Summer Solstice by Sharon Olds – Tech reading

September 15, 2010

This poem takes place in the middle of New York City at the end of a hot day. There is a sense of doom throughout the poem for the plot is centered around the description of a man who is about to jump off a building. With such a grim subject matter, however, the poem lacks a certain sense of emotion and instead reads like a simple narrative of the sights and sounds surrounding this event. With simply descriptions, however, it is possible to feel the overbearing presence of the city and industrial life that probably pushed this man to consider committing suicide. This poem takes a personal act like suicide, which has sadly been occurring since the dawn of man, and inundates it with all the nuances of modern, industrial life. It is almost as if this poem gives suicide the technological upgrade that comes with the modern age.

The descriptive words used in the beginning of the poem revolve around the inorganic and manmade materials that are surrounding the suicidal man. From the “tarry surface” (Olds) on which he is stepping on to the steps made of iron that he had to climb to get to the roof, there is much emphasis placed on the presence of these industrial materials. These descriptions instantly made it more noticeable that this man was indeed about to commit suicide in the midst of all this steel and industry. Even at the end of this poem, when the poet compares the burning end of a cigarette to campfires, there is once again an example of how our past traditions have evolved to fit into our modern world. It is with descriptions like this that gave this man’s attempt at suicide a modern and more contemporary twist.

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