Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, WHITE BIBLE, by STANLEY PLUMLY

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

WHITE BIBLE, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"White Bible" is a poem by Stanley Plumly, first published in his poetry collection "Orphan Hours" in 2012.


The poem describes the narrator's experience of coming across a white family bible that has been passed down through generations of his family. The bible contains handwritten notes and inscriptions from his ancestors, including birth and death dates, and the narrator is struck by the sense of continuity and connection to the past that the bible represents. He reflects on the transience of life and the power of memory to preserve the legacy of those who came before us.

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: Free verse
  • Theme: Memory, ancestry, transience, continuity
  • Imagery: The white family bible, handwritten notes and inscriptions, birth and death dates, ancestral connections
  • Tone: Reverential, reflective, contemplative
  • Sound: Internal rhyme, repetition, alliteration, assonance
  • Language: Simple and direct, with occasional use of elevated language
  • Figurative language: Metaphor, symbolism
  • Structure: Divided into stanzas of varying lengths
  • Symbolism: The white family bible symbolizes the continuity and legacy of the narrator's ancestors
  • Emotion: The poem is infused with a sense of reverence for the past and the continuity of family, as well as a melancholic recognition of the transience of life.


"White Bible" is a contemplative and reverential poem that explores the themes of memory, ancestry, and the transience of life. Through the symbol of the white family bible, Plumly conveys the power of memory to preserve the legacy of those who came before us, and the importance of recognizing and valuing our ancestral connections. The poem's language and structure contribute to its elegiac and reflective tone, and the use of sound devices and figurative language adds depth and resonance to its meaning.

Poem Snippet:


"And the dark where the light is. And the hush

of the angels' wings in the lion's roar.

And the dust of the opened book. And the page

that turns back on itself, writing the story anew."

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