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Julie Sheehan is a poet born and raised in Iowa. She has won a number of awards including the Whiting Award. A major aspect of her poems is that they have long lines. Her way of writing is traditional including the Ghazal and sonnet. Her tones in the writings are sassy, deeply cutting, tender and quietly observant. Her range of topics includes relationships, marriage and long island. An example of this works is the Hate Poem whose subject is relationship. From a first glance, one can interpret the poem to be about hate. Rather, the poem talks about love. The poem is told from a woman’s perspective. In a great detail, the woman tries to make everyone including herself believe she does not love her boyfriend at all.
Actually, from the way she explains her hatred for this person, it indicates her obsession for him. She uses every line of her poem to show her hatred. “Everything about me hates everything about you… The history of this Keychain hates you… My aorta hates you. Also my ancestors… Layers of hate, a parfait” she states (2, 11, & 15). This comprehensive list of hate indicates how regularly she thinks about her boyfriend, and sees her in every aspect of her life. Her strongest feeling is brought about by the line “My lungs, duplicitous twins expand with the utter validity of my hate, which can never have enough of you” (line 31). This is an indication that she admits each breath she takes is a thought of her boyfriend. In essence, it appears that she is in fear of the power of the said love, and she prefers thinking of it as hatred. According to scholars, love and hate can be explained in similar hyperbolic, outlandish and indistinguishable terms. This is because the two terms necessitate the same amount of passionate strength. The Hate Poem is lyrical. This is because the author expresses herself through writing. Besides, it is a unique poem as the poet combines a straightforward tone with a humorous one.
In her poem, Sheehan explains how every little aspect indicates her hatred for her boyfriend. The line “Layers of hate, a parfait” (line 27) is a metaphor. It is an indication of how there are various layers of hatred. In essence you can go from hating a person slightly to hating the same person passionately. From her expression in the lines of the poem, it is evident that the author is in her ultimate stratum of the parfait. My justification can be justified by the fact that Sheehan explains her hate via actions for instance, “The way I hold my pencil hates you,” (line 4) or “The flick of my wrist hates you” (line 3). Nonetheless, reading through the lines, one cannot help but wonder if the person the author is talking about was truly a lover or an enemy. The lines, “My hesitation when you invite me for a drive: hate,” and “You know how when I’m sleepy I nuzzle my head under your arm? Hate” indicate that the person being discussed by the poet is not an enemy as it is hard to nuzzle one’s head under the arms of a fore. These quotations bring about the tone of amusement and slight anger from the poem.
The poem is a clear indication of a sarcastic kind of hate for her boyfriend. She talks of hating her companion just like the way you can hate mornings. Despite hating the mornings, they will always be there. Sarcasm is also portrayed almost halfway through the poem when the poet talks of lying under the arm of her lover.
This poem is not understated. It is straightforward and to the point. Besides, it is humorous and one can easily relate to it. The author brings out her creativity throughout the poem in her interesting stanzas. For instance “The blue-green jewel of sock lint I’m digging from under my third toenail, left foot, hates you.” (line 9), creatively expresses her hatred. The rhyme and rhythm of the Hate Poem are not pronounced. As such, the reader can easily get confused by its layout. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the poem sends its message across. The reader can easily realize that the author is enveloped by her companion’s love completely. The poem indicates that everything about the author has been altered by this love. From the way she looks and comprehends her body to her interaction with the world and the way she carries out her daily activities. This is eminent in
The flick of my wrist hates you. The way I hold my pencil hates you.
Possibly, she believes she is supposed to spend her life with this person. Her forefathers, the great-grandmother, grandmother, mother wished that she could fall in love with him. The line below explains it.
Also my ancestors.
One would wonder why the poet uses the word ‘hate’ and not ‘love’. The answer could either be that she hates she loves her companion, or she does not like the feeling of being in love, or she is just ironic. This can be explained by the line
A closed window is both a closed window and an obvious symbol of how I hate you.
It is apparent that the poet does not bring out the real meaning of the poem initially. You can hate a person passionately and even believe that your forefathers predicted your destiny with the said person. As the poem continues however, Sheehan exposes details that are hard to ignore. Line (16) indicates that there is more of this kind of hate.
My sigh in the background as you pick out the cashews hates you.
Sheehan uses her words with a kind, gentle and positive connotation. A good example of this is sighing. It is not possible to sigh at your rivals. Additionally, you do not sigh when you are angry or when it is your wish that the cashews give birth to a beast that consumes a person with bites full of hate and bitter swallow. Conclusively you hardly cuddle with a rival for the fact of despising them. From her expressions it is clear she applies to herself a sense of femaleness developed from being with her companion.
