Friday, October 28, 2016

My response to Dover Beach

One of my favorite poems is Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold. I hesitate to say this because it's such a downbeat poem. Oh my God, I swear, if Mr. Arnold had a pistol nearby when he completed it, it might have been all over.  In these latter days of an endless and endlessly downbeat election season, I can relate more than ever to the downbeat view of the human condition found in Dover Beach. "Darkling plain" indeed.

The poem is short, less than 40 lines, and very accessible. And yet it has so many layers and echoes for such a short poem. There's a good chance you read it in high school. It's called "the most anthologized poem in the English language." If you're not familiar with it, it's worth reading. Even if you've read it, it's worth re-discovering. Here it is:

I've been carrying this poem around in my head for a while now. The thing is, as beautiful as it is, and as evocative as it is, I couldn't disagree with it more. So in addition to the words of the poem, I carried THAT thought in my head for quite a while. Somehow, Mr. Arnold got it fundamentally - if beautifully - wrong.

Well, as I carried this thought around, something happened, as things do. This mulling turned into a poem - one that actually started out in response to something else - but somehow in the end became a response to Dover Beach. Here it is:

October 2016


  1. Mark, I commend you for sharing your talent.

    All would do well to see a lesson here.

    Community members who discuss issues answer many more questions than those citizens who decide to remain silent.

    Thank you.

  2. Thanks Karen. Hope you're well. Any poems (yours or others) that you'd like to share?

  3. Comment on Facebook by Marilyn Kaatz July 30, 2018
    I enjoyed your shift in perception in response to Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach." You have taken his stance on life, which feels overwhelmingly heavy and from the very start, opened your poetical stance with the title, "Almost Whole." You have given the reader a lot of room to arrive at their own world view, turning the poem into an active moment, one where readers can go into any direction they choose. Matt Arnold left no room for the reader to choose perspectives on the universe except his, as a victim. That's not a bad thing, but just a perspective readers can choose from when indulging in literature. Matthew Arnold has painted the individual as a victim of the universe and you have painted the individual as the hero of his own perspectives on life. Excellent job. Later tonight, I will post one of my poems using the ocean as a metaphor for the life choices people can make, but only if they choose to do so.