Leslie Ann Minot: On "Gauley Bridge"

The motion of the sequence is what moves "Gauley Bridge" forward, through shifting points of view, refusing to validate any particular point of view over the others:

Glass, wood, and naked eye: the movie-house . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Whistling, the train comes from a long way away,

slow, and the Negro watches it grow in the grey air, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Eyes of the tourist house, red-and-white filling station,

the eyes of the Negro, looking down the track,

hotel-man and hotel, cafeteria, camera.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . always one's harsh night eyes over the beerglass

follow the waitress and the yellow apron. (OS 14)

Even the camera is not the ultimate point of view, the source of all seeing, since it too is seen. These images are repeatedly structured like a cinema cut—we see eyes, then see what those eyes see. The reader is given the task of drawing these varying points of view together, of synthesizing them and also of recognizing the differences these different lines of vision represent, of which race and gender are only the most obvious. The act of looking, in itself, does not necessarily overcome separation—the people in the poem watch one another, without necessarily interacting. The poem, however, may be the "bridge" of its title, the place where these different viewpoints, these different ways of seeing, can be brought together, although it does not automatically follow that they will be. The camera, similarly, can be said to be located at a metaphorical "crossing" of points of view, as it is located at a physical "crossing" in the town. The reader, too, is called upon to occupy the place of that bridge and that crossing, since the reader's consciousness is crossed by these different lines of vision.

Details

Criticism Overview
Title Leslie Ann Minot: On "Gauley Bridge" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Anne F. Herzog, Janet E. Kaufman Criticism Target Muriel Rukeyser
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 22 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication ""How Shall We Tell Each Other of the Poet?": The Life and Writing of Muriel Rukeyser"
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