‘The Opposite of Nostalgia’ by Eric Gamalinda explores escapism, and a desire for something new, different, and exciting. It balances themes of memory and nostalgia with the idea of establishing oneself in a completely new place. The strange mix of past and present punctuating the poem with a deep melancholy.
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Summary of The Opposite of Nostalgia
‘The Opposite of Nostalgia’ by Eric Gamalinda tells the story of a man who escapes from his home country, running away to establish himself in a foreign place. Although it takes time, with things being overwhelming and different, the man settles in to his new life, allowing himself to forget his past in order to be happy with his present. Although we do not know why he left, we know that he leaves friends and family in search of this new life. The end of the poem is inconclusive, we never really know if he finds happiness in this new life.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure of The Opposite of Nostalgia
‘The Opposite of Nostalgia’ is split by Gamalinda into 8 stanzas. Each stanza measures 4 lines, with no rhyme scheme. There are lots of moments in which Gamalinda uses enjambment within the poem, ensuring that there is a flowing meter as the poem progresses.
The Opposite of Nostalgia by Eric Gamalinda Analysis
You are running away from everyone(…)from old lovers, from friends.
The first stanza establishes the narrative of the poem, someone is ‘running away’ from their past life, leaving behind ‘your family… old lovers… friends’ on their way into something different. The enjambment on the first line connecting ‘running away from everyone’ and ‘who loves you’ emphasizes the physicality of running away, the line literally running on from one to another to insinuate the movement indicated. The use of an end stop after ‘who loves you’ then further emphasizes the line, both through the sudden change in punctuation and metrical halt. Gamalinda is focusing the reader’s attention on what the person running away is leaving behind. We don’t know why they leave, but we know what and who they leave.
The triple repetition of ‘from’ illustrates these people, ‘friends’, ‘lovers’, ‘family’ all being left behind as the character runs away. How compact these three lines are following the first suggest the relative unimportance of the past to the character escaping. They believe all these people are in the past, no longer important, and therefore are contained to short lines with heavy repetition.
They run after you with accumulations(…)of many lost revolutions.
This stanza of ‘The Opposite of Nostalgia’ details those people trying to chase the runner down, bringing up motifs of their former life in order to try and make them stay. ‘They run after you’, the notion of movement illustrated similarly to the first stanza through the enjambment used on this opening line. Small images flash before the person running away, memories of their former life in ‘copper earrings, plates of noodles, banners’, all things that resonate and remind them of the past. The idea of a ‘lost revolution’ is interesting, perhaps the person running away couldn’t change their life dramatically enough in the place they were, having lost the ‘revolution’, so they decided to escape completely, never to be seen again.
Stanzas Three and Four
You love to say the trees are naked nowbecause it never happens(…)lies silent and starkand waiting. You love October most
These stanzas take place after the person has disappeared. They are in their new life, examining the area and making comments about the scenery. Gamalinda insinuates that they have moved country, the reference to ‘your country’ suggesting that they are in a different place to the person who ran away from their home. There is a distinct difference in this new country, the ‘trees are naked’, the idea of autumn a strange concept to a person who has never seen trees without leaves. A further indication that they are in a foreign land with a different geography.
The double repetition of ‘naked’ could suggest a level of innocence or vulnerability. The escaped person is in a strange place, clearly not knowing the customs of the land or how things work. The ‘silent and stark’ landscape is foreign and confusing for them. There is no trace of home, even the trees being different in this new country. These stanzas focus on the early stages of running away, things still seeming new and exciting.
Stanzas Five and Six
of all, how there is no wordfor so much splendor.(…)There is a realm in which—no, forget it,
The enjambment from stanza four to five is representative of time passing. The month has moved to ‘October’, swiftly flowing from one stanza to another, not stopped by punctuation.
Moments of ‘consolation’ are discovered, things that remind the escaped person why they left in the first place. The ‘splendour’ of the new land excites the escaped person, they are happy they have arrived somewhere so beautiful, so different from what they once knew.
The same technique of enjambment is used between the fifth and the sixth stanzas, yet instead of time passing, this continual shift in stanza represents the idea of ‘memory’. New memories are being built and consolidated each day in this new land, ‘everything is water’, the path of memory supple and smooth as more are made.
Although flashes of the past arrises, ‘names of the dead, or saints, or history’, the escaped person is quick to shut them down, not wanting to remember the past. The sudden break in the line ‘ — no, forget it,’, having a hyphen and multiple caesuras completely disrupt the rhythm of the piece, the beautiful escape of memory corrupted. The escaped person must be vigilant to stay in the present, not going back to what they have left, not even in memory.
Stanzas Seven and Eight
it’s still too early to make anyone understand.A man drives a stake(…)and again he has learnedto let go.
The escaped person is here revealed as a ‘man’. Time has passed, the man becoming used to the area he is now living in, things not seeming so strange and foreign. The poem’s title, ‘The opposite of Nostalgia’, is here revealed as important. Gamalinda is trying to define the feeling, nostalgia for land or a time you have never been in. In this poem, it is defined as escapism, the man who ran away desiring something more for himself and moving blindly to a new place to find that thing, ‘the opposite of nostalgia’.
There is a certain pain with this feeling, leaving everything you once knew to find something that you are not sure even exists. This emotional pain is made physical, ‘a man drives a stake through his own heart’, representing the severing of connections to his past life.
Once he has done this, he is able to live normally in this new country, menial tasks become the reality of his life, raking the leaves’. He is happy in this new place, but of course, holds a slight nostalgia for the past. In the final moments of ‘The Opposite of Nostalgia’ it is this he turns away from. The man finally decides ‘to let go’, allowing the past to drift away from him completely.