Essay

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Experiencing “for the first time” a sense of dislocation, the speaker of Adam Getty’s “Yellow Grass” promises a new understanding of his place in the world. And he delivers on this promise by envisioning another person and admiring the dynamism of that person’s imagination. Sustaining his initial “wonder” in the surrounding countryside by wondering who might know it intimately, the speaker conjures a person so familiar with the field that he has “named each one of these blades” and identified every “kink” in the grass…

Experiencing “for the first time” a sense of dislocation, the speaker of Adam Getty’s “Yellow Grass” promises a new understanding of his place in the world. And he delivers on this promise by envisioning another person and admiring the dynamism of that person’s imagination. Sustaining his initial “wonder” in the surrounding countryside by wondering who might know it intimately, the speaker conjures a person so familiar with the field that he has “named each one of these blades” and identified every “kink” in the grass…


Experiencing “for the first time” a sense of dislocation, the speaker of Adam Getty’s “Yellow Grass” promises a new understanding of his place in the world. And he delivers on this promise by envisioning another person and admiring the dynamism of that person’s imagination. Sustaining his initial “wonder” in the surrounding countryside by wondering who might know it intimately, the speaker conjures a person so familiar with the field that he has “named each one of these blades” and identified every “kink” in the grass.
For Getty, the task of accounting for the natural world is a visionary one. If he does not present an expansive catalogue of the “bendings” and “yellows” of “each blade” known by “this person,” Getty takes as his implicit subject the human desire to catalogue these qualities, praising poetic conversation with the landscape over rational, materialistic surveillance. Thus, he sets about comparing the “agronomists” and this “old, rural” figure. One might expect an agronomist to be involved in sorting “blades” and calculating “bendings.” Here, however, the agronomists first convey a general, tragic materialism, finding “disease” in the fields as a whole. “This person,” meanwhile, has not only performed the task of “naming” all of the blades of grass, he has become so conversant with them that he stands assured they “never told him they felt sick.” Getty uses both personification and hyperbole to recall the type of sickness which attacks us without our knowledge, perhaps supporting the agronomists’ diagnosis of disease. Simultaneously, he prizes both the person’s attempt to confirm the spirit and health of the landscape and the mutual sympathy of the man and his yellow grass.
Interestingly, Getty confirms the visionary powers of this person by seeming to deny those powers. The agronomists respond to the opinion that their diagnosis is “wrong” by discounting this person’s ability to catalogue the attributes of the individual grasses comprehensively and, more importantly, by discounting what he “feels.” And, oddly, it appears as if this person might just discount his own feeling and experience. “Tilting his head,” he moves to “pass off” what are now not prairie grasses or bits of scrub but, as agronomists would view them, “grains of wheat.” But Getty makes the sympathy between the person and the landscape too strong for this denial to function as any real tragedy. He has already stood in fields responsive “to his hand.” And this last bending resembles the early “swayings” of the grasses themselves. Getty presents not the tragic denial of the biblical Peter at the crowing of the cock, then, but the attempt of a person to reconcile himself for a while with the gripes of the complacent, or, more likely, his own “tilting” admission of the predominance of imagination in his assessment of the field. The speaker of the poem, after all, desires what is represented by the “old” and “rural” here, a visionary experience of and intimacy with the landscape. And, by proxy, he proves himself already capable of this kind of vision.

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