Throughout Steve Abees’s book Great Balls of Flowers the reoccurring themes that arise are sex, love, family and life. Within each poem he threads in a minimum of two themes, interweaving them so all the themes eventually overlap. The themes of sex, love and family are each representative of a major component of his life. His book gives readers insight as to what Abee is thinking and feeling within each poem, making them extremely personal for the reader. The title of the book was seemingly derived from Jerry Lee Lewis’s Song “Great Balls of Fire” which was written in 1957 on the movie based on Jerry Lee Lewis which was released in 1989.
The movie discusses Lewis’ controversial life and his rise and fall as a rock star. Lewis suffered from substance abuse and resorted to alcoholism when times got bad. His song “Great Balls of Fire” is purely sexual discussing the arousal of a man, this song was one of Lewis’ major hits. Abee’s title “Great Balls of Flowers” is so appropriate especially with his replacement of fire with flowers. Flowers hold the softer connotation of love and peacefulness as Abee explains how he’s overcome his issues with the love he feels and receives from his family.
Within select poems his love for his wife and children are startlingly apparent. He portrays himself with raw emotions that seem unbreakable. In the poem “Poem to my Wife”, he states, “I love you so much that when I touch you my fingers turn into miniature suns shining. ” His portrayal of everlasting love and lust for his wife gives the reader insight as to his most personal and inner thoughts and emotions. Because of the rawness and bluntness of his emotions It is evident his poetry was used as an escape for Abee. His attachment to his wife leads the reader to think as a child there were issues with his family.
Romance isn’t the only type of love Abee discusses, as he also mentions the love he has for his children. For his youngest daughter, Abee states “her voice opens me like breath. ” He continues on to state “I’m trying to be good now I’m trying not to be bad”, this gives the reader the idea that his children are now the motivation for him. It seems as if he had previously struggled with a personal issue that has disappeared because of the arrival of his children. Substance abuse seems appropriate as he refines it in the poem “Sucks” when he says “beer sucks.
It’s good but it sucks. Marijuana sucks… Crystal Meth sucks so bad. ” His allusions to these substances would tie in as a strong connection to the title, “Great Balls of Flowers. ” Abee never fails to insert a sexual innuendo within the majority of his poems. One example of his sexual references arise in the poem “Gas”, Abee states “when I lick your secrets, bombs begin to fall from your thighs. ” His continual sexual references tie in greatly with the title, Great Balls of Flowers because it alludes to the 1957 hit song discussing sex.
Sex seems to be a dominant theme throughout the book, as it was throughout many of Jerry Lee Lewis’ songs as well. Abee’s continuous blunt sexual references free him from the shackle soft society as he isn’t scared to discuss topics that seem controversial. His direct statements give the book a potent feel and, honest take on life. As the book goes on you can see the meniscal details in life that are typically overlooked are what Abee thrives upon. His poems are real portrayals of his daily routine and it gives the reader a personal connection with him and his mindset.
Great Balls of Flowers consists of poems covering the themes of sex, love, family and life. His title is so appropriate these four themes are the pieces of Abee’s life which he discusses in his poetry giving readers in insight into his alternative perspective on life and love. Throughout Great Balls of Flowers Steve Abee uses imagery to help develop his tone and themes in his various poems. His use of imagery creates a clear picture that the reader can connect with. Those images, which are typically familiar to the reader help the reader, better understand the point Abee is trying to make.
Abee uses a mix of concrete imagery alongside symbolic imagery, creating numerous layers for the reader to divulge in as the poems go on. One example of the imagery used is in the poem “Hail to the Things I Can Not See. ” Abee states “Oh wind keeping seagulls aloft, squawking and hovering over my daughters and my hot dogs at Santa Monica Pier. ” His use of imagery in this quote sets the setting for this poem. Along with it building a setting, it gives the poem a nostalgic feel because that’s where the author grew up.
The familiar sounds he describes connect the reader to the beach, which carries light and happy connotations, reinforcing the nostalgic feel while integrating the positive tone. The city scape imagery portrays Abee as a city boy, giving readers an image of him. His juxtaposition of the city scene with more symbolic imagery gives the reader insight to what he sees life as helping him break free from the connotations that come with “city boy”. The stanza after the one previously stated says, “oh the gravity that holds the trees up and my bones together”, using imagery in more of a symbolic sense.
Although gravity is something not visible to the human eye, Abee portrays it in a way that is viable to the reader. The contrast of the tangible with the symbolic give the poem a deeper feel. Another example of imagery can be seen in the poem, “Poem to My Wife”, Abee states “the innocent sea shore of our kiss, where hippies play on tambourine brain fried ukulele and we dance on crab grass sand”. His use of imagery in this quote not only sets the scene for this particular stanza but sets the mood for the entire poem.
His use of the word ukulele gives the reader the view of the upbeat instrument that plays purely cheerful melodies, while the sand gives the reader an image of the beach giving the poem a bright tone. As he explains how they dance to the upbeat tunes, the reader can feel the joy radiating off the happy couple. This portrayal of why Abee is so infatuated with this wife, not only gives readers an insight into his marriage but an insight to his heart and what makes him happy. Within the poem previously discussed Abee states, “words… rising up into a ball of Christmas lights, poof, explosion of holiday love.
