Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Prodigy by Charles Simic pg. 437

I grew up bent over
a chessboard.
I loved the word endgame.
All my cousins looked worried.
It was a small house
near a Roman graveyard.
Planes and Tanks
shook its windowpanes.
A retired professor of astronomy
taught me how to play.
That must have been in 1944.
In the set we were using,
the paint had almostchipped off
the back pieces.
The white king was missing
and had to be substituted for.
I'm told but do not believe
that that summer I witnessed
men hung from telephone poles.
I remember my mother
blindfolding me a lot.
She had a way to tucking my head
suddenly under her overcoat.
In chess, too, the professor told me,
the masters play blinfolded,
the great ones on several boards
at the same time.

This poem has a very surprising format. When we start reading the poem we see that the speaker is telling us about how he grew up playing the game of Chess. He describes his house and talks about how a retired professor of astronomy taught him to play. He then goes on and describe the details of the worn out chess set. All of these show us a nice image of a part of his life. Yet, within the poem we get interrupted with some kind of concerning and worrisome lines that lead to the last stanza where he mentions the men hung. All my cousins looked worried, refers to the fact that as he played and forgot about his surroundings, his family remained scared. As the war continued outside this small house the speaker continues to play and for this reason later in life as he grows old he has no memories of the chaos, I’m told but do not believe… Another thing I loved about this poem is the irony between the war that was taking place and the game of Chess which was designed as a game of battle and war. The speaker kept repeating his own little war without letting reality get to him. This is why he only remembers everything that the professor taught him.


Blogger Sarah said...

Great reading! I have used this poem several times to teach the concept of "irony" because it is so central to the way the poem works.

3:12 PM  

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