From January to March 2017 I took an online poetry class from the University of Iowa where I analyzed poetry, discussed with other students, and wrote poetry. One of my favorite poems that we explored in that class was Ghost Elephants by Jean Valentine. Here is my analyzation of it.
GHOST ELEPHANTS,” BY JEAN VALENTINE
After reading every poem in this weeks discussion this one has to be my second favorite behind “Someday I’ll Love You Ocean Vuong” The break in stanza pattern (three lines per stanza) really appealed to me. Even though it was early in the poem before you could recognize the pattern I felt it was placed well. It seems like a break in conversation, more of a whisper than the next few stanzas. The first word is not capitalized so to me it felt like it should be read quietly. I thought that the first metaphor was the ghost elephants themselves. The phrase “Elephant in the room” came to mind when I read this. The elephants were a metaphor for something outstanding that wasn’t being recognized. Maybe a lie that has been told or a trust that has been broken. This poem reminding me of a relationship between two people, romantic or platonic. Neither want to talk about the disruption in their relationship. The ghost part of ghost elephant has two meanings to me. At first there seemed to be an obvious answer. I thought that it could mean this “elephant” was haunting them, maybe for months or years. There’s another definition of the word ghost that I believe fits quite nicely within the poem. Ghost could mean “a faint trace of something” These “elephants” have been in place for so long that instead of mending the relationship the problems have slowly became less relevant. The trust hasn’t been mended and the two subjects of the poem are drifting farther apart.
I believe the next stanza at night I heard you breathing at the window could be real. I can imagine these two people, one standing at the window breathing, thinking about their relationship and the other lying in bed listening to them. Although It could also be a metaphor, but I’m not quite sure of what.
The next stanza has a metaphor in the last line. but it was a beheading. We know that because obviously the poet was not actually beheaded. I think this line is a metaphor for losing your head, your temperament. These two people must have a very heated argument. After talking about the “first goodbye” it obviously (at least to me) means the first time the couple broke up. After analyzing each line it has become more clear that this must be about a romantic relationship. The last stanza includes the metaphor “ghost elephants”