‘Another Reluctance‘ is filled with wonderful examples of imagery that make the piece a pleasure to read. No matter if readers find a deeper meaning in the subtext of the poem or not, the piece has something for everyone. Finch’s language is quite clear and direct, making it insuring that her speaker demonstrates clarity of mind.
Explore Another Reluctance
‘Another Reluctance’ by Annie Finch is a thoughtful poem about an experience with chestnuts during a speaker’s youth.
The first lines describe the chestnuts falling and sitting among the golden leaves on a fall day. This is something the speaker has been waiting a long time for, but, as it turns out, it’s still impossible to get to them. The “cases” won’t open, and the speaker and other children find themselves disappointed. They try and stay and wait, and eventually, the speaker is the only one there when everyone else has gone home. They’re reluctant to leave, holding out hope that something is going to change despite the fact that the fall is over and winter is setting in.
You can read the full poem here.
Chestnuts fell in the charred season,
Fell finally, finding room
In the dusk now, where they dropped down.
In the first stanza of ‘Another Reluctance,’ the speaker begins by describing how chestnuts fell, and they were drawn to them. The poet uses clear and interesting language to depict the “cases” and the way the nuts gleamed out of the “gold leaves.” Readers can infer that the “gold” color is due to the changing fall season. Plus, the use of the word “finally” in this stanza implies that the speaker has been waiting a while for the chestnuts to fall.
I go watch them, waiting for winter,
And cling clean to the clear brown,
Since the reader is already aware that the speaker has been waiting a while for the chestnuts to fall, it’s unsurprising that they went to “watch them, waiting for winter.” It’s then, they say, that they’re going to “open.” For now, though, they are “holding on.” The cases are “rigid” and “hard.” This suggests that there is no way to penetrate them and break them open. Words like “rusted” and “husks” help readers clearly envision the color and texture of the nuts.
And the fall sun sinks soon,
and I am here and do not go home.
In the third stanza, which is also the final quintain of the poem, the speaker adds that the “fall sun sinks soon.” This suggests, in addition to the use of words like “dark” and “grey,” that the season is ending. The light may have gone out of the year, but the speaker is still there, “lingering, light gone.” It’s likely this act inspired the title ‘Another Reluctance.’ They seem to be reluctant to walk away from the chestnuts and go home.
Hollow gifts to cold children:
Their grain gone, and the children are home.
The chestnuts seemed like a gift, the speaker implies, but they are a “Hollow” one. They fall but are too hard to get out of their cases. Their “gleam” (note this is the second time the poet has used this word) is gone. This suggests that when the gift became too impossible to take, it became less interesting and “hollow.” The children realized there is nothing for them there and went home. But, the speaker, who may have been a child when all this happened, doesn’t walk away. They’re reluctant to give up.
Readers may find themselves considering what deeper reasons there were behind the poet’s choice to write this poem. What else could the chestnuts symbolize? A search for love? The desire to succeed? It’s going to be up to each reader to determine whether they think there is a deeper meaning at work.
Structure and Form
‘Another Reluctance’ by Annie Finch is a four stanza poem that is divided into two sets of five lines, known as quintains, and two quatrains, or a set of four lines. These alternate with the first stanza containing five lines. The lines do not follow a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. But, they are fairly similar in length. Readers may find several examples of half-rhyme in these lines as well. For example, “now” and “down” in the last line of stanza one.
Finch makes use of several literary devices in ‘Another Reluctance.’ These include but are not limited to:
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “dusk” and “dropped down” in stanza one and “husks” and “holding” in stanza two.
- Enjambment: This can be seen when the writer cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines two and three of the first stanza as well as lines four and five of the second stanza.
- Caesura: occurs when the poet inserts a pause in the middle of a line. For example, “In the dusk now, where they dropped down” and “no longer lingering, light gone.” This can occur when there is a natural break in the meter or when the poet uses an example of punctuation.
- Imagery: occurs when a poet uses especially vibrant descriptions. For example, “Those rusted rims are rigid=hard / And cling clean to the clear brown” and “up the gray walk, / no longer lingering, light gone.”
It’s likely that the speaker is someone looking back on a period from their youth. This is seen through the references to children at the end of the poem and the fact that they’re described as going home, and the speaker doesn’t.
The meaning is that sometimes, no matter how long one waits for something or wishes for something, it isn’t going to come true or happen. The speaker was reluctant to acknowledge this fact.
Annie Finch likely wrote this poem in order to explore a series of images and emotions. These could relate back to her own youth or the childhood of someone she knew.
The tone is nostalgic and clear. The speaker is looking back, without struggling to recollect, the events of the past. Some readers may find the tone more sorrowful than nostalgic.
The themes are childhood and change. Finch also explores what it feels like when one can’t stop something from changing or achieve something they desperately want.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Another Reluctance’ should also consider reading some related poems. For example:
- ‘Like Dolmens Round My Childhood, the Old People’ by John Montague – depicts the lives and deaths of older people the speaker knew well.
- ‘We Remember Your Childhood Well‘ by Carol Ann Duffy – is told from the perspective of a parent or possibly two parents talking to the reader who is ostensibly their child.
- ‘Reminiscence’ by Elizabeth Jennings – is about experiencing love in childhood and adulthood.