Poem Analysis: Sherman Alexie's 'On the Amtrak From Boston to New York'
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An Analysis of Sherman Alexie's "On the Amtrak"
Sherman Alexie's "On the Amtrak from Boston to New York City" is a free verse poem that gives voice to Native American resentment and contempt. It is composed in a series of quatrains, with the last line of the poem standing alone, symbolizing the poet himself who feels alienated a stranger in his own land, now overrun by an "enemy." This paper will examine the poem's use of meter, imagery and symbolism, and give an interpretation of Alexie's thoughts and feelings in "On the Amtrak." Alexie does not hold hard and fast to any metrical pattern. Doing so would be to conform to a poetical tradition of the "enemy." Instead, Alexie's composition is mainly syllabic. Some lines, such as "into what she has been taught. I have learned," may be classified as iambic pentameter (the end of the line consisting of spondees rather than iambs); but the very next line that follows shows that Alexie has no attachment to such form: "little more about American history during my few days" is neither iambic nor pentameter; it has roughly nine and a half feet with several different foot types.
Alexie also refuses to capitalize the first word of each new line, thus further abandoning the poetical structure of the so-called "enemy." In other words, Alexie's verse is free and independent of classical traditions. Like his people, upon whom he meditates in the poem, Alexie's words are unruled by any of the conventions of the white people whom Alexie