Death in Contemporary Poetry

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Death in Poetry Death. This one word and all that it implies has brought out the most intense variety emotions from peoples around the globe. Naturally, there is poetry on the subject. Given survival instinct and the widespread stigma of death, one would assume that the only way to respond to death is with fear. Death poetry, however, examines that great unknown with a surprising variety of outlooks, from distaste to awe. This paper examines three poems in particular, each presenting a unique perspective on death, with the intent of proving that death is NOT one-dimensional and that deep examination of mortality is necessary to a full life. As Mark Twain said, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” (Twain). There is a spectrum, of sorts, of a person’s openness to their own death, ranging from active desire (suicide) to firm denial. Dylan Thomas comes from the resistant end of that spectrum, presenting the idea of fighting death to the end, regardless of its inevitability, in Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. Unlike some poems in which the title and the content seem to have no relation each other, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night has the unique privilege of having its title also be its first and frequently repeated line. This stern command is used no less than four times throughout the relatively short poem. This is because Thomas’ is using villanelle, a less-common form of poetry. Villanelles have five three-line stanzas in which the first and last lines of the first stanza act alternatively as the final lines of the next four and come together as the last two lines of the final four-line stanza. With an a-b-a rhyme scheme held throughout, villanelles are often musical and direct, delivering a clear message with a repetition that manages to elude dullness. The message that Thomas pairs

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