Explication of a Poem
Jim Simmerman’s Child’s Grave, Hale County, Alabama
The power of an image is immense. A poem can single out an ordinary object of daily life and give it a history, meaning, and emotional worth, all through the use of an image. In Child’s Grave, Hale County, Alabama, Jim Simmerman uses the simple image of a child’s final resting place in rural Alabama to create a history that illustrates the meaning of loss in a way words alone cannot seem to do. In this essay I hope to summarize and explain in some detail Simmerman’s poem, as well as point out some literary techniques used in creating mood and emotion, focusing on the use of image to provoke a deeper significance and understanding in which the basic meanings of words are incapable to capture.
Child’s Grave, Hale County, Alabama is a forty-two line poem written in a single, unrhymed stanza. Because it is written in one stanza, for the sake of clarity, I will discuss one sentence at a time starting with the first sentence and ending with the last. Each sentence is six lines long. Immediately Simmerman uses images to provoke certain emotions. “Someone drove a two-by-four/ through the heart of this hard land…” (p.555). Obviously the land that Simmerman mentions does not have a heart, but the image of a piece of lumber being driven through the metaphorical heart of the land is a powerful image, perhaps something one might experience in some vampire movie. The word heart itself carries with it many meanings: love, emotion, center, life, etc. But by using heart, Simmerman is also personifying the land, giving it a human characteristic, which focuses the reader on the land. In fact the first sentence is only about the land, how hard the red clay of Alabama is, and how difficult it would be to dig into that land, etc.
The second sentence, beginning on line seven, shifts its focus to the lumber used to make the grave. This is where Simmerman begins to give the grave a history....
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