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How to Own Land

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Susan Farley’s “How to Own Land”, written in 1983, is known to a small number of people. Nevertheless, the poem’s themes and images, successfully created by the means of tropes and poetic language, are close to everyone, since they describe a complex relation between people and nature.

The content of the poem is well summarized in its title – the writer explains how one possibly can own land. The explanation is straightforward; each step that should be taken is clear and simple. Therefore, it is easy to guess why she chooses free verse poem – it creates the impression of a peaceful conversation between the author and readers.

The first stanza is very calming, because it contains many sibilant sounds: spot, sit, there, grass, begins, push, thighs. The sounding of the stanza corresponds to its content which says that one should sit and wait “Until grass begins / To push between your thighs”. Later, as the author brings some action, the sounding also becomes louder. Obviously, no poetic language can do without tropes, and “How to Own Land” contains many of them. First of all, there is personification – “the gestures of the wind”, the stream has “sweet babble”. It is a perfect way to communicate the author’s idea - nature in her opinion is a living creature. Moreover, nature is simply beautiful, and this is accentuated by such stylistically colored words as “babble”, “spiral”, and “configuration”. Finally, there are many epithets: “sweet”, “warm”, etc.

The subject matter of the poem might have been chosen because of human desire to own land and control nature. However, the narrator argues that it is practically impossible. A person has to sit on the ground, “trade” one’s speech for stream’s sounds, and finally turn into ashes, thus merge into ground. Apart from that, Farley mentions animals which would “weave your hair into warm cloth / String your teeth into necklace / Wrap your soft skin around their feet”. Cruel as it may seem, this is exactly what people do to animals. Nevertheless, a person cannot “own” land, he or she can only observe it, enjoy it and unite with it.

In conclusion, “How to Own Land” is, on the one hand, a free-verse poem with multiple tropes and good poetic language. On the other hand, it is the author’s message to the reader which says that to own nature, one has simply to understand and feel it.

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