Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, INTERMEZZO, by MARILYN NELSON



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

INTERMEZZO, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

 "Intermezzo" is a poem written by Marilyn Nelson, first published in her 1991 collection "The Homeplace." 

Plot Explanation: The poem is a meditation on the fleeting nature of life and the power of love to transcend even death. The speaker reflects on a past love affair and wonders what might have been, while also acknowledging the inevitability of change and loss.

Poetic Elements:

  • Structure: The poem consists of 13 quatrains (four-line stanzas), with a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GHGH IJIJ KLKL.
  • Imagery: The poem makes use of vivid and sensual imagery, such as "her lacy bed" and "a scarf of silk."
  • Metaphor: The poem uses the metaphor of music and an intermezzo, a brief musical interlude, to convey the fleeting nature of life and love.
  • Tone: The tone of the poem is melancholic and reflective, tinged with a sense of regret.
  • Symbolism: The poem uses the image of a scarf as a symbol of the lasting impact of love, even after the beloved is gone.
  • Enjambment: The poem uses enjambment, or the continuation of a sentence or phrase over multiple lines, to create a sense of fluidity and movement.
  • Allusion: The title of the poem, "Intermezzo," alludes to a musical composition that is meant to be played between larger sections of a musical work.

Conclusion: "Intermezzo" is a poignant and reflective poem that meditates on the transience of life and love. Through its use of vivid imagery and powerful metaphor, the poem invites readers to contemplate their own experiences of loss and change.

Poem Snippet:

"We'll never know what might have been 

but when she's gone I feel her yet, 

still wearing my scarf of silk, 

still dreaming of her intermezzo."


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