every single day by John Straley

every single day by John Straley uses Raymond Carver’s Hummingbird as a base to explore love and memory. Straley suggests that certain images or ideas can trigger memories, using this to remind his lover of the times they have had together. Straley is pointing out the strange mechanism of memory that connects certain phrases with whole events and times of the year. Within this poem, those words are ‘springtime’ and ‘king salmon’, while in Carver’s Hummingbird, the word is ‘hummingbird’.

 every single day by John Straley

 

Summary

every single day by John Straley begins with Straley wondering if when his lover reads the words ‘king salmon’ written down on paper they would then think about ‘that afternoon’ they spent together. He suggests that one phrase can draw a connection with a series of events, drawing his lover back into a memory of them together. Yet, the second stanza reveals that he also wonders if ‘king salmon’ would instead remind the lover of a time when she ‘were a little girl’ fishing with her father. The final stanza draws away from the discussion of memory, instead affirming in less abstract language that he wants his lover to know how he feels about her. Hopefully, ‘king salmon’ can come to represent ‘how I feel about you every,/single day.’

You can read the full poem here.

 

Structure

every single day by John Straley is written across three stanzas, measuring 9,7,9 lines in order. There is no rhyme scheme within the poem, with Straley not conforming to traditional forms of poetry. The first two stanzas are framed as questions, with the final line of each finishing with a question mark. In doing this, the tone of Straley’s poem becomes inquisitive, the poet pondering the response that his lover will have to his message. The third stanza moves away from this inquisitive tone, the lack of a question making the stanza seem firm in contrast to the uncertainty of the first two. The fact the first and last stanza both measure 9 lines, while the middle only measures 7, could be because the first and third are reflecting Straley’s own memories and emotions, whereas the middle stanza only focuses on his lover’s and her father’s memories – something he is obviously less familiar with, not being his own.

 

Poetic Techniques

One technique that Straley uses when writing every single day is enjambment, with most of the lines of the poem flowing on to the next quickly. In doing this, Straley employs a sense of time passing, the poet moving through different possibilities of his letter’s reception. The movement of throughout is reflected through this enjambment, the flowing lines containing a sense of the poet’s own vacillating mind. The lack of enjambment within the second stanza reflects how the poet is unfamiliar with the memory, and therefore unable to quickly flit across the idea.

Another technique that Straley uses within every single day is the direct address. By writing the poem in terms of ‘you’ and ‘I’, talking directly to his lover, Straley is creating a connection with her, drawing them both together with his use of pronoun. Indeed, the poet eventually moves into using the ‘we’ pronoun, signaling that the couple was emotionally and physically in his memory. Straley’s use of pronoun also gives the poem an incredibly personal atmosphere, the poet revealing his inner thoughts through the frame of ‘I’.

 

every single day Analysis

Stanza One

Suppose I said the word “springtime”

(…)

and we caught our first fish of the year?

The poem begins with Straley constructing a possible narrative, ‘Suppose’ he sent his lover a letter with ‘the words “king salmon”’ written on them, how would she react. This is a love poem, but it is very untypical in nature.

The first two lines reflect Raymond Carver’s Hummingbird almost exactly, the only difference being in the conjugation of ‘To say’, ‘king salmon’ instead of ‘hummingbird’, and the season of ‘springtime’ instead of ’summer’. Straley includes more personal pronouns than Carver does, insinuating his personal attachment to this concept, hoping that his love is communicated effectively through this strange mechanism.

The first three lines are enjambed, flowing naturally on to the fourth in which the first act of the poem is completed – sending the letter. The use of enjambment within these lines can be understood as mirroring the process of the letter, moving from one place to another as the lines flow together.

Across the second half of the stanza, Straley begins to use the plural pronoun ‘we’ in his conjugations of verbs: ‘we spent’, ‘our first first’ ‘we caught’. The change from ‘you’ and ‘I’ into the communal ‘we’ allows Straley to suggest that the couple has come together in understanding. Within his memory, the one that he hopes his lover will share in remembering, Straley creates an image of the couple happily fishing together.

By basing this memory through the depiction of engaging with nature, Straley draws upon the beauty of natural semantics. The ‘yellow boat’ they sit upon seems tiny compared to the insinuated presence of the ocean, with the huge ‘whales’ ‘feeding’ while they watch and catch ’our first first’ being a moment which reminds the reader how small they are compared to the enormity of the world. This humbling memory is one they both share, an act committed together that bonds the couple – something Straley is hoping his lover will remember in the same light.

 

Stanza Two

Or would you remember that time off Cape Flattery

(…)

before setting the hook?

Yet, there is another memory that could come to his lovers’ mind when she reads his note. Straley fears she may remember ‘that time off Cape Flattery/when you were a little girl’, instead making a mental connection to ‘your father smoking, telling stories’. The use of caesura within this line could represent the lack of fluidity in Straley’s recounting of this memory, reflecting the fact that this is not his own memory to draw upon. Yet, even in knowing a possible mental trigger of his lover, he suggests that he knows her completely – both on a physical and mental level, understanding what she will think in response to certain words.

While the couple has a ‘first fish of the year’, Straley worries that she will instead remember ‘that very first fish’ of her life, his writing connecting her to memories before his time. The questioning tone of these first two stanzas are set at odds, Straley worrying his writing will not be interpreted correctly.

 

Stanza Three

I know I am hard to understand sometimes

(…)

single day.

Straley faces his nervousness, the blunt ‘I know I am hard to understand sometimes’ rallying against the questioning tone of the first two stanzas. He acknowledges that this is not a typical way to show love, but hopes she can see the odd joy while ‘standing at the post office with only a piece of paper/ saying “king salmon” on it.’ Straley has an incredibly strange way of showing his love, using the words as a ‘promissory note’.

The final lines of the poem depict his emotions in clearer terms, explaining that for him this memory represents ‘that electric tug’, the mental connection he has with his lover being something ‘thrill[ing]’ to him. He hopes that she will understand his message, and know that it is a representation of ‘how I feel about you every,/single day’. The use of end stop before the final two words of the poem place further emphasis on his message, this being incredibly clear in contrast to his ‘king salmon’ expression. The final two words of the poem echo the title, the grammatically isolated line showing how much love Straley has for his partner. He may find it difficult to express, but he loves her deeply and hopes she understands that.

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