“July Man” is a poem written by the author Margaret Avison. Margaret Avison was a Canadian poet who won twice Canada’s Governor’s General Award and has also won its Griffin Poetry Prize. Avison can be considered a spiritual or metaphysical poet, and her work is often described by reviewers as introspective, observant and deeply spiritual. Many critics compare her work to the great metaphysical poets of the 20th century.
On the first note, in the first verse, the author uses strong language devices such as compound adjectives, for example “rain-wrinkled”, “time-soiled”, “city-wise” and “morningman”, which is depicted as being homeless, after living for years on the streets, which is stressed by “rain”, “soiled” and “city”. At a first glance, it shows that the author is describing an old man, who seems to be weeping for his lost paradise, that got lost with time, through the form of remembrance of his youth and the nature that once was, when everything seemed better. This is shown through the use of the verse “weeping … for the dust of the elm flowers”, which is emphasised by “the hurting motes of time”. She uses other language devices, such as metaphors to stress the undeniable march of time, shown as July Man’s life, and can also be seen as a comparison of life with “rotted with rotting grapes”, and “fermented potato”, rotting and fermentation being considered as the end of the life span of a fruit, or vegetable. Also, the use of “turned out and left”, which can be seen as the man metaphorically having the same worth as the potato. However, the use of these metaphors could also unravel a deeper meaning of the July Man being an alcoholic, used as a remembrance of one’s life habits, as it says in the poem, “puzzled for good”, which can show the permanent effect that alcohol had on him.
However, the poem takes another meaning, as the author proceeds to describe the “grass patch”, in the middle of a busy city, portrayed as “in this grass patch” … “under the buzzing populace”. This could also be seen as a recollection of the time where there used to be a large garden in the middle of the city, however taken-over over time by the rapid technological development and the tall buildings of the city. This can also be seen through the metaphor “square shadows, and the green shadows”, which is a combination of what is left of the nature and trees, and the tall, square buildings. This is seen as a metaphor as the shadow of the trees is portrayed as green, which can also mean that what is left is not comparable, as the green nature is only seen as a shadow, and as something subtle, as not many people notice it. This can also be portrayed as the ignorance of the following generations towards the nature, and pollution and can be seen as a reproach to the world’s hunger for materialism and industrialisation, which masks and overtakes the true beauty of the world.
Also, there is represented the purpose of the “elm and ginko and lime” trees, as a lost tradition of people using nature as a refreshment of the older generation, and their use of nature as a get-away from their day-to-day lives, and away from the concrete jungle that most cities have become today, “folding in from the whit fury of day”. This is represented by
“planted for Sunday strollers and summer evening families”. Also, this could depict people’s value of family, which has decreased with time, as everything is shown as a memory of the past.
Further, the link back to nature, as the author describes the “rushing river of cars, makes you a stillness”, which depicts one’s insignificance and what is seen by society as normal life, emphasized by “a pivot, a heart-stopping blurt”, and the word “blurt”, used as an onomatopoeia, and an alliteration, and shows the nonsense, and can signify the worthlessness of the man, and the use of “pivot” shows the complexity of the world, as everything and everyone spins around him.
Finally, there is depicted the death of the July man, which is shown by the use of “heartstopping”, “last rubbydub swig”, “the stone-jar solitude lost” and “for good now”, show the last moments of the man, surrounded by the world, and brings back his habit of drinking, as mentioned “last … swig”. However, through his last moments, there is also expressed confusion, shown by “wonder”, which can have an opened meaning, such as him questioning the purpose of life, what happens after deaths, or whether his death will affect the modernizing world. Finally, the last verse, shows his transition from the material to the spiritual world, as not only describes, his transition, shown by “sudden sunlight”, which could be compared to the light that people have been known to see at the end of their lives, but also “falling on your hands and arms, in your lap”, which could depict the image of God, as he accepts the July Man into heaven, and the phrase “all, all, in time”, is a repetition used to emphasize the time and the passing of it.
In conclusion, the poem “July Man”, shows not only the life of a homeless man, but he can be used as an interface to show the harm that industrialisation is doing to the world, and also shows the better, old times. With the dying of the old man, it can also show the beginning of a new era, where family and quality time is valued less over materialistic things, such as money and ownings.
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