounds to be unpleasant, “an ugly enough song, sung by a bird with a slit tongue” (lines 7-8). ...
nes 10-12) is a very desperate image, and one can picture men in this situation pounding on walls and doors, silently begging to be freed from their smokey prison. In this context, the groans of the men are out of desperation. They have words that they want to say to this woman - words that may or may not be unpleasant - but they do not have the means to speak them. Just as the deafmutes want to be free from their torment, so do the men who want nothing more than to put words to their groans. The fifth stanza consists of a single line and presents a completely new possibility to the groaning of the men: “Perhaps both” (line 13). Their groans may not, in fact, be unpleasant or intended to be vulgar, but might be their attempts at letting this woman know that they appreciate her beauty. Their desperation might be due to their inability to express how drawn they are by her appearance, that they cannot share with her their feelings. On the other hand, these men could be groaning out of lust, intending very much to be vulgar, and their desperation is due to their inability to not have that woman. She is completely out of their grasp, and their want for her has driven them to animal-like groans. The stanzas that follow focus on the feelings of the woman as she is subjected to the groans of the men, and she attempts to understand the noises for herself. The woman acknowledges that men who groan “look as if groan were all they could do” (line 15), whether they are physically unable to formulate words or simply unwilling. Either way, the woman feels that these type of men can do nothing more than make noises at passing women. Levertov makes it clear that the protagonist of this poem is uncomfortable with the attention of the men, yet the woman, all the same, notes that ... Read More
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