There is a Pole

There is a pole on the corner
Of a patch of grass-carpeted earth.
Each day, thousands of scholars walk past it,
Ignoring it altogether, or worse,
Disregarding its beauty and using it
As some mundane meeting place, a point to gather
Before making a lackadaisical journey across campus
In search of nourishment or some new parcel of wisdom.
But this pole has a unique symbolic aesthetic
Lost on many of the scholars it is meant to inspire.
One end of the black rod pierces the ground shamelessly,
Calling forth images of the student with his mind
Firmly rooted in his studies.
As the pole is embedded in the terrain,
So too is the student grounded in his text,
Using logic and reason to seek the knowledge of his ancestors.
The other end of the pole points heavenward,
Reminding the student that his parents were right
When they used to chide him with the clichéd notion
That “the sky is the limit”. It hints of higher layers
In the atmosphere, just as student flirt with new ideas,
Embracing the possibility that we have not yet discovered
All there is to know in this world.
Between these two endpoints
(Admittedly closer to the dream side than to that of logic)
Lies a series of white arrows, emanating in every direction.
Inscribed on these points are great cities of the world,
Sites where dreams are realized or destroyed.
These guides suggest the distances our dreams may travel.
The post identifies locations that need to be “engaged”,
Then grants us the courtesy of boldly stating the distances
That must be traversed in order to engage this world.
Dickinsonians pass this guidepost every day,
And each year a new crop of students inherit its sagacity.
But to truly feel that “distinctly Dickinson” experience
One must grasp the insight which this inconspicuous pole freely distributes.
For what is the point of mere tuition and bookstore bills
If we cannot heed its call to a higher purpose?

Critical Analysis:
“There is a Pole” is a description of how underappreciated the post is by the people who walk past it daily. I intended it to be a sort of stream-of-consciousness “rant”, and so I wanted it to have a very conversational feel. It sounds as if it is the speech of a college student frustrated that no one else realizes the symbolism of this post to greater campus culture. Because of the conversational nature, I knew I wanted this poem to be in free verse (that is, no rhyme and no meter). To give it rhyme and/or meter would make it feel like a planned or scripted speech, instead of being reminiscent of the natural epiphany that I myself experienced. I did, however, wish to play around a bit with diction. I wanted the speaker to clearly come across as a student at Dickinson College. I tried to achieve this through the use of some larger (almost obnoxiously large) words, much like the ones college students try to insert into their conversations to impress professors and classmates. Honestly, who uses the word “lackadaisical” in everyday speech besides the college crowd? I also wanted to make the speaker clearly a Dickinson student by manipulating the Dickinson slogan “Engage the World” that we all know and love. In terms of imagery/symbolism, I tried to relate the post to college student life through three shared experiences. Firstly, the way the pole is rooted into the ground in the same way that the college student is “rooted” in his studies. Second, the top of the pole reaches toward the sky, much like the student’s dreams and aspirations reach towards heights yet unseen. And finally, the white directional arrows are like our smaller life goals, goals for which we know exactly what we must do to succeed. The speaker is illuminating this imagery that seems so relevant to our lives as college students, displaying frustration with the fact that this is such a powerful image, yet we walk by it unappreciatively every day.
P.S. – Poetry has never been my strongest suit (I’m much more of a prose/Shakespeare girl), so be gentle!

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