Poets usually make use of poetic devices with the intention of building up the mood of their poems (Abrams & Harpham 13-15). This assists the readers understand the meaning and significance of the poem (Rae 33-35). In the Hate Poem, Sheehan has used a number of poetic techniques among them repetition for effect. It seems to be a commonly used technique and it is present at the end of every line in every stanza. Though short, the phrase “hates you” is repeated many times. This is a strong phrase that helps the author communicate how she feels while writing the poem. Sheehan articulates that:
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“The way I hold my pencil hates you” (Line 4).
“The sound made by my tiniest bones was they trapped/in the jaws of a moray eel hates you” (Line 5).
These are some of the repetitions as used by the author and reveals how much hate she feels towards the other person “you”. The repetition explicates the whole implication of the poem, which is ‘hate’. Repeating the phrase numerous times implies that Sheehan is attempting to communicate certain messages of the degree of hate that is buttressing within someone. Repetition is intended to restate and put forth a point (Baldick 193). In poetry, repetition is deemed to be the strongest kind of symbolic language. Through it, the mood of the poem is made clear to the persons reading it as the poet is able to express her feelings continually. In addition, “hate you” is the only kind of rhyme present in the poem and it is apparent that the poem fails to use any kind of rhyming pattern. An instance where repetition is used to restate a point and produce a similitude of rhyme includes:
My hesitation when you invite me for a drive: hate. (Line 19)
My pleasant “good morning”: hate. (Line 20)
These examples attempts to explicate the entire author’s actions have a basis, in addition to driving her point towards the readers. In order to generate an ambiance of bitterness and iciness, the poem employs a range of shorter and longer but sharper sentences.
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The other type of poetic technique that plays a significant role in the poem is a simile. Some of the similes as evident in the poem include “"Breathlessly, like two idealists in a broken submarine" (Sheehan). The meaning of this statement is that other person’s ideas in the times of yore have been completely shattered and put out of mind. Sheehan is trying to put forth that all that she noticed in the other individual is forgotten. Through the use of similes, the author is able to weigh against her desire to that of the other person “you”. Similes are also employed in the poem to demonstrate the degree of hate felt by the author. This is also a great way of ending the poem. Other similes used in the poem encompass:
“The way I hold my pencil hates you.” (Line 4)
"My sigh in the background as you explain relational databases hates you." (Line 12)
The poem is also characterized by alliteration. This is the repetition of consonants to create melody (Myers & Wukasch 10). Mostly, this is evident in the third stanza. For instance, “The goldfish of my genius hates you” and “My aorta hates you also, my ancestors” (Line 14 &15). The tone used by the author of the poem is evident, and they include forthright and choleric tones (Woods 60). Sheehan gives the impression that she is tremendously annoyed by the other person, and this illustrates an enraged mood as well as a choleric tone. She is also straightforward as she does not dither to convey her hatred towards the other person.
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Personification is an efficient poetic technique employed in the poem with an aim of symbolizing that lifeless objects have the capacity of feeling hate towards the person. Personification is described as a method of making use of phrases or words that offer non-living things the qualities and characteristics of a living being, including desires, emotions, physical gestures, sensations and speech. Roughly each line in the poem employs this poetic technique to articulate the speakers hate towards the other person. For instance, Sheehan articulates that “The blue-green jewel of sock lint I’m digging/from under my third toenail, left foot, hates you” (Line 9). This line is expressive and comprehensive and provides an obviously lifeless object the traits of a living being. By letting the lint beneath the toe of the person to have the hate feeling, confirms that even the insignificant objects undergo the callous feelings. Through the poem, the readers are able to recognize that the harsh feelings may be put across via personification as well as repetition as aforementioned.
The poem has also made use of imagery. It is a kind of figurative language that is intended to offer the reader with the knowledge of how something feels, tastes or looks like (Woods 55). All through the whole poem, personification and imagery have been entwined since the author is stressing all the various parts of her which hates the “you”. It is a useful poetic technique in particular to completely explicate the extent to which the speaker hates the other person. She demonstrates that imagery can be employed to confirm the cruel hatred being expressed by the poem. Sheehan employs all probable ways to offer everything the power of hating. Imagery is evident when the speaker says “I dissect you cell by cell, so that I might hate each one individually and at leisure” (line 29). This line is tremendously expressive and offers a good imagery. She links her hate to her body parts as well as her behaviors. The poet associates her acts to the actuality that she feels hatred to the person. This generates imagery and in employing this, Sheehan makes the feeling of hate to appear more human and emits the impacts that every part of her hates “you”. This is evidenced in the phrases such as:
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“The flick of my wrist hates you” (Line 3)
“My breasts relaxing in their holster from morning to night hate you” (Line 25)
A number of hyperboles are also present in the poem. Sometimes, the poet seems to make use of rather hypothetical and possibly crazy or extraneous things that are linked to the individual who she says she hates. This is evidenced in the phrase “the history of these Keychain hates you” (Line 11). This employs personification and it is apparent the author is annoyed and thus does not think straight. This makes her make use of random phrases to declare and represent her rage.
