John Clare Notes: I Am

Detailed notes (although incomplete) of John Clare's poem, I Am

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  • Created on: 17-05-12 14:17
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I Am ­ John Clare
Autobiographical. Clare explores what is left of an identity if no one cares
about it.
No dialect words lost sense of his native home/love of his home/nature.
Feels/shows the abandonment by homeland and family in the asylum.
"I am ­ yet what I am, none cares or knows" Plainly states, "I am", the caesura
highlighting this and asserting it and breaking up the certainty of his identity
and the uncertainty. "What" I am, rather than who, makes him become an
object ­ impersonal or even animalistic. Backs up this idea of isolation and
social restriction yet also changing the tone of the poem by seeing himself
from the point of view of others. Making the poem and himself become an
object of impersonal analysis. In, "None cares or knows" the care comes
before knows, showing how little he is valued or cares to know. The use of
`none' also creates the sense of Clare's ambiguity with himself even he does
not know who he is (or care)?
The harsh fricatives, "friends forsake" suggests agony and underlying anger
creates a spitting harshness.
"memory lost" almost creates a oxymoron how can a memory be lost?
Adding to his confused state and grappling for a sense of identity this contrast
continues "nothingness" vs "living sea", "waking dreams". However, this
"memory lost" could link with "waking dreams" Clare could represent a dream
to his friends that as they wake up from they forget, "like vapours tossed" ­
omnipresent and a vague sense of a thought.
Uses caesura's throughout to emphasize his thoughts and also contradict
them. "And yet I am, and live ­ like vapours tossed" ­ reduplication of the I am
versus the ambiguity of his identity. "And yet I am" creates anger and
frustration And yet I am still here/exist/etc. "Are strange ­ nay, rather stranger
than the rest", again contradicting himself. However, the sentence after the
caesura is longer this time, creating a sense not of anger but more like an
afterthought in it's self "nay, rather". Transitioning into the third stanza which
has a more hopeful tone more softly.
Sea imagery "rise and vanish", "vapours tossed", "living sea of waking
dreams", "vast shipwreck"
"where man hath never trod, a place where woman never smiled or wept" ­
man = action. Women = emotion. Conventional gender roles of the time.
"I am" links with religion ­ "I am that I am" difficulty in understanding who
God really is and his identity, same goes for Clare.
Vaulted sky ­ world like a church


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