Feelings can twist reality in the most peculiar ways. Emotions push the mind to the most stunning conclusions, and stir within the soul the strangest storms. In fact, senses reach their peak in David Wagoner’s poetic work “The Best Slow Dancer”. In the poem, Wagoner brings out the height of sentiment through the eyes of a teenage boy at a school dance, who overcomes the teenage social hierarchy and his own fear to share in the longed-for dance with one special girl.
All the while Wagoner takes his readers into depths of wafting dreaminess, romance, and intimacy they are projected through an unbroken flow of words uninterrupted by punctuation, rhythm, or strict lines. “The Best Slow Dancer” portrays the mental state of a boy as he experiences a dance. It is a short dance, but one that seems to him prolonged for an eternity, the “three-second rule forever/ suspended”. The feelings that go through the youth’s soul range from extreme delight to just as extreme tension, and the reader may see them all exhibited in the lines of the poem.Order now
His surety when with the girl in his embrace is seen when his “countless feet light-footed sure to move as they wished wherever might stagger without her”, but then he “triedâ€¦to tell her the worst one”, the worst of the boys, the one that she would not be seen dead withâ€”which implies that he is fearful of the fact that she might reject him, “not waving a sister somebody else’s partner”.
The full textual image demonstrates that the boy is with all his heart trying to impress the girl, and gets the dance with her against all odds of popularity and such, and then he treasures the experience, as he says to himself “remember” at the end. All throughout “The Best Slow Dancer”, the key ingredient to the image within the reader’s mind is the mood set by the poem. The mood is mystical, quixotic, intimate, and continual.
This state is accomplished by three techniquesâ€”poetic devices, turns of phrase, and contortion of syntax. The main pair of poetic devices that set up all these moods and humors simultaneously are enjambment and synecdoche. Enjambment is bizarre in this poetic work, especially in descriptions of physical setting or position, such as the setting of the dance, “in the school gym across the key through the glitter/ of mirrored light”, or the position of the main character with his “cheek against her temple, her ear just under/ that”.
This gives the effect of flow, with no pauses and prompts to go on disregarding the line breaks, as if the poem was one continuous sentence. Synecdoche, meanwhile, is used very lavishly in this piece of poetry, to give the impression of romance and intimacy. Instead of just stating blatantly that the boy was close in body to the girl, it describes them in body parts, as in the metaphor “the question mark of spine your hand in hers”, and as the boy moved “from thigh to secrets to breast”, which implies something private linguistically as well.
Along with poetic devices, language usage is a necessity for mood portrayal, as we see with the lack of punctuation that, as with the enjambment, is against accepted grammatical rules and also prompts one to continue to read the poem without pause, as is seen in the description of who the boy is not: The one in the hallway after class the scuffler The double club foot gawker the mouth breather With the wrong haircut who would never kiss her.
Also, there are frequent references to school gym setting, such as “the key” and “three-second rule”, both sports terms, which may refer to the young age of the characters in this poem, as well as references to possible occurrences of the girl dancing off with someone else because the someone else was better, ” older more clever smoother dreamier”, which produces the nervous hope of the poem as well. The Best Slow Dancer”, in its fanciful mood and emotional exaltation, may well be examined for meaning beyond the literal words within the textâ€”namely topics such as hierarchy, societal class, and relationship issues. In this poem, the teenage ladder of popularity has to be overcome by the youth to dance with the girl, for it can be implied that the girl is definitely popular, as well as fickle when it comes to serious love. Evidence of this fact can be derived from the anxiety of the hero of the poem, as he tries to get the girl to see him as better than the worst, and to see that he loves her.
He is worried, too, about the possibility of the girl escaping him with somebody superior in every way to him, where again can be used the description of that someoneâ€”” older more clever smoother dreamier”. Besides simply teen understanding of popularity, this situation demonstrates avid divisions of class. Society became divided into classes ever since the advent of agriculture and trade, and it persists in the ranks of today’s young peopleâ€”one’s place on the staircase of prestige based on age, wealth, and outward appearance mostly.
Along with society’s sets and brackets that separate people into type comes the taboo of certain topics in everyday life and conversation. Reverting to the part of “The Best Slow Dancer” where the boy’s other hand is touching “the place between her shoulders” and where he “moved from thigh to secrets to breast”, these may be analyzed as dealing with the more personal aspects of the female body, as implied especially by the word “secrets”.
When such things are mentioned, there must be more some sort of important connection between the people involved, in this case the dancing boy and girl. Exploration leads to believe that the boy is taking most any means that he can to show the girl how much he loves her, and how daring he is to prove himself though this be only a school dance in “the school gym across the key”. This poem masterfully portrays emotions.
It has philosophical traces, linguistic skill and strange but effective use of figurative language as well. The rapture and at the same time anxiety can be traced to the very thoughts of David Wagoner. The triumph over obstacles, breach of all sorts of boundaries, sensuality, and originality involved in this work culminate to form the statement of love, soul, and feeling that will persevere into the future with the youth of today.