Categorized Poems from Subjects for other Conversations
In John Stigall’s book, Subjects for Other Conversations, all of the thirty-seven poems can be placed into one of five different categories. These categories include sadness, racism, happiness, sex, and religion.
Sadness, the first category, includes ten of the thirty seven poems. These poems express hate, anger, and depression about many things in life, from growing old to losing a child. These poems are “Poem on Turning Forty,” “Poem on Turning Forty-Five,” “Blues,” “Impromptu,” “Into the Life of This World,” “Some People,” “The Revenant,” “In the Bibleblack Air,” “Approaching,” and “Final Approach”. In Stigall’s poem, “Poem on Turning Forty,” he talks about how women aren’t as attracted to him now. And you can tell he’s depressed about growing old. The poem “Into the Life of This World,” talks about losing a child at birth. Stigall’s light use of words, such as perfect, calm, and silent agony, shows that this poem is full of intense emotions and sadness.
At thirty-three, too young to be sickened
into the light, my father’s
body-perfect, calm-forms a fetal
curl about its silent agony. His eyes, suggestive
& articulate, explain. The light
Silent, I refuse the firsts breaths (cradled in
the light). My
body- stillborn, calm, numb from the canal-appears
See the physician & my mourning mother
curl over me, warping my flesh, weeping,
praying me into the life of this world (30)
The next category is racism. These three poems describe how racism still exists today. The poems show how hateful people can be towards someone of a different race. These poems are “December/ January,” “Brazil Nuts,” and “Up in Dixie”. In all three of these poems, Stigall never seems to show any anger. He just tells of his experiences in plain and simple terms. In “Brazil Nuts,” Stigall talks about how when he was a child, how he never questioned racism. But now as a man he doesn’t understand why racism hasn’t gone away.
When I was a Child
as a child
I did not question
as a child
as a child
But when I became a man
the old folks
them Nigger Toes (39)
Four of Stigall’s thirty-seven poems can be put into the category happiness. These four poems are light and pleasant. They talk about things such as music, people and Stigall’s
children. These poems are “This Sabbath Afternoon,” “No 3 Tanka,” “If the Past Ever Existed,” and “”101 West 123Rd Street”. In “This Sabbath Afternoon”, Stigall talks about watching his children playing. And while he’s there in that moment, nothing else seems to exist.
This Sabbath afternoon, calm ; mild ; quiet,
I quietly acknowledge that I am His child
although two younger children call me “Dad”
; behave as if childhood never included me.
No one knows what I am thinking.
The day is calm. I am mildly quiet
just watching my children explore the ground.
I cannot even hear the distant traffic
; momentarily consider if it really exists
I am calm.
My son smiles ; sprawls in the mild sun.
And to test the quiet, my daughter laughs (32)
The next and most recognizable category is sex. This includes twelve of the thirty-seven poems in Subjects for Other Conversations. These poems are about lust and desire for women and sex in general. From the words Stigall chose to use in these twelve poems, you can tell how passionate he is about the topic of sex, These poems are “Puberty,” “Women,” “Bathing Woman,” “Flesh is not Enough,” “It is Not in The Image,” “Bait,” “Annie,” “Uptown Woman Blues,” “En Passant,” “Widow,” “The Bards,” “and “Nostradamus”. The best example for this category would be “Bathing Woman”.
There is nothing more I want
to see than you
bathing on Sabbath morning.
a jealous God
could think my thoughts
The last category is religion. These eight poems reflect on Stigall’s powerful faith in God and prayer. In his work it is clear how much his faith is a part of his life. You can see from his other poems that he sins just like the rest of us, but he believes God understands his sins. These
poems are “Through Prayer,” “This House,” “Morning Glory,” “That Sabbath Morning at Ephesus,” “Eleven O’clock,” “During the Lord’s Prayer,” “Quilt,” and “On Time Square”. An example for this category is “This House”.
In this house
the Lord dwells (this house, His
holy temple). Within
this house & within
the Lord does dwell (26)
The awful thing about poetry is, the only person who can truly understand the meaning of it, is the person who wrote it. Ten people can read the same poem and perceive it in ten different ways. I’ve taken thirty-seven poems and put them into five categories, when each could arguably be in its own. “Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.” (Don Marquis). Stigall’s poems are about his experiences alone and have no real effect or meaning to the rest of society.