A Work of Artifice by Marge Piercy | Poetry Analysis

a work of artifice

The meaning of Piercy’s poem is simple. It uses metaphor to show how the female gender role can confine women and stop them from reaching their full potential.

“The bonsai tree / in the attractive pot / could have grown eighty feet tall” A bonsai tree can grow to be quite large. But when it’s in the pot it can only grow so big, especially when it’s branches and leaves are being trimmed away at.

This is also true for many women throughout history who were regulated to domestic life. They were kept in a nice, pretty house but it kept them from growing. “Growing” mainly means it kept them from expanding their knowledge and succeeding in the outside world.

The women may have been well-taken care of, but much like the bonsai tree, they couldn’t grow beyond what the “Gardener” allowed.

Again, the bonsai tree gets to live in a pretty pot and the woman gets a pretty house. Because of this many would tell them they are lucky as seen with this line: “how lucky, little tree, / to have a pot to grow in.” But this isn’t true because they aren’t able to choose their own path.

I think the poem is saying that there should be a matter of choice. But instead, women were trained from the very beginning to be confined the home.  In order for them to expand their minds and intellect they need the opportunity to succeed outside of that.

This is why there is a mention of the “Crippled brain,” by limiting the options the brain can only know domestic skills. The poem is showing that women have the potential to go beyond that, and they should have the right to do so.



A Decade by Amy Lowell | Poetry Analysis

A Decade by Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell’s poem accomplishes so much with so few words. “A Decade” conveys so much passion and captures the feeling and process of love.

“When you came, you were like red wine and honey, / and the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness” — when someone first falls in love it brings an intense feeling. A lot of times you feel like you don’t want to be away from that person. “burnt my mouth with its sweetness” describes this. During the first stages of romance the butterflies are there and such and the passion is at its peak.

However, as time goes by the romance begins to calm down. This is shown in the poem with the line: “Now you are like morning bread, smooth and pleasant. / I hardly taste you at all for I know your savour, / But I am completely nourished.” Between the two people in love things have become familiar and less intense.

But this doesn’t mean the relationship is any less pleasant. “Morning bread” is a positive image and alludes to simple, domestic life that may be less intense but it still remains something beautiful.

The romance goes from some wildly passionate to something calm, familiar and comfortable.

A Married State by Katherine Philips (Poetry Analysis)


Since Katherine Philips was married it seems she’s qualified to warn people that it might not be all it’s cracked up to be. But the right message to take away from the poem is that a person should only get married if they actually want to. Not because of outside pressure (a big reason, why many feel they have to get married).

The poem gives a nice, short list of positive things that come with being unmarried: “No blustering husbands to create your fears / No pangs of childbirth to extort your tears / No children’s cries for to offend your ears.” Yes, there are plenty of positives and they are mainly freedom and having no obligation to others.

This poem shouldn’t be seen as completely anti-marriage. Instead, it’s more about exploring the other option which comes with some benefits. It’s up to the reader to decide which option is better for them.

What’s in the way of exploring the other option is mainly social shaming. Philips addresses this with the ending line, “There’s no such thing as leading apes in hell.”

And ‘leading apes in hell’ comes from Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shrew. It was often used to describe the fate of unmarried women. Well, Philips addresses that this is nonsense. So with the final line she effectively and carelessly writes off the social shame put on unmarried individuals.

This poem could be encouraging rebellion, but only for those who have what it takes.

Teleology by May Swenson (Poetry Analysis)


                                          “The eyes look front in humans
Horse of dog could not shoot

seeing two sides to everything.
Fish, who never shut their eyes

can swim on their sides, and see
two worlds; blunt darkness below;

Above, the daggering light
Round as a burr, the eye.

Its whole head, the housefly
sees in a whizzing circle

Human double-barreled eyes,
in their narrow blind trained

forward, hope to shoot and hit
–if they can find it–

the backward-speeding hole
in the Cyclops face of the future.”

-May Swenson

The meaning behind Swenson’s poem isn’t all that clear. However, I believe it deals with evolutionary progression among different species. “The eyes look front in humans / Horse or Dog could not shoot” This is possibly suggesting that humans tend to progress and rise above other species on earth. Animals, like the horse and dog, on the other hand “could not shoot”. Meaning, they do not progress as much as humans in terms of evolution. The use of the word “shoot” hints at the speaker referring to guns.

This would be an example of human advantage over other animals.

Then there’s the mention of the fish and fly. The poem references how they see, indicating the fact they can’t have the same focus on progression as humans do. Unlike the other creatures, humans have “narrow blind trained” eyes, that allow them to focus on long-term goals.

And, therefore, they will rise above the others until they reach “the cyclops face of the future”

Swenson’s poem is memorable and wonderfully crafted. It leaves the reader wondering since there’s something very enigmatic about the poem. The final line is very powerful and, for some reason, I pictured Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey.