by James Wright
Analysis: Form and Meter
When James Wright first started writing poetry, he often used conventional metrical systems, but in his later work, including "A Blessing," he switched to free verse, which lacks consistent patterns of meter or rhyme. But the rhythm of poetry remained important to him. In fact, he explained that, for him, the process of writing a poem typically began with "a rhythm and not an idea."
In "A Blessing," Wright varies line lengths (ranging from two to eleven words) to achieve a natural, conversational rhythm, using straightforward vocabulary. It's easy to imagine yourself hanging out with the speaker, as he quietly shares this personal story. Some lines are end-stopped and others are enjambed, further supporting the music and meaning of the poem. The use of a single stanza provides unity of thought, reinforcing the speaker's single-minded focus on the ponies.
In several instances, Wright's use of punctuation plays an important role in conveying meaning. In line 8, for example, the word "alone" is isolated at the end of the line, tightly bracketed by a comma and a period. This technique highlights concepts of solitude and loneliness that are thematically relevant to the poem. (For more on this, see "Isolation" in the "Themes" section.)
In line 9, Wright uses a run-on sentence to enhance the impression of anxious anticipation conveyed by the phrases "ripple tensely" and "hardly contain." Hastily linked by a comma splice, the two clauses in line 9 create a run-on sentence that runs right off the end of the enjambed line, landing softly in line 10's comforting clause, "we have come."
Line 11 is a verbal dance, complete with a formal "bow." The two periods produce two full stops, dividing the line, almost symmetrically, into two formal clauses that mirror each other like the mirrored image of two wet swans or the mirrored love of two Indian ponies.
Lines 22 through 24 display a final, brilliant use of poetic form. The lines comprise a single sentence, punctuated only by a final period. The distribution of words across the three lines plays a crucial role in conveying meaning. By limiting line 22 to three words ("Suddenly I realize"), the poet builds drama and suspense. We can't wait to hear what's coming next!
Line 23 doesn't disappoint, as it presents two genuinely startling ideas: the unexpected notion of stepping "out of my body" and the alarming suggestion that "I would break." But the enjambed line doesn't leave us dangling for long, as line 24 trickily reconstitutes "break" into the expression "break into blossom." In this way, the poet handily maneuvers his unsuspecting readers into the great mystery that ends the poem.