"Epithalamium" by Nick Laird Explication and Analysis Essay

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Epithalamium
Nick Laird
The New Yorker
January 24th, 2011

You're beeswax and I'm bird shit.
I'm mostly harmless. You're irrational.
If I'm iniquity then you're theft.
One of us is supercalifragilistic.

If I'm the most insane disgusting filth
you're hardly curiosa.
You're bubble wrap to my fingertips.
You're winter sleep and I'm the bee dance.

And I am menthol and you are eggshell.
When you're atrocious I am Spellcheck.
You're the yen. I'm the Nepalese pound.
If I'm homesteading you're radical chic.

I'm carpet shock and you're the rail.
I'm Memory Foam Day on Price-Drop TV
and you're the Lord of Misrule who shrieks
when I surface in goggles through duckweed,

and I am Trafalgar, and you're Waterloo,
and frequently it seems to me that I am you,
and you are me. If I'm the rising incantation
you're the charm, or I am, or you are.

Rubber and Glue
In the poem, “Epithalamium,” Nick Laird describes a story of a newlywed couple, and how their love for each other runs off conflict. They both try to thrive off their feelings of superiority, but neither truly knows for sure whether their arguments toward each other are fitting. For over time, they become hesitant of their comebacks validity, and question whether they might fit their own characteristics as well. “Epithalamium” brings a new idea to the reader that conflict in some relationships can increase love for one another, for truths are realized in the process. Each other’s attitudes and emotions become clearer, and soon you understand how you fit together. The poem is composed of five stanzas, all of them containing rebuttal. It isn’t until the end that the speaker suddenly realizes something critical. Laird leaves the reader questioning who is who, and which is what, allowing us to try to make sense of the genius poem. Even the title of the poem is confusing at first, looking to most like a made up word, yet its meaning is the first true hint of what the piece is about. The title literally means “a form of a poem that is written for a bride on the way to her marital chamber” (Wikipedia 1). This gives you the general topic of the piece, the relationship of a newlywed couple. Without the comprehension of this word, one would be lost throughout the poem. Right off the bat, the condescending and derisive tone begins. Comparisons such as “beeswax” to “bird shit” and “harmless” to irrational” are mentioned (1-2). At first glance you ask yourself, how can you compare “beeswax” to “bird shit” (1)? So beeswax is the wax that bees make in their hives, but is that it? Beeswax can also be seen as a person’s concern or business, and bird shit, well there isn’t much to explain there. He makes it clear that her concern or business is shit to him, with no meaning. The next line states that the speaker is “harmless” while the partner is “irrational”. This means that while he does nothing to harm her, she does things to hurt him without reason and that are immoral. This poem of retaliation feels like it has no end for the feeling of superiority is always alive between the couple. The next line states a comparison of “iniquity” and “theft” (3). The comparison of the two means that if he is being accused for wickedness and evil, then she must be a master stealer of this specific trait/characteristic. It is not until the fourth line in the first stanza that the speaker begins to show hesitation and confusion on these accusations. “One of us is supercalifragilistic” (4). By definition, the word means fantastic, but yet the speaker does not state that he himself is fantastic, making it unclear what he is thinking now. Is he confused or just going easy on his wife? This is the first sign of the speaker’s skeptical behavior, and gives a completely new purpose and meaning to the poem itself.

But it quickly changes back to the state of rebuttal and comebacks. The groom is insulted with being “the most insane disgusting filth”, but as always, there is a rebound...
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