A Room, Jane Hirshfield – an Analysis


**formatting fun with this one! Appears as normal text on my tablet but italicised on the web page, no matter what I do. Sigh.**

Possibilities? A room can be cold and stark or cosy and full of life. Or a dentist’s waiting room, obviously. Those are the three room options…there are no more.

Gut Reaction
Um. Um? A room is an inanimate object and only ‘behaves’ accordingly to what we inflict on it?
If I tell my ribs – my body – to behave likewise, surely I have to give it good stuff??

What does it all mean?
The author wants to be at peace with the world and her surroundings, not to react to everything around her.

A room does not turn its back on grief.
Anger does not excite it.
Before desire, it neither responds
nor draws back in fear.

A room is neutral. It doesn’t react to whatever is going on around it. Quite.

Without changing expression,
it takes
and gives back;
not a tuft in the mattress alters.

It doesn’t show emotion and continues to exist. If we’re talking mattress we must be in a bedroom (or not… could be a bedsit, one of those intricate studio apartments with the bed over the kitchen, or a mattress on a living room floor. However.)
If ‘room’ is a metaphor for body, in the first stanza the room is impervious to emotion. In the second, it doesn’t show emotion, it ‘takes’ (we’re heterotrophs, people, we need energy from other sources to exist) and it ‘gives’ (respiration is a giver! And our body kind of holds our innards altogether in a not-so-neat package. So, that’s pretty giving!). And it deals with all these things but never disturbs sleep.
Hmm. Sleep might be an unattainable dream for me but a body without emotion? How does that work?

Windowsills evenly welcome
both heat and cold.
Radiators speak or fall silent as they must.

Um. More about the room being Switzerland.
Windowsills? Our outer body? We’re okay with all behaviour from others, good and bad (‘heat and cold’). Or literally, our bodies cope with all weather extremes? Which would mean our bodies adjust accordingly (‘radiators’ – endothermic regulation?) Or do we just…adapt to whatever type of people we come across?

Doors are not equivocal,
I like this line! Opportunities are not ambiguous? Things are exactly what they say they are and not up for interpretation (unlike poetry…)

floorboards do not hesitate or startle.
Impatience does not stir the curtains,
a bed is neither irritable nor rapacious.

Nothing phases a room (or this perfect image of the body); it doesn’t think before it acts (…it is a room…) or scare, get impatient. Its bed isn’t irritable or greedy (no….it is a bed!)
Okay. Maybe room being a metaphor for body is a bit too rigid, humans are emotional beings; we can’t be completely neutral at all times; why would we exist? How about we upgrade ‘body’ to ‘being’? Or ‘character’? Or essence, soul, spirit?
With this new interpretation, could we replace ‘bed’ with ‘mood’?

Whatever disquiet we sense in a room
we have brought there.

Well that’s true. No matter how much we like to pass the blame for our lives onto others, we bring on our own chaos. If we feel bad, angry, hurt, all that stuff, it’s not necessarily that we’ve brought it all on ourselves but more that we’ve allowed others to make us feel certain ways.
On a more physical level. Think of how we feel on Sunday morning, gripped in a hangover? No one else poured that final palinka or shot of sambuca down your throat, now did they? Entirely your doing, no matter your reason for drinking yourself daft in the first place.

And so I instruct my ribs each morning,
pointing to hinge and plaster and wood –

You are matter, as they are.
See how perfectly it can be done.
Hold, one day more, what is asked.

I think these final two stanzas work just as well as one, but it is deliberately laid out this way. In the morning when we wake, we look to the neutrality of our surroundings and ask that our bodies/spirits/whatever choose them as a model of and non-reaction. Keep going, one more day.

Form – the vaguely technical stuff
Division and order
7 stanzas of varying length, ordered with examples of neutrality to lead up to the instruction to ourselves to remain calm and be unaffected by the world around us.

Um. Didactic? Lightly mocking? Jokey?

Suggested rhyme scheme
There is no rhyme scheme!!!! Free verse! I’m quite excited by that!!! Me and my problem with rules…

Similes and metaphors
Room – body, essence, soul
Bed – mood, temperament.

Author’s relationship with their subject
It feels like the author is her own subject (eventually).

Other points of view (ideas from other sources)
The double-edged sword that is modern poetry is that it hasn’t been analysed to death. Yay! Because I can interpret it however I choose without the niggling fear that I am way off target. (Okay. I don’t actually care too much about that.) And no Yay! Because sometimes it’s nice to have other ideas to refer to.
Ah well.

Signing off
It’s an ideal, isn’t it, to remain serene and untouchable whilst the universe around you attempts to inflict its conflict. Who does that? Who doesn’t fly off the handle or bottle things up to a point where they are Yellowstone about to erupt?
To me it is a wonder that there are people out there all zenlike and okay with life seemingly at all times. I mostly think they are faking it but then I am a cynic about many things. And perma-smiles during calamity is one of them.
I do think it is an unattainable task to ask of anyone to remain silent and undisturbed in the face of all that is around us. To react may not be right, but it is human. If something makes us rage it makes us rage; can’t help that. I guess the answer is to just do your best.
I really like the final line ‘Hold, one day more, what is asked.’ Hold on, one more day, no need to commit to anything longterm, just one day at a time.

Jane Hirshfield

Poetry International

When I read this I think of the song… Best I Can


8 thoughts on “A Room, Jane Hirshfield – an Analysis

  1. Very great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to
    say that I’ve really loved browsing your blog posts.
    In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I am hoping you write once more very soon!


  2. Hey there I am so thrilled I found your web site, I really found
    you by accident, while I was browsing on Bing for something else, Nonetheless
    I am here now and would just like to say thank you
    for a fantastic post and a all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to
    look over it all at the moment but I have
    bookmarked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have
    time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the superb b.


  3. Greetings from California! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break.
    I enjoy the knowledge you present here and can’t wait to take
    a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my phone ..
    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, excellent blog!


  4. After going over a number of the articles on your blog,
    I seriously appreciate your technique of writing a blog.

    I added it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back
    in the near future. Please visit my website too and let me know what you think.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s