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Diane Ackerman's poem, The Dark Night of the Hummingbird.

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Introduction

The Dark Night of the Hummingbird: ~Poem Commentary~ The particularity about Diane Ackerman's poem, The Dark Night of the Hummingbird, is that although it seems to be a rather straightforward and anecdotic poem describing the life cycle of a hummingbird, the poet's use of language and the poem's structure conceal a profound and powerful message concerning the fragility and delicateness of life. This poem, written in blank verse, contrasts two different instances, day and night, in the life of a hummingbird, which are literally divided by a blank space that separates the two stanzas. The first section is a glimpse into the energetic life of a hummingbird during the day, while the second section is a description of a hummingbird's fatal collapse during the night, as it realizes "it can't store enough energy to last the night and hoist it from its well of dreams." Life and death, symbolized by the notions of day and night and connoted respectively by the first and the second stanza, are the two underlying and antagonistic themes of this poem. ...read more.

Middle

The second section is characterized by a broken rhythm, which hinders the reader from reading the passage as rapidly and as effortlessly as the first section. The broken rhythm, causing the pace to slow down, in and of itself connotes deterioration, exhaustion and death. The broken rhythm is caused by the use of long, multi-syllabic words intersected by harsh sounding words such as "rests" (line 17) "halved" "rugged" (line 18) and "trembling" (line 26). The long sounds are also created by the use of alliteration, "while lilies lather sweetly" (line 16) "words like wistful and wan" (line 20). The words chosen by the poet in this second section contribute to the overall them of disintegration followed by death that seem to exude from this second section ("rests near collapse" line 17, "pulse halved, rugged breath shallow" line 18, "wistful and wan" - melancholy and paleness- "pales into a senseless twilight" line 23, "trembling" line 26). There are also many aberrations used in this second section, which break the flow of the poem by deflecting the poem's main thrust thus creating a rupture. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although it may seem like a far fetched idea, upon analysis of the vocabulary used in this poem, ("nectar-sweet" "succulent" "sunset" "hearts beating" "iridiscence" "refuel" "pulse halved" "rugged breath shallow" "drug" "anthem" "bright lagoon" "rapture" "pales" "senseless twilight" well of dreams" wet fuschia" "die" "sleep") the reader can only conclude that too many of these words suggest or connote a state of euphoria or ecstasy and the description of a paradisiacal place, followed by a collapse or disintegration, both being the consequences of alcohol abuse or drug addiction. These words can therefore not go unnoticed. The poem does have a sort of trancelike or illusory tone to it, thus creating an oneiric atmosphere, which is very much how an alcoholic or drug addict feels upon abuse of the substance. The word drug is implicitly used on line 21, thus explicitly making a parallel between this poem and the theme of poisonous or toxic substances. The verses "But to refuel they must eat, and to eat they must hover, burning more air..." (lines 13 and 14) connote the vicious, inescapable cycle into which an alcoholic or drug addict is trapped. Nadia El Tayar English A1 Higher February 18, 2003 Mr. Heery ...read more.

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