After Reverdy by Ron Padgett explores the heartache of love, and how seeing someone physically can make that pain much worse. Padgett wishes to never see his former lover again, but bumps into her and is plunged back into past emotions.
After Reverdy by Ron Padgett touches on what it is to feel heartbreak. Following the story of leaving someone and never wanting to see them again, Padgett explores the moment in which two lovers see each other again for the first time. Although there is no dialogue in the poem, the insinuation is that Padgett is left even more emotionally distraught than he was before.
You can read the full poem here.
Padgett splits After Reverdy into three stanzas of differing lengths. The first stanza measures 6 lines, the second 2, and the third four lines. The changing structure could be a reflection of the changing circumstance of their relationship, with the sudden change from together, to separated, to seeing each other again replicated in the alternative line structure.
The first major technique that stands out when looking over After Reverdy is the use of enjambment throughout. The poem doesn’t contain a single mark of punctuation, not even finishing with a full stop. Padgett employs this form for several reasons. The quick movement from line to line could reflect the passing of time, with the poet emphasising the large amount of time that has passed between their breakup. Enjambment on the final line of the poem also suggests that this heartbreak pain continues long after After Reverdy has finished – the emotion carrying more weight that perhaps displayed in the poem.
Another technique that Padgett uses when writing the poem is manipulating tenses to convey a certain message. Within the poem Padgett moves from conditional, to present, to past, all further compounding the idea that he is experiencing this heartbreak over a long period of time. This is not something he simply ‘gets over’, it stays with him, an enduring point of sorrow in his life.
After Reverdy Analysis
The title of time poem comes from a French poet, Pierre Reverdy. Reverdy wrote extensively on love and loneliness, two of the key themes of Padgett’s poem. Most notably, Reverdy had an almost forty-year relationship with Coco Chanel, his enduring love featuring frequently in his poetry.
By drawing upon the poetry of Reverdy, Padgett forms a connection to the themes of love, loneliness, and lasting emotion that feature heavily in his poetry.
The poem begins with the personal pronoun ‘I’, instantly focusing the poem on an introspective exploration of emotion. The reader is alerted to the personal nature of After Reverdy, the core theme of heartbreak stemming from the narrator’s perspective.
Padgett continues the first line by then focusing on the conditional tense, ‘would never have’ emphasizing the idea that it was absolutely certain in his mind that he ‘never’ ‘wanted to see’ his lover’s face again. He had his heartbroken and now seeing ‘your sad face’ is too painful for him. This depiction of ‘sad’ attached to his former lover’s face insinuates a small amount of disdain for the lover. It is not happy, or beautiful, or anything of that sort – ‘sad face’, furthering the sense of distaste he has for his ex-lover.
There is a direct focus on the features of his lover, ‘sad face’, ‘your cheeks’, ‘windy hair’. The triple focus on the physical features of his lover demonstrates that he knows her intimately. He does not need to name a small detail in order to recognize her, he simply sees a few strands of hair and can recognize her. There is a certain amount of chaos suggested by the windswept hair, the dramatic encounter being framed through the idea of a harsh gust blowing in the background.
Padgett suggests that he has traveled far and wide ‘across the country’. This phrase could suggest that he is running as far as possible from the location in which he spent time with his lover. Yet, there is also the idea that perhaps Padgett was actually looking for his lover. The idea of searching across the country, through ‘day and night… sun and the rain’ suggesting that he still feels a deep love that he wants to reestablish. Maybe all along Padgett was searching for his ex-lover, trying to begin everything once again.
This stanza is comprised of only two lines, outlining the moment in which he found his lover again. The short stanza length could suggest that things didn’t exactly go too well, the two lines being the whole duration of their moment of reuniting. It seems that while Padgett is deeply in love, his feelings are unreciprocated, his lover instead of wanting to move on with her life.
The urgency of ‘Now’ suggests that everything before was leading to this one moment. Padgett has built up a great expectation of this encounter and is deeply disappointed by its outcome. The connection of lovers under the first personal plural pronoun ‘we’ insinuates there is a history between them – if they were strangers Padgett would construct a ‘me’ and ‘you’ sentence, but they are bound together through the umbrella ‘we’. ‘Face to face’ reiterates what the use of pronoun constructed, the plain simplicity of this phrase both narratively and structurally presenting the lover right next to each other, looking at each other in the face.
It seems that time has now passed between stanza two and three. After the event, it seems that Padgett went to a ‘tree’, and stood next to it for ‘So long’, being metaphorically ‘stuck’ to the spot. This moment and image is a representation of the total emotional destruction Padgett feels in this moment. After his long searches across the whole country, everything turned to nothing. His lover didn’t return to him, he continues alone.
The final message of the poem, ‘That kind of love is terrible’ clearly states the heartbreak Padgett feels. The all-consuming type of love that the poet felt for his lover results in nothing but a deep heartbreak. The poem focuses more so on the horrors and disappointment of love, rather than the possibility for happiness.