Study Guide

One of the Lives Sound Check

By M.S. Merwin

Sound Check

Take a deep breath. Now exhale all 29 lines without taking a break. Can you do it? If so, email us the video. Really. This poem has a ramblin' man kind of sound. We're not seeing the typical sound-works of poetry—rhyme, meter, alliteration, consonance, or assonance. Instead, we get just plain old, stretched out, unpunctuated speech. Have you ever had a friend who's had too much caffeine and is telling a story that you keep thinking is going to end but keeps saying, "and then…"? Well, that's kinda what's going on here. No pauses, no new sentences, just one long cluster of lines held together by "if" and "I would not." Luckily Merwin isn't your caffeinated friend, but a darn good poet with a rant worth listening to.