‘Meeting Point’ by Louis MacNiece is an eight-stanza poem that uses structure, rhyme, and metaphor to reveal the life cycle of a relationship. Within the poem, “two people” went from happy to distant, and one half of that pair found the strength to break free from the ties of that relationship after it fell to pieces. This poem, then, is a representation of inner strength and ability—of awareness and choices—that is ingeniously crafted to make the reader experience the changing of the relationship in the greatest detail. The full poem, ‘Meeting Point’, can be found here.
Meeting Point Analysis
First and Second Stanza
Time was away and somewhere else,There were two glasses and two chairs(…)Although they sat in a coffee shopAnd they were neither up nor down.
The imagery within these first two stanzas of ‘Meeting Point’ works to create a surreal experience that the “two people” were caught up in. This concept comes to be with the matched wording at the beginnings and endings of stanzas. Like the lines of the stanzas are caught in the repeated boundary lines, this pair of individuals were caught up in their own world. This circular format reveals that their connection was ongoing, and that what was contained within their realm of being was all that mattered since everything else was out of their loop of concern. As stanza one specifically says, “[t]ime was away and somewhere else,” which indicates that “[t]ime” was of no concern to them since it did not affect their loop.
The rhyme pattern also mimics this aspect in that it falls under the ABCBA format, as if this pair of individuals were a mirror reflection of one another (thus the reversal of the “AB” to “BA”) with a solid connection between them that is represented in the “C” line. They were sitting on opposite ends of a table with “two chairs” “in a coffee shop,” facing each other like the switch from “AB” to “BA,” and their connection brought them together like the “C” line that holds the stanza together between the “AB” reversal. That connection is also represented in the “one pulse” idea, which indicates that they were so close and connected that they were a part of one another.
The notion that “they were neither up nor down” can be taken as another hint that the factors surrounding them did not matter since it could indicate that it did not matter if they were sitting upright or if the world was altered around them. Beyond that detail though, this statement is a hint that this relationship, as connected as the “two people” were, might not have been something that was enduring. Essentially, “up nor down” could be a replacement for “right nor wrong,” which would again solidify the notion that what was outside of their loop did not matter—not even their own future. Only their present moment existed within their realm of concerns. The world, however, “did not stop,” much like the “music” continued, and reality would eventually settle up on them.
Third and Fourth Stanza
The bell was silent in the airHolding its inverted poise—(…)To portion out the stars and dates:The camels crossed the miles of sand.
These stanzas of ‘Meeting Point’ steps away from the happiness that is noted in the first two stanzas where this “date” between the “two people” is concerned. Whereas the previous lines indicate that the “two” were enjoying one another’s company, the newest information shows a great distance between them that is represented through the statement that “camels crossed miles of sand [t]hat stretched around the cups and plates.” What this infers is that the two were so divided at this point, whether from an argument or a lessened level of connection, that there might as well have been a “desert” between them at their table. Likewise, “[t]he bell was silent in the air,” which could reflect an awkward quiet between them or provide the notion that a happy play of “music” from romance had faded.
Still, the two were in this situation together. This is revealed through the continued prospect of repeated lines at the beginnings and endings of stanzas as well as the notion that the “flower” was “[a] brazen calyx of no noise.” Since a “calyx” is part of the “flower” that encloses the bud, this word choice once more mirrors togetherness.
At this point, as well, the “stars and dates” did not seem as enchanting since they were “portion[ed] out,” like they needed to be forced or penciled in like a chore. Still, the couple “planned” and continued on.
Fifth and Sixth Stanza
Time was away and somewhere else.The waiter did not come, the clock(…)When they had forests such as these,Her fingers flicked away the ash.
The disconnect between the pair continues in these two stanzas with language and circumstance that once more indicates that the “two people” were no longer enjoying one another’s company as much as they previously had. This contrast is of particular interest in the fifth stanza where the narrator returns to the statement of “Time was away and somewhere else” that had bracketed the first stanza. Whereas earlier, the statement felt romantic, it now feels distressing because the circumstances shifted from happiness to unhappiness. At this point, the loop was a circular existence that kept the pair within it, and it was no longer a loop they wished to be part of. In fact, their bond had become as bleak and unproductive as being in a restaurant where “[t]he waiter [does] not come,” and the “music” is as hard to come by as “water from a rock.”
It is evident in the sixth stanza, however, that one half of this pair decided to break free from the situation in that “[h]er fingers flicked away the ash [t]hat bloomed again in tropic trees.” What this indicates is that the fire between them had lessened into something dull and ruined, like “ash,” and while she could feasibly have revived the relationship since it “bloomed again,” she came to the realization that she no longer wanted to hold onto it. In this, the reader can see the moment of decision that would lead to the termination of the relationship that was good, but turned bland and unhappy.
Seventh and Eighth Stanza
God or whatever means the GoodBe praised that time can stop like this,(…)And all the room one glow becauseTime was away and she was here.
By the end of ‘Meeting Point’, her “heart has understood” what she needed to do to find “one glow” within her life, and that was to step away from the relationship. This concept is addressed in that “she” is the only one placed in the text, unlike the earlier concept of it being “two people” at “a coffee shop.”
The attitude that is expressed within stanzas seven and eight are somewhat of a middle ground between the happiness that is showcased in stanzas one and two and the unhappiness that is revealed in stanzas three, four, five, and six. Essentially, by the seventh stanza, she was no longer in a “desert” of misery, but “[t]he bell was [still] silent in the air,” and that “silen[ce]” reflects a lessened happiness than what she experienced with her companion.
Still, even though “life [was] no longer what it was,” she found that it was better after having broken away from the relationship that had soured. In her new state, she found “peace,” and she was glad that “[t]ime” allowed her to “stop” to step out of the loop she had been caught up in.
What the poet has accomplished, ultimately, is a series of wonderfully crafted stanzas that reveal a woman’s journey from happiness in a relationship to happiness from leaving a relationship that lost its vibrancy. Without that relationship, she continued nearly as well as she had with the relationship in its finest moment, revealing her capability and strength to step away from bad patterns and into healthier ones.
About Louis MacNiece
Louis MacNiece was born in 1907 in Belfast, and he lived until 1963. A significant number of his poetic works were penned in the 1930s, though he’d been writing verse since he was a child. He was educated and an educator (teaching at Birmingham University), and he turned to scriptwriting in the 1940s.