The Great Poem Series: Tom Clark’s “Fidelity”

Tom Clark is an American editor, biographer and poet. He was born in Chicago in 1941 and attended the University of Michigan. Clark won the Hopwood Award for Poetry in 1968. His poem Fidelity appears in the 2010 version of the BAP. Fidelity describes the loyalty he has to past friends that he won’t see again and how he mourns their lost friendship. Clark also talks about the DeJaVu he receives before he dies.

The poem is very well constructed and flows easily. To me, this is a big factor in what makes a poem great. Clark doesn’t just come out and say simple sentences such as “I will never remember what my youth was like”, instead he says “But of course one will never fully emerge From this fog”. This way of writing makes the poem easier to read and more exciting. In addition to the creative language that the poem uses, the descriptive words are also very important to the poem for creating an image of what Clark is talking about. Because of phrases and words such as  “time now opens up its eyes, yawns, stretches, struggles in dark to discover where it is among whirling things, places, years,” I can picture someone waking up confused more clearly than if clarke just said, “they awoke dramatically in a whirl”. Tom Clark does a good job at keeping the audience engaged in what he is talking about in the poem. He does not jump around from idea to idea, and his words connect to make a poem that flows smoothly and is not confusing. The poem explores Clark’s ideas of DeJa Vu and his youth. The poem is mainly about how Clark reminisces on his past and how the things in his life remind him of what was once home to him. He starts the poem by saying “The things that have crossed ones path in life, moves one to find “history” in a morning”. This to me sets the scene for the rest of the poem. Clark is talking about the things that remind him of his home. He associates the moonlit patch with his youth and how everything that has happened to him is just simply considered history. As he continues he tells the audience  “Because brief hours before fadeout life becomes a late awakening”. This creative language is telling us that before he dies, he has flashbacks of his youth. Connecting back to the thoughts and things that brought him back to his home, like the moonlit patch and “Turning of the cats sleek head over its shoulder to look back”. The poem talks about his childhood dreams and his “experience of lost generations” which I believe is him talking about the lack of memory and the fog of what his youth was and how he will never emerge, and fully remember his youth. Connecting back to the statement of his generation and how it is now lost, makes me believe that he also feels it is lost because of his age and how everyone from that generation is nearly dead. I believe this because the poem continues to say that “mere excursions don’t suffice on visits to dead cities- excavation too’s required”. I thought the line Dead cities was interesting. Dead cities to me is talking about the people in his generation who once lived in cities and are now almost all dead, therefore making the city to him dead.

“Doctor Johnson defines Fidelity as: Honest, veracity, faithful adherence. This poem would appear to concern itself with Johnson’s third sense. I would describe Fidelity as Realistic, awakening and reminiscent. This poem caught my eye for the phrases used and the way Clark is able to talk about things, making them relatable and keeps you thinking.

I chose an image of the sun setting over New York City because the poem talks about the dead cities and the fade out light just before death. The picture to me really shows what fadeout light and pre darkness look like over a place with so much life.

Video Of me reading Fidelity



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