A.E. Stallings
Alicia Elsbeth Stallings was born on July 2, 1968 in Decatur, Georgia. Stallings is an American poet and translator. She studied Classics at the University of Georgia and studied Latin Literature at the University of Oxford. Stallings is now an editor with Atlanta Review; she and her husband moved to Athens, Greece in 1999 where she is the Poetry Program Director of the Athens Centre and her husband is the editor of the Athens News. She has published three books of poetry, Archaic Smile (1999), which won the Richard Wilbur award; Hapax (2000); and Olives (2012). She is a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.
The Mistake

1 The mistake was light and easy in my hand,
2 A seed meant to be borne upon the wind.
3 I did not have to bury it or throw,
4 Just open up my hand and let it go.

5 The mistake was dry and small and without weight,
6 A breeze quickly snatched it from my sight,
7 And even had I wanted to prevent,
8 Nobody could tell me where it went.

9 I did not think on the mistake again,
10 Until the spring came, soft, and full of rain,
11 And in the yard such dandelions grew
12 That bloomed and closed, and opened up, and blew

This poem starts off with a metaphor in line 1, “The mistake was light and easy in my hand”, there is two ways one can look at this first line, one being a metaphor and the other is looking at it in a literal sense. By Stallings using this metaphor for the first line made the poem more meaningful for me, personally. It makes the poem deeper if it is looked at as a metaphor instead of literal. A wrong was made, casually and without thought. Later, as the consequences grew, regret set in. There is a pattern with the first two lines and last two lines of each stanza; the last two or three letters of the last word in the first two lines and last two lines of each stanza have the same endings, which makes it rhyme. The rhyming gives the poem more of a classic poem sound. She is specific about the diction, instead of referring to “it”, although she does indeed refer to “the mistake” as “it” often, she is very specific when she talks about the “wrong doing”. The tone is nonchalant until line 10 where she says “Until the spring came, soft, and full of rain”, up until this point, the character in the poem does not think twice about what he or she has done, they live life as if nothing happened at all with no regret. When she mentions rain, that automatically makes me think of sadness and regret, and that is when the poem’s tone shifts from nonchalant to remorseful.


The School of Dreams

1 It is an afternoon
2 With chalk dust in the light.
3 The dusk is coming soon
4 And the answer is not right.

5 The answer is not right
6 And the bell is going to ring,
7 And red ink, like a blight,
8 Has tainted everything:

9 The leaves upon the trees,
10 The leaves that fall and rest,
11 The light, that by degrees,
12 Is failing in the west,

13 Everything will burn
14 With a shade of shame,
15 Because it is your turn,
16 Because you hear your name,

17 And cannot solve for y.
18 Minutes go to waste,
19 The slate blank as a sky,
20 Imperfectly erased.

21 The bell is going to chime.
22 There's nothing you can do
23 But to flip a dime
24 Between false and true.

25 The problem still remains
26 It isn't what you think.
27 Failure's in your veins,
28 Red as any ink.
“The School of Dreams” has a really intimidating vibe to it. It is also really ironic because of the title and what the poem actually says. From the title, it seems like this is a school everybody wants to be at, but once you start reading, you will shortly find out that this is actually an intimidating place to be. “The answer is not right; Red ink has tainted everything, everything will burn with a shade of shame.” The tone of this poem is matter of fact, basically it is inevitable that whoever A.E. Stallings is talking about is going to fail, and that they should accept the fact. The theme is inevitable failure in every aspect of this “School of Dreams”. “The slate blank as a sky, imperfectly erased” Stallings is super specific here with her diction, by saying the slate is “imperfectly erased” is setting an image of every average white board in a classroom, which makes the poem that much more relatable. A classroom in general has always been really intimidating to me and it has always been a fear of mine that my work is not good enough, or is not as good as everyone else’s in the room. I have never been confident in my school work, and the character in the poem does not seem to be confident in their school work either, and that is probably why I enjoy this poem by A.E. Stallings so much.





