Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape
Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape
by John Ashbery
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Symbol Analysis

The first stanza compares the poem to a coded message or a puzzle, but the puzzles do not figure prominently in the rest of the poem. Still, the dialogue spoken by the characters always sounds vague and cryptic, as if they were really trying to say something else. And what's with all that scratching: are they trying to send each other secret signals or something?

  • Line 1: The first line of the poem is ironic because an undecoded message isn't supposed to mean anything, whereas a poem – at least in theory – is.
  • Line 3: A tangram is a Chinese puzzle with seven pieces that fit together into a larger shape. This light might contain an implicit metaphor to the poem itself, which has – ta da! – seven stanzas.
  • Lines 16-18: Swee'pea's note sounds like another "undecoded message." Who wrote it? Popeye?