The other world
So here is the old buck
who all winter long
had traveled with the does
and yearlings, with the fawns
just past their spots,
and who had hung back,
walking where the others had walked,
eating what they had left,
and who had struck now and then
a pose against the wind,
against a twig-snap or the way
the light came slinking
among the trees.
Here is the mangled ear
and the twisted, hindering leg.
Here, already bearing him away
among the last drifts of snow
and the nightly hard freezes,
is a line of tiny ants,
making its way from the cave
of the right eye, over the steep
occipital ridge, across the moonscape, shed-horn
medallion and through the valley
of the ear's cloven shadow
to the ground,
where among the staves
of shed needles and the red earthy wine
they carry him
bit by gnawn bit
into another world.
Few emotions are more complex than those dealing with death. “The other world” is a poem about a dead buck. The setting is very important: Since the beginning the word “here” marks territoriality. Visually, the word “other” in the title makes a contrast with the word “here” in the first line. It is a cyclical poem which starts with the title “The other world” and finishes almost with the same words. The title is quite open as it may be interpreted as a world after life, a world underground or an underworld. Both the title and the ending talk about another world we don´t know. Wrigley discusses two possible worlds: The world of the dead and the world of the alive, the world of the people and the world of the animals.
There are simultaneous meanings to be read in this poem. And there is no absolute meaning. The meaning is relative. What the reader brings to the text of the poem is important in deconstructing meanings and their positioning. The authority for meaning lies nowhere specifically; this encourages the reader to value multiple perspectives, meanings and interpretations. Through his strategies of imagery, personification, and the use of tone, the author is able to take an event such as finding a dead buck, and interpret this to be seen as analogous to life itself. Just as the deer met its death, we too will one day meet our death. Unlike the deer we are aware of mortality. Human beings may care about a dead deer but they care more about mortality.
The narrator describes the animal using dramatically different terms. The deer is now dead. He is no longer an animal. The dominant reading of the poem is the real description of the dead animal. While the reader can sense some sympathy for the deer, the narrator seems to speak objectively as he is not overly emotional about the situation. Throughout this naturalistic poem, the tone of the poet seems somewhat indifferent. The words “where” and “what” make me think of a piece of news. There is a reported speech form where an event is being told. The poem also goes from general to particular. There are many references and details. Most of the words refer to nature, either to vegetation or animal life. To understand a part of nature is to understand a part of ourselves.
“The other world” is composed by 30 stanzas, divided in two parts. The taste of this poem depends primarily upon a series of contrasts, not only in the state of the dead animal, but also in technical aspects of the poem such as mood and rhythm. It doesn´t have a rhyme pattern. However, there is a rhythm in the reading achieved by alliteration and monotony in the reporting of past actions.
The use of the relative pronoun along the first part of the poem gives a unique relevance to the mutilated buck. We get the feeling after so much crude, real description. The first part of the poem focuses in the past life of the old buck. It is a continuing naming of actions. There is a well-achieved contrast between these actions and the rigidness in death. In the second part there are words such as “moonscape”, “ground” and “earthly” with a common connotation. The first part of the poem talks about the deer as a whole. The second part is like a division of the same animal into many parts. We find a contrast of dimension with the “tiny ants”, “making its way”. The visual image that description gives to the reader is very powerful. These ants make the deer another deer. They highlight the change of biological status of the buck. There is a transformation. The last three lines of the poem are very powerful in meaning. This is thanks to their shortness. It is like an abstract of the whole poem: The personal pronoun “they” appears here for the only time in the poem.
Just as we learn from the buck, death is a part of life, without death, there would be no life; it is inevitable. In one´s journey through life, one will encounter hardships along the way; although these may impede our progress, we always move forward.