Counting Occurrences, Armantrout's "Exact"

Rae Armantrout's poem "Exact" begins with a specific call to the reader: "Quick, before you die, / describe // the exact shade / of this hotel carpet." In these opening lines, the intrigue Armantrout creates through immediacy and the mention of death propels the reader through the poem, albeit with a warning of irony given by the focus on carpet. In addition, the form–line breaks and line length specifically–work perfectly with this tone; form matching tone, a degree more focused than just content, is an advantage and aid missing in many poems, mine included, that when carefully observed moves the poem a step closer to creating the desired impact: what Emily Dickinson described as feeling as if the top of her head "were taken off" after reading.

Here is the poem in full, though with slightly changed formatting because of Blogger so I encourage you to click HERE for the poem on I was mostly interested in how this poem pulls the reader through it based on some of what is mentioned above, but there are many things that could be said about this poem. Maybe I will extend this post later, but until then, let's do the important thing and enjoy a poem.


Quick, before you die,

the exact shade
of this hotel carpet.

What is the meaning
of the irregular, yellow

spheres, some

gathered in patches
on this bedspread?

If you love me,

the objects
I have caused

to represent me
in my absence.


Over and over

of houses spill

down that hillside.

might be possible
to count occurrences.

image source


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