Paul Breslin: On "Lying in a Hammock on William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota"

… The horse droppings are changed from dung to "golden stones" by the natural alchemy of sunlight, much as the butterfly turned to "bronze." The mention of "Last year’s horses" gently disturbs the illusion of temporal suspension, but time remains a benign force; it has taken away the odor of the horse droppings, cleansing them of their rankness and preparing them for their transformation into "golden stones."

It is the last line of "Lying in a Hammock …" that everyone remembers, but a close look at the two lines preceding it reveals that Wright very skillfully turns the poem toward its ending; the last line has a subtle but convincing connection with them: [Breslin cites the last three lines of the poem]. As if prompted by the reminder of time in the words "last year’s horses," the poet notices that the day approaches its end. He is finished looking about a leans back, passively waiting for the evening, which quite actively "darkens and comes on." With the arrival of the chicken hawk, "looking for home," the poet realizes that he too must go home; it is time to rise from the hammock and return to the "empty house." It is this impending return that prompts him to compare reality as seen from the hammock with the quotidian reality awaiting him in the house. After his experience of solitary plenitude, his usual pursuits seem a waste of time; the hammock seems more truly "home" than the house does.


Title Paul Breslin: On "Lying in a Hammock on William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Paul Breslin Criticism Target James Wright
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 25 Mar 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication The Psycho-Political Muse: American Poetry since the Fifties
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