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How the Demons Were Assimilated & Became Productive Citizens

1 The demons were more beautiful than the angels.
2 They had no qualms about plastic surgery.
3 They took to wearing black: didn't show dirt
4 In the city like Innocence, which anyway
5 Couldn't be worn between Labor Day and Easter.
6 They tired of grudging angels their gilded hair
7 & had theirs done. Their complexions were so pale
8 The blond looked natural, only more so.
9 They shrunk their wings into fashionable tattoos
10 So cashmere suits draped better from their shoulders.
11 Elocution lessons turned hisses to lisps.

12 The demons converted. They became Episcopalian,
13 Name-dropped high-ups in the Company of Heaven.
14 As for Evil, it became too much trouble:
15 The demons started to shirk the menial jobs
16 Which like good deeds, took one among the poor,
17 And bruised the manicure of rose-petal nails.
18 They preferred to stand by & watch Evil happen,
19 Or offended by odors & noise, even turned away.

20 They had become so beautiful, even the angels
21 (Who never looked in mirrors to comb their hair,
22 Afraid to be called vain, & never bought clothes
23 Since the old ones didn't wear out, just got shabby)
24 Left the lovely demons to languish, dropping all charges
25 On the spoiled creatures. They were that good.

This poem by A.E. Stallings has a lot to it. I got a couple different themes each time I read the poem. The first theme I got from the poem is the definition of superficiality, which means, existing or occurring on the surface. Basically taking advantage of status. All Stallings is describing is how these demons fit in, in the world, what they wear, how they look, what they can and cannot wear. She also talks about the angels and what they are afraid of and why they do or do not do something because of who they are. The second time I read this poem it made me think that the demons A.E. Stallings is describing are actually us, as sinners. As a Christian, I believe that we are all born sinners, and in line 12 “The demons converted. They became Episcopalian” symbolizes when that sinner decided to be saved. The tone of this poem, after the first time I read it, I thought it was dark/negative. Not only because the title has the word demon in it, or that Stallings talks about the demons often, it’s dark because all it is about is the surface of their lives. It did not seem like she was talking about the deep things that matter about a person, just the things they wear and the jobs they have and how others portray them. The tone from the second theme is relieving in a way. The demons or sinners are in this world trying to figure everything out, and the closer they get to being saved, the better and more positive the poem gets.

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The Tantrum
1 Struck with grief you were, though only four,
2 The day your mother cut her mermaid hair
3 And stood, a stranger, smiling at the door.

4 They frowned, tsk-tsked your willful, cruel despair,
5 When you slunk beneath the long piano strings
6 And sobbed until your lungs hiccupped for air,

7 Unbribable with curses, cake, playthings.
8 You mourned a mother now herself no more,
9 But brave and fashionable. The golden rings

10 That fringed her naked neck, whom were they for?
11 Not you, but for the world, now in your place,
12 A full eclipse. You wept down on the floor;

13 She wept up in her room. They told you this:
14 That she could grow it back, and just as long,
15 They told you, lying always about loss,

16 For you know she never did. And they were wrong.

‘The Tantrum’ by A.E. Stallings is not just one tantrum that a girl is having, it is a life time of anger. Stallings compares “cutting her mermaid hair” to death. I think that the mom actually died. In line 8 it says “you mourned a mother now herself no more”, which to me means that she is gone. She also says things about her dressing up and putting on jewelry but not for her daughter, for the rest of the world, which may symbolize a funeral. Going back to line 5 where it says “when you slunk beneath the long piano strings” which also makes me think of a funeral. “They” are referring to her family and friends. “They told you this: that she could grow it back, and just as long, they told you, lying always about loss, for you know she never did. And they were wrong” lines 13-16, basically everyone around her told her that it was going to get better, life was going to go on and get easier with time, that her heart would eventually heal. Stallings uses words like “tsk task, sobbed, weeping, despair” to get the sad, depressed tone across.