” This use of imagery is purely symbolic; words are personified to express his love for his wife giving the reader an idea of how extreme his passion is for his mate. His use of the image “Christmas Lights” give off the connotations of the holiday which is centered on love and happiness. These connotations give the poem an upbeat and warm tone, while the reader starts to see Abee in a different more loving sort of light. Along with the holiday connotations, his use of words like explosion give the poem a more passionate and yearning sort of feel, giving readers visuals of the intensity of his love.
Abee’s use of imagery greatly constructs the tone and theme of the poem. Throughout the book there are instances where symbolic and tangible imagery contrast, following the same sort of pattern showed in this poem. This contrast sets the setting then divulges into Abee’s inner thoughts, giving readers a better perception of the author and a deeper understanding of his poetry. Throughout Great Balls of Flowers Steve Abee uses personification, similes and metaphors in various poems. Each of these devices holds a different effect over the reader, emphasizing and creating different images for the reader.
Each example of figurative language holds a different effect on the reader but in all the point of the insertions of the figurative language is to accentuate the purpose of each poem. Steve Abee uses various similes in the poem, “Poem to my Wife”, one example of this can be seen in the quote, “loving you is like surfing the wave of benevolent impulse. ” In this poem he is describing the intese love he feels for his wife and uses a simile to explain to the reader the extensity of his overwhelming emotions for her.
Using the word benevolent describes the gentleness of the love the duo share while impose gives readers a sense of the intensity that kindness carries. Abee compares the love they share to surfing a wave giving readers a familiar image to compare the ‘ride” he feels with her. The insertion of a metaphor adds another layer to the poem , leaving room for interpretation from there reads, which contrasts well as Abee is explaining like his poetry , his love for his wife has numerous layers. Within the poem previously discussed, Abee uses personification to further explain the love he feels for his wife.
The quote goes as follows, “But it (poem) wouldn’t be able to help itself. ” Abee is explaining what a poem to his wife would consist of, and that is where he inserts the above quote. The use of personifications gives the reader a sense of how alive his love for his wife is. The intensity of his love can’t be explained with the used of an inanimate object so personifying the poem gives his love an image. Along with the aspect of imagery rat personification brings, it sets a tone for the entire poem. The personification of the “poem” gives the literal poem a loud but allusive tone.
In the poem “Gas Station”, the entire first stanza consists of metaphors, Abee states, “Steve Abee is a gas station. ” To start things off the first impression this holds on the reader is a whirlwind of thoughts in hope to analyze what he could possibly mean by this statement. As he continues on he states numerous other figures are “gas stations” such as Jesus Christ, and Jack Kerouac. Continuing on he states how gas stations are “lonesome and lovely” and sit on the “edge of a sandy skirt desert”.
His descriptions of gas stations set the tone for the poem as morbid and sad as the reader is visualizing a delegate area that people use then leave. Both Fries and Christ underwent great suffering throughout their lives which ultimately resulted in their deaths, which connects to the end of the stanza where Abee states, “As we move from seashore to graveyard. ” Using the metaphor not only on himself but on other figures not only gives readers an image to connect his emotions to but it also shows readers that personally this is what he perceives life as, a journey where humans are used and abused , then die.
His metaphor emphasizes his main idea for that poem while accentuating the tone that is apparent throughout the rest of the poem. Abee uses all these forms of figurative language to emphasize are ideas and highlight the tones that are seen in his various poems. They also all help connect back to the main themes which can be seen throughout the poem. In all each device helps give readers the image in which Abee intends from them to see, while showing readers how he personally feels.
If I was to write a poem to you it would go something like this As I sit and reminisce, a wave of nostalgia overcomes me, leaving me choking and gasping for relief, as I drown in memories of forgotten promises faded secrets Next, id talk about how your laugh was like the church bells ringing on Sunday morning, clear and crisp in the sunny sky, particles of sound dancing with the rhythm of love If I were to write you a poem I would use words like gifted and good, the gentle gem in a mound of rocks, something like that.
I would have pointless passages explaining the magnetic pull we felt between us, I would illuminate the page with the sparks we once shared, fireworks over a lake of washed out feelings, calmly disappearing into a an abyss of darkness If I was going to write you a poem it would have words It would have words describing our love, words only cupid knows, words of joy and happiness. Words to explain how you make me feel , words that would flow out of my mouth into my hand and onto paper like a stream flows into the ocean, twisting and turning then eventually colliding with the salty sea water, slowly integrating themselves till they are one.
To be honest the poem I would write would have a dark side, a side of sadness and longing, unreasonably irrational and unhealthily attached. I would say things like I miss you and come back. I love you more than you could ever know; I need you more than the grass needs rain. Your love warms me and keeps me alive, your love completed me. The poem would say you can’t love another, you can only love me. I would say please come back, I would say I’m sorry. I would say we were perfect together, we were soul mates.
I would say no one else can hold you; no one else can touch you or call you theirs. The poem would say how could you? How could you love another, how could you be with another or kiss another. How could you leave me? The poem would be like that, angry. Yes angry, sad, mournful and dark, with flashes of light flickering in the darkness. The poem would be sealed in a bottle, and thrown into space, where it only company would be the sun, until eventually it would fade away, never to be read by my forgotten love.
Courtney from Study Moose
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