Study Guide

Eating Poetry Speaker

By Mark Strand

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Where would we be without our poetry-eating dog-man speaker? Imagine if we heard this poem from the librarian's perspective. It would no doubt sound a whole lot different. But since we get a firsthand account from the guy who's eating the poems and seeing burning dogs, all the weirdness seems oddly familiar to us. It's as if he brings us into his surreal world where things like this actually happen and there's no need for too much explanation.

First-person point of view really matters in "Eating Poetry." And the speaker's matter-of-fact tone makes the poem believable, or at least makes it feel relatively real. His cool, dry sense of humor makes it even quirkier as he satirically confesses, "I have been eating poetry."

But the speaker also accents the poem's themes of personal experience and the absurdity of trying to convey those experiences to others. He's perfectly at home with his sudden transformation that comes after eating poetry, and he doesn't worry too much about snarling and barking at the librarian. And since he "romps with joy in the bookish dark," we also get the sense that he's found a nice balance between his initial joy and the darkness that comes after eating all the poems. He gives way to the transformative experience of the poetry, and seems to embrace a more primal element of his nature. By doing so, he models for us readers just how radical an effect poetry can have on your life. It can totally change the whole way you think and behave. Thanks for the lesson, poetry eating dog-man speaker. You're one wild dude.

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