Thoughts on “Swept Up Whole”

Out of all the poems we have read in class “Swept Up Whole” by Kay Ryan confuses me the most. Not because of the words that are used, I actually find the poem to be quite beautiful when you read into it, but because of how short it is. It is literally five lines, eighteen words, and five very short sentences, yet it is still considered a poem. This confuses me greatly because it makes me wonder what a poem isn’t. To me a poem is something that has at least two stanzas set in a definite form, like haiku’s or a prose poem. This poem doesn’t have that. It feels like a few sentences were just written, chopped up into lines, and called a poem. Don’t get me wrong, I love the message of unity and relief that this ‘poem’ is showing, I just wish that it was expanded or given a different structure.  Heck if I just rewrite it like this:

You aren’t

swept up whole,

however it

feels. You’re

atomized. The wind

passes. You

recongeal. It’s a


Then I consider it a poem. I just really don’t like the form that Kay Ryan used for this piece and I can’t understand why he would choose this form instead of using the form he used in his other pieces like “Mirage Oases” or “The Pass.” Anybody else find this annoying or confusing?

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2 Responses to Thoughts on “Swept Up Whole”

  1. Kristen Woodside says:

    When I read this, even though I saw it was short from the beginning, it was sort of disappointing when it ended. It’s such a beautiful poem and has so much to say, but it feels like it ends really abruptly. It felt like there should have been more. In terms of the structure, I noticed that there is a rhyme scheme, except in the lines, “You aren’t swept up whole” and “The wind passes.” I think it’s especially interesting with “the wind passes” because it almost interrupts the whole poem. A more basic rhyme scheme could have been:

    “however it feels. You’re
    You recongeal. It’s
    a surprise.”

    But after atomized, she writes, “the wind passes” and its like an interruption. It also puts emphasis on the word “atomized.” Most of the poem sounds like basic advice to someone, but that word was a really interesting choice. So I actually found the structure really intriguing, but I do feel like its shortness was sort of upsetting.

  2. Madeline Cahill says:

    Hey Sara,
    I think I understand why Kay Ryan kept “Swept Up Whole” into one small stanza. Maybe it is because experiencing a sudden gust of wind passes so quickly that we have little time to react, to appreciate it’s power. For a short-lived moment, Ryan created a short poem. Or, maybe it was to emphasize how the wind can make you feel so SMALL in comparison to it’s power and mystery.
    It is almost as if it coincides with how Ryan says “You’re atomized.”, not taken as a whole being, but as the wind passes through you, it breaks you down into little teeny tiny atoms in one instant, and then back to normal the next.
    Haha, these are all maybes of course, and maybe it is just simply, that was all Kay Ryan needed to say.

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