Study Guide

Eating Poetry Stanza 3

By Mark Strand

Stanza 3

Lines 7-8

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.

  • So the speaker's gone and eaten all the poems. There's nothing left for the librarian now.
  • But why are the lights dim? Did eating all the poems suddenly turn the lights off? 
  • In this case we might have some more symbolism. The "light" in line 8 might literally refer to the lights in the library, sure. But symbolically they might refer to inspiration and that joyous moment the speaker just had while eating poetry.
  • After all, as much as we'd like to we can't make those joyous moments last forever and, once they're over, the lights go "dim" again.
  • And just like we saw in the first stanza, each line here is separated by a period that makes us stop and think. But it may also at this point function in a way that maintains Strand's very succinct and precise use of language. He's not the type to needlessly elaborate on things that don't need it.
  • Also, notice the familiar-looking syntax of these lines. Each line begins with the word "the" and has a simple subject and predicate organization. Recurring syntactical structures, by the way, create what's called parallelism because they kind of look like parallel lines.
  • As far as what this does to the poem's sound and meaning, we get the sense that the speaker is feeling a bit disappointed at this moment after eating all the poems. So the lines purposely sound a bit deflated and boring with those repetitive clauses in order to reflect how he's feeling. (Check out "Sound Check" for more on the sounds in this poem.)

Line 9

The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

  • Okay, here we're getting to the surreal stuff that can be read in lots of different ways. But always bear in mind the stuff that came before, since there's always some sort of connection there.
  • So what are these dogs, why are they in a library, and why are they "coming up"?
  • If we think about what the speaker was just doing and how he felt, we can assume that these dogs are symbolic of what happens after all the joyous inspiration is gone. 
  • And since they're in the "basement" we have even more reason to suspect that this line is getting at some of the speaker's darker thoughts and feelings.
  • Also, we get the sense that these aren't your typical fluffy best friends, since they're in the basement. Dogs trapped in basements aren't all that happy, as a general rule. 
  • So again there's something ominous about the mood in this line, as if those dogs are about to bring some bad mojo up with them.
  • Strand likes to write a lot about individuals struggling in this metaphorical "darkness," in their attempt to understand themselves. So we may have a similar sort of thing happening here too with the dogs in the basement. 
  • And since this line is pretty different from its preceding lines in terms of its subject, we can also assume that we have a shift in the speaker's thought process happening here. We're not in that joyous moment anymore. But that's not to say we won't be there again. Let's read on…

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