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October 01, 2007

Linear vs. Non-linear poems

The progression of “The Epic of Gilgamesh” seems to be more linear than non-linear. The roundness of the first line: “He who has seen everything, I will make known (?) to the lands. I will teach (?) about him who experienced all things,” sets the epic up for the possibility that the idea of Gilgamesh and everything he embodies will expand. Only what follows is a pattern of forwardness. The poem takes you in one direction, and in this sense, is quite linear. From the beginning to the end, we read about his heroic deeds. The poem works to define him through one perspective.

On the other hand, “The Red Wheelbarrow” by Williams Carlos Williams, follows a non-linear path. There is a lot of ambiguity when thinking about the significance of the red wheelbarrow. The poem feels like an unfinished thought, and because of that, the reader is left with many questions. There is no defined center, and in the end, we are back at where we started: the red wheelbarrow. In all its roundness, we have come full circle. Therefore, the visual linearity of the poem is not reflective of the arrangement of the idea of the poem. The idea that “so much depends” on the red wheelbarrow gives the poem a very round shape.

Posted by pbali at October 1, 2007 01:34 AM


Indeed; this potential for expansion interests me considerably, especially when also/simultaneously considering the directions of the expansion, rate of expansion, and specific areas expanding at any given/specified moment.

Indeed --a pattern of forwardness emerges (a ragged pattern to be sure, but a pattern).

Such ambiguity is often discouraged in student writing; the goal of many educators is to reduce or even eliminate vagueness and ambiguity yet here, you seem to --please advise me if I misread this -- support the ambiguious "so much depends" --a decidedly open system.

Round but not smooth; raggedness and irregularity is supported by the generalized roundness. Rips, tears, deperessions, rifts, projections, hills, valleys, etc. --all possible within the roundness.

So the circularity is not necessarily a return to the same wheelbarrow; maybe something has occurred, some interaction has shaped it, some splinter (if it is wooden) has been lost, some dent has happened --the wheelbarrow may complete a journey that is generally circular, but the circle may bear evidence of interaction.

Thanks for the post.

Posted by: thyliasm at November 5, 2007 07:35 PM

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