‘Curriculum Vitae’ is a modern poem written by the American poet Samuel Menashe. In Latin, “curriculum vitae” means the “course of life”. In this poem, the poet refers to the course of life of a person who works as a scribe or a writer. It seems that the poetic persona of the poem is none other than the poet, Samuel Menashe, himself. Through this poem, the poet sheds light on his life that seems dull and routined like others. It’s about the things that he sees each day while going to work and after returning. The course of his life doesn’t take any new turn. Hence the tone and mood of the speaker are colorless and monotonous.
Summary of Curriculum Vitae
Menashe talks about a person who is a scribe in this poem. He is unemployed. Nowadays he is often out of words or inspiration. However, he doesn’t want to start with his story again. So he passes his time by standing near the window and looking at people walking in the street. Whereas the second stanza is quite personal. Here, the poet refers to how he comes back from his work daily and keeps himself busy writing at night.
You can read the full poem here.
‘Curriculum Vitae’ consists of two stanzas. The first stanza contains six lines and the second stanza contains eight lines. There isn’t any specific rhyme scheme in the poem. So, the overall poem is in free verse. However, there are a few instances where the poet uses regular rhymes. Likewise, in the second stanza, “more” rhymes with “door”. And, “lair” rhymes with “spare”. Moreover, the overall poem is composed of both the iambic meter and trochaic meter alternatively. The juxtaposition of the rising and falling rhythm depicts the mental state of the poet.
There are several literary devices in this poem. Each of those devices makes the poet’s thoughts more appealing to the readers. Likewise, the poem, ‘Curriculum Vitae’ begins with a metaphor. By referring to the “scribe” the poet points at himself. Here the poet compares himself to a “scribe”. Thereafter, in this line, “Not his to begin with”, the poet uses a litote and another metaphor as well. Here, “his” implies the course of life of the poetic persona of the poet. Thereafter, the “man life” is a metonym of youth. Whereas in the last line of the first stanza, Menashe uses a personification. Here, the poet personifies “time”.
In the second stanza, there is an alliteration in “this door”. Thereafter, the poet uses the metaphor of “lair” to compare himself to a wild creature and his house to its habitation. Moreover, in “one bone” the poet refers to creative writing metaphorically.
Analysis of Curriculum Vitae
Scribe out of work
At a loss for words
Biding his time
In this poem, Menashe talks about his course of life. It’s not that the poet uses several lines to illustrate it to the readers. However, the brevity of the poem works sufficiently to depict what the poet tried to. Whatsoever, in the first stanza of the poem, ‘Curriculum Vitae’, the poet compares himself to a “scribe”. Here, “out of work” literally means unemployed. But, the poet uses it to refer to the absence of poetic inspiration. Henceforth, he says he is at a loss for words. Though there aren’t any new ideas coming into his mind, he refrains from using one from his life.
Thereafter, the poet refers to an image of the poet standing at the window. According to the poet, his “man life” passed by. It means that the age when he flourished the most is no more. Now, he is middle-aged and waiting to enter old-age. For this reason, nowadays he is short of ideas. Standing at the window, he only bids adieu to his youth. The line, “Biding his time” can be a reference to passing one’s time aimlessly.
Time and again
And now once more
And no time to spare
The second stanza of ‘Curriculum Vitae’ begins with a vague reference to “time”. The repetition of the word “time” in this stanza, signifies that it’s a haunting thing in his life. Time makes him aware of the little time he has. Hence, he returns home and invests his energy into something meaningful and rejuvenating. For this reason, he climbs the stairs and unlocked the door with which he has developed a relationship for using them for a very long time. It seems as if they have become the closed ones of the poet. However, the poet the place where he lives has no name. It is an unknown place that is compared to the poet’s lair in the following line.
In this way, the poet compares himself to a wild creature that returns to its lair at night after spending his time in daily activities. Moreover, the poet says he has only “one bone” to pick. It’s a metaphorical reference to the process of writing. It’s like his food like a bone to the beasts. Writing is what keeps his soul alive whereas his daily work sustains his body. At last, the poet reiterates the word “time” in the line, “And no time to spare”. So, after thinking aimlessly during the day, now the poet wants to keep himself busy in something meaningful. He wants to make the most of the time he has.
‘Curriculum Vitae’ was written around 2004 by the American poet Samuel Menashe. It was published in “Samuel Menashe: New and Selected Poems” by The Library of America in 2005. It is a subjective poem revolving around the poet’s life. Here, the poet talks about how at times he is out of words or goes through writer’s block. Moreover, there is a sense of longing for the past days when he was vigorous in his body and spontaneous in his mind. The recurring idea of “time” is what not only haunts a middle-aged reader but also the poet. Lastly, the poet says how much he is dedicated to his work. There is nothing other than writing apart from his daily work. It nourishes his mind and rejuvenates his soul.
Here is a list of a few poems that similarly talk about a writer’s life. The themes of the poem ‘Curriculum Vitae’ are also present in these poems.
- I Looked Up from My Writing by Thomas Hardy – It’s one of the best-known poems by Thomas Hardy. Here, the poet contemplates his ignorance and irresponsibility as a writer.
- The Poet’s Dream by Percy Bysshe Shelley – In this poem, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley illustrates the conception of poetry and the role of a poet. It’s one of the well-known poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley.
- Petit, the Poet by Edgar Lee Masters – It’s a skillfully crafted poem about writing poetry, its traditions, and those who break the norms.
- Are You Looking For That Poet? by Vihang Naik – In this poem, Naik discusses the honest, human role of the poets in contemporary society.
You can read about 10 of the Best Poems about Time here.