Wasp's Nest by James L. Rosenberg

Categories: Free Essays

In The Wasp’s Nest, a free verse poem written by James L. Rosenberg, the speaker witnesses two wasps beginning to make a nest in her mailbox. The speaker however chooses not to kill them, not out of fear, but out of a mutual respect for the time and devotion the wasps take to build their home. This moment encompasses the overall theme concerning the amount of love and dedication it takes for even a venomous wasp to create a “fragile citadel” of love in an “alien and gigantic universe.

” “a stranger, building the fragile citadels of love on the edge of danger.” Wasps are normally of a violent nature and carry a negative connotation but Rosenberg does not describe them as sinister. He begins by describing them as “two aerial tigers striped in ebony and gold.” Although tigers can be dangerous, they are not necessarily of sinister intent and they maintain a sort of dangerous beauty. But then Rosenberg starts to humanize the wasps by juxtaposing the building of their “insubstantial and…only home” of “paper and mud” with the savage nature of their hum.

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Their often aggressive and violent nature turns into “hummed devotions” that neither “the U.S. Mail nor all [of the speaker’s] threats and warnings” deters them. By using this oxymoron—the home that is insubstantial—Rosenberg effectively turns the violent and venomous wasps into something finitely gentle. And despite the inevitable destruction of their nest, the wasps carry on like humans in the face of change.

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The wasps become human and this is why the speaker can’t bring himself to destroy their nest because if he did, it would be equivalent to someone else destroying the peace of his citadel of love. And so through sympathizing with both the speaker and the wasps, the reader learns to appreciate the time and devotion that even a wasp puts in into making a home. The poem is structured as free verse with no apparent rhyme scheme but it does have a rhythm. The “two aerial tigers” resonated “savagely a-hum” as they infiltrated the speaker’s mailbox.

This subtle use of sound mirrors the poems rhythmic structure. The beat is iambic and every second syllable is stressed. Like the humming of a wasp, the poem reads like a hum, dying down and then a hum, dying down and then another hum. Like the “mailbox’s metal hold” the poem seems to resonate and at first, this sound appears to be foreboding, most likely due to the venomous nature of wasps. The poem also contains no breaks in stanzas and this fits the musicality—a continuous and undulating hum. By having the wasps’ “hummed devotions” be the source of their “fragile citadels of love,” Rosenberg turns the hum into something gentle and warm, like a mother humming a song to her children. What is most admirable though is that these wasps, often sinister and venomous creatures, are able to carry on even “on the edge of danger.”

Rosenberg mirrors this with the structure of his poem, using the continuous rhythm and no breaks in line to carry on the motifs of love and perseverance throughout his poem. The Wasps’ Nest is more than about love in general though. It is about appreciating it and the many “hummed” and often silent devotions that go into creating a home. Rosenberg does this by highlighting a wasps’ nest. He completely turns around the sinister nature of wasps and makes them almost human. Once accomplished, the reader much like the speaker, realizes that to crush them would be sinister. After all, we all strangers in a “gigantic universe…building the fragile citadels of love on the edge of danger.”

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Wasp's Nest by James L. Rosenberg. (2017, Jan 23). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/wasps-nest-by-james-l-rosenberg-essay

Wasp's Nest by James L. Rosenberg essay
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