Black humor is evident in the poem together with the use of a tremendously cynical tone. The poem can be said to be humorous since, it is a darker, however fundamental component of individual nature. Almost each line contains the word hate. Humor is evident in the phrase “A closed window is both a closed window and an obvious symbol of how I hate you” (Line 16). In addition to being funny, this line stresses the amount of hatred the speaker feels towards the person. Besides, there is insignificant caesura, and this is confirmed in the initial two verses, which generates spondaic meter with the employment of repetition of the phrase “hates you”. The tone is ironic and sarcastic, although not angry. The poem is more wryly. Nearly everyone at some point of their life may have a similar feeling as the speaker towards someone, and the Hate Poem has captured the real meaning of it. In spite of the fact that it contains numerous poetic devices, the poem is well structured, a factor that makes it to be easily understood and associate with the author.
As portrayed in the poem, happenings that take place in daily life are full of hatred. This is substantiated in the phrases the “flick of my wrist” and the “way I hold my pencil” (Sheehan). Besides, such phrases as “moray eel” and “sock lint” implies that all the nauseating stuff in life hates the person. The reader is provided with a complete general picture of every body part that contains hatred, for instance, “corpuscle”, “aorta”, and “ancestors”. The fact that Sheehan talks about “relational databases” and “the history of this Keychain” makes it appear as if the person she is talking about is extremely boring. Nevertheless, the use of such phrases as “nuzzle my head under your arm” indicates that the “you” is someone close the speaker and mostly her lover and she has to tolerate him.
Sheehan’s poem depicts and exemplifies hate as a desperate emotion. This is because of the technique used by the poet at the end of the poem. She has used irony. This is a technique used to capture the attention of the reader (Woods 58). Besides, it creates deeper layers of meaning. Typically, irony shapes the meaning in a subtle way to create the levels of meaning. She says:
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"Hours after our latest row, brandishing the sharp glee of hate,
I dissect you cell by cell, so that I might hate each one individually
and at leisure.
My lungs, duplicitous twins, expand with the utter validity of my
hate, which can never have enough of you,
Breathlessly, like two idealists in a broken submarine." (26-31)
Eminent from the lines above is that the author has been able to convey the deeper meaning of the poem without stating it bluntly. Additionally, she has been able to create a comical relief while keeping the poem interesting to the readers.
The first stanza of her poem comprises of end-stopped lines apart from the fifth line which is an enjambment. This is the continuation of the sentence from one line to the other. The technique abruptly breaks the sentence. Besides, it creates differing effects in poetry (Komunyakaa 256-258). The rest of the poem comprises of enjambments with a few exemptions of the end-stopped lines. To maintain the flow of the poem, the reader is forced to read the lines hastily not to lose the meaning (Woods 64). The poet has used enjambment to increase the pace and speed of her poem. As such the reader is forced to quickly read the following sentence to get the meaning as intended by the author.
The poet has also used metaphors to convey her message. A metaphor can be described as a figure of speech that illustrates a subject by affirming that to some extent it is of comparison with an unrelated object. It is a type of similarity related to the figurative speech which attains its effects through resemblance, association or comparison including hyperbole, simile and allegory (Woods 56). This is to indicate that the intended meaning is different from the actual meaning (Mikics 106). The line “A closed window is both a closed window and an obvious symbol of how I hate you" is an example of a metaphor. The metaphors in the poem have helped the reader connect with the poem. Evidently, the reader is able to understand how the author feels. Through the use of metaphors, Sheehan is able to create a verbal picture that assists the audience see her notions clearly. This figurative speech affirms that one thing is another. Somewhat, it suggests that one thing acts like another (Kennedy & Gioia 777-780).
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From the poem, it is clear that from deep within, Sheehan has intense feelings for her companion. The poem implies that even with the storms of anger, clouds pass leaving the sun shining on the land intensely. With this kind of ending, it is apparent that the author does not despise her companion. Their relationship could be rocky but the poem expresses her passionate love to her boyfriend. Apparently, through the use of the poetic devices, the author has been able to communicate her message effectively.