“Life Cycle of Common Man” by Howard Nemerov explains the path taken by a common man throughout his life; this is done explicitly by using vivid description, symbolism and imagery making the experiences familiar to any common man reading the poem. Nemerov in the first stanza depicts the life cycle of a man and how he abuses legal drugs like cigarettes and alcohol. This is sarcastically depicted showing how meaningless the life of a common man is after an average time of his lifespan. Generally the life cycle of a man in the poem is that he is born and socialized into the life of his parents and society, they tend to follow a similar route that may make life wasteful. The poet uses literary devices such as irony and humorous diction to bring out the thematic concern. “The common man” is compelled to live in a world and consume the day to day culture and way of life from the environment whether it is credible or not once it is consumed others will follow the trail and the cycle continues. Similarly “Facing It” deals with the perception of self “sharing the darkness with granite” .The two poems have similar stylistic approach the emotional turmoil brought out through self-conflict, flashback and nostalgia.
Nemerov uses vivid imagery by illustrating the legacy left behind by man leaving behind him a lengthening trail of empty bottles and bones of broken shoes (lines 15-18). This shows an allusion to the life cycle of a person right from infant to adulthood or rather, birth to death lifetime of a human being. The poet emphasizes the mistakes made by the common habits of men which includes making a worthless imprint; both poems describe the imprint left by a human being after death an attempt to recall events of human actions.
Yussef’s poem is rich in flashback and retrospection about Vietnam, in addition it is rich in emotions and directly speaks to the readers, and the persona’s response is shaped by his previous visit for a memorial. The monument arouses Yussef’s perception therefore his feelings about Vietnam are communicated effectively about the concept of identity the monument was not just about the names imprinted but the legacy they left it was not only about the war but the loss of a multitude individuals, besides this Nemrov’s poem uses satire to depict the legacy of man the hollowness that dwells within the word of man” A lifetime would barely suffice for their repetition (lines 29-30). “My black fades, hiding inside the black granite” this shows the identity of the poet as an African-American also evident in the Life Cycle of common man where human beings identity is affected by the society and the surrounding.
The sanctity of human life is illustrated in both poems in Nemrov’s poem the dark comedic diction is used to question the readers lives through comparing them to a silent character in the poem,” how many beast died to provide him with meat, belt and shoes cannot be certainly said” (lines 10-12), the next line explains how loss of lives takes place only to leave trash portraying that the world has basically nothing to offer. Both poems have a double layered aspect and further attempt to question humanity the entire life cycle of a man and the impressions left after they die.
Both poets use stylistic devices to bring out their thematic concerns. Nemerov uses irony to bring out the explicit human behavior in the “life cycle of common man”, he further bridges the connection between the traditional man and the common interpretation of man. Allusion also applies in an attempt to question the origin of words, sardonically the emptiness of man’s word can be implied when measuring the deed or the impact felt “the words Borne along on the breath telling the numberless tale of his untold word…(line 40-43),with details one finds instances where he relates the word of man to a biblical sense .The symbolic aspect in the poem is build up in the next stanza where the poet shows a relation between word of man to the forbidden fruit that was the source of sin, as aforementioned by illustrating the consumption of apple leaving a nonrefundable thus reiteration of impression felt by man .
Yussef’s poem is also rich in symbolism “the stone” and “flesh” reveals the dual identity of the poet as an African American and the identity, his black consciousness is evident he sees his people so clear like a tombstone like face of a memorial .Metaphorically he is like a prisoner unable to emancipate his thoughts when he faces true reflection with his past his identity is with him. Ambiguity is exhibited in both poems ,the beauty and violence is clearly illustrated with the image of the woman “names shimmer on a woman’s blouse but when she walks away …”the woman’s gesture depict an empty attempt to reconstruct the past but later on is transforms his perception ,and ultimately an action of motherly affection is seen.
Visual imagery is a marker by both poems, as a reader reads through the poems the creative aspect communicates through the ideas and the artistic devices of the readers. “In the life cycle of common man” the first line “Roughly figured” shows that the poet does not know much about the life of a common ,man however he tries to give a brief account of as a man of sensible habits and the life cycle of a man from birth to death. Komunyakaa imagery in the poem has been used to evoke emotional surrounding of the effects of the Vietnam war and the emotional turmoil caused psychological torture to poet, as he reads the names he get the magnitude of the effects of the deceased souls.
Nemerov, Howard “Life Cycle of a Common Man. (1960)
Yussef Komunyaka”Facing It” (1947)