Sunday, September 26, 2021

Landscape II by Carlos A. Angeles (Poem) - Literary Analysis

I have to admit, this poem is rather difficult to understand. After going through it a good number of times, I still can't come up with a coherent interpretation - one that would satisfy me. I seem to develop a different view of the poem with every reading. Maybe, that's the point of the poem. Maybe, that's what the poet intended.

I sent the poem to several of my literature-inclined friends, politely asking them what they think of it. The responses I received were varied, not-surprisingly. "Hindi ko type," says Melissa who is the most avid poem-lover of the bunch. "It's a poem with beautiful words but for the life of me, I don't know what the poet is talking about," says Rico, a political science professor. The poem had everyone confused and scratching their heads.

Googling the poem and reading what strangers thought about it didn't help either. Everyone has his/her own interpretation. But they all agree on one thing: Landscape II is a hard poem.

But allow me to offer my interpretation of the poem. This is the best one that I can come up with. I just want to throw it out there. I'm sure that if I read the poem again, this interpretation will need another review. I'm not going to do that.

Anyway, here's what I think of the poem:

I picture the speaker sitting on the beach watching the sun set in the horizon. The sky looks "knifed" and bleeding. We all know sunsets can be fiery and very red. He's alone and lonely so he has a heightened perception of what's going on around him. In the very first stanza, the speaker speaks of the "absence" of another person. His hands are "sad" which means he is mourning the "absence" of that person.

The second stanza contains further pronouncement of sadness, loneliness, and mourning. The speaker is looking at the clouds and the sky and having a feeling that they are mourning with him. That they are feeling his sadness. That they are one with his loneliness.

In the third stanza, the speaker reaches some sort of a breaking point. He was so engrossed with the heaviness in his heart that he felt ambushed when crickets started chirping near him. But he took this "sudden" intrusion as a sign that the crickets are mourning with him. They are there to "cry" with him. The sounds that the crickets are making remind him of the rustling sounds that the "absent" person's hair makes.

I was also curious as to why Angeles titled the poem Landscape II. My theory is that the title differentiates the kind of landscape described in the poem (Landscape II) from the kind of landscape that came before it (Landscape I). Landscape I is one where the speaker is looking at the horizon in the company of the person who is absent on Landscape II. In short, the landscape is naturally the same. But it takes another form when the speaker is looking at it without the company of the someone.

Another common source of debate about the poem is the type of loss or kind of mourning that the speaker is going through. Is he mourning the death of a loved one? Or is he mourning the loss of a loved one who didn't die but simply left? A former lover for example. Unfortunately, the poem is not very clear. So the type of loss referenced in it is very open to interpretation.

I have one last theory about the poem. The speaker is going through what I call mourning with anger or sadness with anger. If you read the poem, the speaker uses very strong words and phrases such as "knifed, bleeds, murdered, wreck, catacombs, darkened, stunted, sucked, dark basins, void of space, and ambushing". These may signify a sense of loss and loneliness with doses of anger and resentment. It's possible that the speaker lost someone in a manner that he completely regrets. Thus the resentment in the way he mourns.

Landscape II
by Carlos A. Angeles

Sun in the knifed horizon bleeds the sky
Spilling a peacock stain upon the sands,
Across some murdered rocks refused to die.
It is your absence touches my sad hands
Blinded like flags in the wreck of air.

And catacombs of cloud enshroud the cool
And calm involvement of the darkened plains,
The stunted mourners here: and here, a full
And universal tenderness which drains
The sucked and golden breath of sky comes bare.

Now, while the dark basins the void of space,
Some sudden crickets, ambushing me near,
Discover vowels of your whispered face
And subtly cry. I touch your absence here
Remembering the speeches of your hair.

Photo by Daniel Ted C. Feliciano.