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“Ode to the Midwest” by Kevin Young

Young’s poem is a representation of seemingly light poetry which, at the same time, gives food for thought. He dedicates his ode to the place where he was born and also to the whole country. The poem is very “American,” it employs a lot of words and phrases about our nation. “Christmas sweater” (10), “a teddy bear” (11), “a sweatsuit” (8), “television” (42), “driveway” (15) are the stereotypes connected with the Americans. Also, the author humorously depicts such thing as trying to clean one’s driveway earlier than the neighbors do and mentions “cholesterol” (7) and “supermarket” (6) which are typically associated with the American nation. Another allusion to the Americans as a country of consumers is the constant repetition of the phrase “I want,” which is mentioned fourteen times including one modification of the phrase: “I wanta” (26). This word-combination gives a hint to the people who want a lot of things, even if they are not sure whether they need them and what they will do once they obtain them.

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The poem is not big, but it is filled with elements of poetry. The first thing that catches the eye is its enjambment: most ideas do not end simultaneously with the end of the lines. However, despite this incomplete syntax, the prosodic element of rhythm is presented rather well. Even though rhyme is scarcely noted, the poem is rhythmic and easily read. There are two instances of rhyme: “fried” (3) – “high” (6) – “die” (7) and “go” (21) – “know” (22) – “throw” (22).

The poet generously uses tropes in his poem. There are cases of the following figures of speech:

  • leitmotif: phrase “I want” (1, 3, 7, 9, 12, 14, 19, 21, 23, 28, 29, 31, 34), “I wanta” (26);
  • metaphor: “my heart’s / supermarket” (5-6), “make it [the river] my bed” (33);
  • simile: “stocked high / as cholesterol” (6-7), “changes and shines / like television” (41-42);
  • personification: “what the sun / sees before it tells / the snow to go” (19-21);
  • pun: “I want to be / the only black person I know” (21-22);
  • alliteration: “supermarket stocked” (6);
  • assonance: “go home” (39), “rooms… moon” (40).

Figures of speech and enjambment produce a captivating effect on the audience. The poem is the manifestation of the basic US things, and that is what makes it so likable. The cases of colloquial language employed by the author are “em” (18), “wanta” (26) “n stuff” (28), “make me” (31) make the poem closer to the people and provide a better understanding.

Young’s “Ode to the Midwest” is connected with other odes analyzed previously by a common theme. This poem, as well as Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale,” Coleridge’s “Dejection: An Ode,” Wadsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” and Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,” expresses ardent feelings towards its main subject. In Young’s case, it is the celebration of the native land. Keats glorifies the happiness of a bird; Coleridge dedicates his poetry to pleasant recollections, Wadsworth also reminisces in his poem, but about a concrete life period – his childhood; and Shelly’s ode is the glorification of the wind and its many powers. Another feature in common is that all authors employ a lot of figures of speech.

The striking difference between Young’s “Ode to the Midwest” and other odes is that poems by other authors have regular rhythm patterns. “Ode to a Nightingale” consists of eight ten-line stanzas, and the lines have various meters. All the lines within the stanzas are iambic pentameters except the eighth line which is a trimeter. The rhyme within every stanza is the same. The eight stanzas of “Dejection: An Ode” are written in iambic trimeters and pentameters. The prevalent rhyme types are couplets and bracketed rhymes. “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” consists of eleven stanzas with different rhyme patterns. The lines are iambic, and the number of stressed syllables varies between two and five. The rhyme types are bracketed rhymes, couplets, and rhyming within a line. “Ode to the West Wind” has seven parts each of which consists of five stanzas metered in iambic pentameter. Every stanza has four three-lined stanzas and one two-line couplet. The scheme for every part is ABA BCB CDC DED EE.

Notwithstanding the size of other odes and their rhyme patterns, Young’s ode does not fall behind. On the contrary – the author’s ability to put so much essence within such a short piece makes him an outstanding poet.

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Work Cited

Young, Kevin. “Ode to the Midwest.” Poetry Foundation, Web.

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