A look into the unique style of McCrae’s poetry

By BESSIE LIU | October 12, 2017

Shane McCrae’s poem [We married in a taxi] is perhaps one of the most interesting and unexpectedly heart-wrenching poems I have ever read.

It features many unique stylistic and form choices that give it a complex voice. The most glaringly obvious are the indentations which sometimes appear in the middle of his lines. For example, “We’ll never have you said another child [sic].”

The speaker’s use of an interruption in the middle of a line almost interferes with our ability to interpret what the speaker is trying to say. For example, should the line read “we’ll never have, you said, another child,” or does the spacing indicate a dialogue between the two parents where “you said another child” stands apart from the other half?

Regardless, the spacing does emphasize the second half of the line and introduces a certain separation of sorts between the two parents sitting in the backseat of the car.

The speaker’s use of enjambment, in that there is not a clear separation between the ends of lines and the ends of thoughts, gives the poem a marked sense of movement. One example is the line “Wind and what happens you asked when we die / Who will take care of him.”

While navigating the avenues of McCrae’s writing, the reader feels similar to the speaker who is being driven along winding roads, twisting and turning. In particular, I love the phrase “slipping in the wind,” which McCrae uses a few times throughout the poem. Wind is traditionally symbolic of change, so to be slipping in the wind in this context connotes a sense of discomfort, a feeling of losing control and reeling in the face of the unexpected.

It becomes clear about halfway through the poem what this conflict is (if conflict is even the right word): two parents worrying about how to take care of their son, who has been diagnosed with autism.

The movement perpetuated by McCrae’s choices in form conveys the parents’ sense of isolation and loss perfectly. The contrast between the movement of the taxi and the stillness of the parents helps highlight the grievous, all-consuming nature of their conversation.

All the speaker can remember are various words and phrases repeated throughout the poem: “Our son has autism,” “long” and “taxi slipping in the wind.” Keeping in mind the title of the poem, I almost think the poem suggests that the true moment a couple becomes married is not when they exchange vows and rings at a ceremony but when they are forced to deal with the unexpected and are forced to grapple with those difficulties together.

On the web site that I first read [We married in a taxi], an analysis written by author Arielle Greenberg followed immediately after the poem.

I did not realize until she pointed it out that the poem is 14 lines, just like a sonnet. McCrae does a good job of making his poem seem much longer than 14 lines.

Whether or not that changes anything about how the poem can be interpreted relative to the usual subject matter of sonnets we may read in class is an interesting thought.

Perhaps the most impacting lines in the poem are the last two: “...he can’t sleep when we’re / Not there you said how will he get to sleep.” The sheer vulnerability and simplicity of this question hits readers hard, because it’s not about the parents wondering how to take care of a child with autism anymore.

Rather, it’s about the parents being afraid of life’s fragility and volatility and about how their child will be able to take care of himself when they are gone. As Greenberg describes it, the poem ends on a question that is “irresolvable, unanswerable... heightened by the lack of punctuation following.”

Poems written in ways that challenge traditional limitations of verse like in [We married in a taxi] remind me that there are so many different tools available to the poet to convey their messages. Style and form can say just as much as the words themselves.

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