The Three That Speak to US: “The Diagnosis”, “Snow Day”, and “Here”

The goal was to choose three poems that speak to both Grace Fay and I. Then, we introduce these three poems to the class, hoping that they will be selected to be in our class anthology as voices of our senior year of 2018. Our poems were chosen from the 2001 edition of The Best American Poetry. Though we were extremely young during that time (around a year old), some events that happened during that year are still remembered today. The most prominent event that comes up when people think of the year 2001 is 9/11, when the planes were hijacked and the hijackers attacked famous U.S. buildings like the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. However, since the book was published in August 21, before 9/11, the content of the poem would not reflect the depression and horror people experienced during that time. That’s probably why the poems in our volume seem relatively more light hearted than the other Best American Poetry volumes, focusing mainly on important messages, love, growing old, and simple moments. Even though these poems may be relatively old, some ideas and moments still remained the the same. “Snow Day” by Billy Collins, “Here” by Grace Paley, and “The Diagnosis” by James Tate are the three poems that we feel are still relevant to us now and will still be in the future.

“The Diagnosis” by James Tate is a poem that is written in prose style. Even though it looks like a paragraph and contains no rhymes or seemingly any poetic devices, the poem read with a certain fluidity and rhythm to it, which is what makes it different from a paragraph written in an article. We feel like if The Diagnosis did contain enjambments or breaks, it would ruin the flow of the poem. The poem also captures a simple dialogue between two people that speaks volumes. Using simple language, the message of The Diagnosis was clear. The poem begins with simple background description of the couple, stating that Lincoln was diagnosed with some type of disease and was going to live at most another 40 years. Not wanting to upset his loving wife Rachel, Lincoln kept the bad news secret. But, because of their closeness, Rachel noticed Lincoln’s odd behavior and quickly caught on that something was not right. In the end, Lincoln ended up telling Rachel that he is dying and the poems ends with Rachel saying “I feel you drifting away from me already” and Lincoln replying “It’s the drifting that kills you”. These last few lines really hit the message home. The poem is implying that even though you may want to protect someone from certain information, it is more hurtful to hide the information from them than just telling to them directly. Even though Lincoln mentioned nothing about his sickness, Rachel felt that Lincoln was already “drifting away” and the suspense of not knowing why was more hurtful. Lincoln realized at the end that it’s the “drifting that kills you”, meaning that its the miscommunication, the lack of trust, and the act of secrecy that will begin to break a relationship, even if it began with good intentions. This message is important because it would always be relevant to society, today or the future. People will always have something to hide, whether its a sickness, financial problem, family problem, or any other problems people experience in their lives that they think will be fine as long no one knows. As high school students, we would always have those test grades or relationship problems that we think we can handle ourselves or that we don’t want to share because we don’t want to disappoint anyone. This poem shows that until a point, it will become obvious to people around you that something is wrong, and that simply talking it out and sharing your burden and troubles may help alleviate more pain than creating hurt.

“Snow Day” by Billy Collins is written in iambic pentameter, meaning each line has a different number of syllables. It is also written in blank verse, meaning there is no rhyming pattern. This poem contains alliteration, dissonance, enjambments/breaks, and end stops. This poem is written very simply and does not contain difficult language. “Snow Day” is about waking up and realizing school is cancelled and looking outside to see the perfect blanket of untouched white snow. We liked this poem because it describes an experience that everyone in our school has had at one point or another. The feeling of waking up and seeing everything buried in snow and knowing that there will be no school was one of the best parts of childhood. This memory draws emotion from the reader because it makes them nostalgic for when they were younger. It is important to appreciate everything when you are younger because everything is so simple, and at the time it is impossible to realize that. This poem is written so simply and we believe that to be because as a child you do not understand complicated things and it fits “Snow Day” because it is about a special time as a child. We believe that the quote “Today we woke up to a revolution of snow, its white flag waving over everything, the landscape vanished” does a perfect job of creating imagery that brings the reader right back to one of those mornings they had as a kid. This is important for high school students to read because as we head into the real world after we graduate, we need to remember to appreciate what we have while it is still here. Everyone is always itching to grow up, but we will never get these years of being kids back and we all need to take advantage of them while we can and stop wishing our lives away.

“Here” by Grace Paley is free verse and contains lots of alliteration, assonance, and dissonance. There are also lots of enjambments and breaks which make it feel less like a poem. The poem was simply written with no difficult language, making it easier to break down as the reader. “Here” sends the message that even if you are not sure what got you to a certain place in your life, you should be grateful for what you have and you should never stop trying to be as happy as you can be. This is an important message because it evokes an emotional response from the reader because it is about family and happiness and being content with where you are in your life. We believe that the title “Here” accentuates the point that the poem is trying to make; live in the moment and do not worry about the past, only worry about where you are now. This is especially important for high school students and seniors in particular because we are headed off to college soon and it is a time to appreciate where we are and how far we have come. We believe that the quote “I am suddenly exhausted by my desire to kiss his sweet explaining lips” is very important to the meaning and message of the poem because the woman is observing her life and it makes her so happy that she wants to kiss her husband that makes her life the way it is. The relatability of this poem is what makes is such a great read for not only high school students but for people of all ages. Reflecting on your life and reminding yourself that you control your own happiness is so important and it is something that should be spread to all readers.

Overall, all three poems are easy to read, relatable, or contain important messages that anyone can relate to. “The Diagnosis” shows the importance of trust and relationships, Snow Day depicts a nostalgic feeling joy when school closes because of snow, which we can all relate to because we all hope for a sudden snow day to be gifted upon us any random day, and Here sends a message that we should be grateful for what we have and live for the good times in the future. These messages and feelings are all important to us, and will be shared with future seniors and children of Darien High School.

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