'The Art of Losing', Poetry Magazine July/August Discussion Guide

August 17, 2013

The Poetry Foundation has published a guide to Poetry (July/August, 2013), featuring a discussion of Seán's poem, 'Ancestry':


'The themes of Seán Hewitt's "Ancestry" are closely related to those of "Lenten Song." Hewitt's poem examines the decay of people and buildings, describing a deteriorating house in human terms: "the room's wet belly had begun to bow," "the crumbling wood / gone to seed, all its muscles wasted." An unidentified "you" degenerates similarly, "eighty years shaking on a plastic tray." The poem concludes with a hauntingly surreal image: the speaker and his companions rip up the floorboards and slip "under the floor. We moved down there like fish / in moonlight, or divers round an old ship." Like "Lenten Song," this poem mixes life and death, though if Levin imagines people rising after death, Hewitt hints at self-burial during life. (He alludes, too, to the expression "sleeping with the fishes," partly through shipwreck imagery.) Hewitt also suggests, as Levin does, that new life follows death: one might turn into something rich and strange, a fish or a diver or another creature entirely.'


For the full guide, click here.

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