Tanya Markul

‘Eleven’ by Tanya Markul is a short but deeply affecting poem that serves as a reminder that human connection is often the difficult but sole way to experience healing.

'Eleven' is a touching and stylistically simple poem that conveys a profound truth about human suffering and connection.

‘Eleven’ is an example of a poem that conveys much while saying very little. At just six lines long and composed of a single sentence, the poem offers comfort to those who feel cut off from others because of some personal strife.

But the speaker offers some hope while acknowledging the grim realities of such pain. Advising the reader (or possibly even themselves) to see their pain as a story that might be shared with others who’ve experienced something similar. It’s through this process of sharing and empathizing that you might find some closure and catharsis.


‘Eleven’ by Tanya Markul is a poem about reframing your perception of pain and the loneliness it catalyzes by connecting with other people.

‘Eleven’ is a short poem spoken by a speaker either as advice to another person or to themselves. At its core, it’s a poem about reexamining something that has caused you pain in the past and, as a result, has made you feel isolated from others.

The first half of the poem references its title by pointing out that such trauma can leave you feeling like the “odd one out” (3). Yet it’s that very same pain that can inspire connection with others who’ve experienced something similar, offering a pathway not just out of isolation but towards healing.

Structure and Form

‘Eleven’ is composed of six short lines in a block poem. There is no rhyme scheme, but the poem’s verses do appear to be comprised of iambic feet. The stressed syllable placed on words like “pain,” “made,” and “odd” bolster the poem’s bold tone.

There’s also the gradual build-up of syllables between the first three lines (2-3-4) and the last three (4-4-5), a growth that symbolically articulates the poem’s emergence from isolation into connection, which is also accentuated by the poem’s use of enjambment. You could even perceive the title as the monosyllabic beginning of this sequence of crescendoing feet.

Literary Devices

‘Eleven’ relies on a few different literary devices, the first being it’s ambiguous to the point of the symbolic use of the word “pain” (1). It’s not clear exactly what kind of pain is being alluded to, but that’s not the point — the point is that any kind of pain has the ability to make its recipient feel separated physically and emotionally from others. Markul uses figurative language in the form of an idiom to convey that isolation: “odd one out” (3).

A metaphor also appears when the speaker compares the pain felt to a “story / that connects you” (4-5) to the world around you. It’s this form of support and connection that the speaker is referring to when they use personification to describe a “healing world” (6).

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-3

The pain
that made you

The first three lines of the short poem ‘Eleven’ see the speaker addressing an unknown person — either the reader or themselves in the third person. This would make sense, given the fact that the poem seems to be an attempt at courage, self-love, and acceptance. The source of the “pain” (1) might be ambiguous, but its effect is not as the speaker states that it has made them “the odd one out” (3). The idiom is used by Markul as a metaphor for such isolation: like the extra integer keeping the number eleven from literally being an even ten, their pain has made them feel both atypical and separated from others.

Lines 4-6

is the story

The last three lines of ‘Eleven’ complete the train of thought begun in the first sequence. Here the same pain that was responsible for creating this isolation between the person and those around them is given a silver lining of sorts. The pain is now a “story” (4). Instead of just being this static thing plaguing the person the speaker is talking to, it becomes a narrative that (like most people) is constantly evolving and growing.

The speaker implies there is strength to be found in reframing one’s pain within their own life story. Part of that comes from the fact that it’s through listening to other people’s stories that we find comfort and catharsis in the knowledge that we are not the first (nor will we be the last) to experience such strife, whatever form it might take. It’s what”connects you / to a healing world” (5-6), the speaker explains, using the extended metaphor to underscore how pain can both isolate us and bring us closer together.


What is the theme of ‘Eleven?

The poem’s theme is centered around an attempt to reframe one’s pain or trauma. Although the speaker recognizes the isolating effects of carrying around the weight of such an experience, they also know the only way out is by spurring some connection. Instead of seeing the painful moments in your life as a barrier, they advise us to see them as a story that can be shared. An action that creates a connection with others and an opportunity for healing.

What is the meaning of the title ‘Eleven?

The title references the poem’s line about feeling like the “odd one out.” Literally, the number eleven is odd, but figuratively the image of ten integers and the singled-out eleventh one creates a depressingly concrete image of the loneliness the speaker is trying to articulate.

Who is the speaker addressing in ‘Eleven?

The speaker appears to be giving advice to some unknown listener, or the words could simply be meant for the reader. But the didactic tone of the speaker and its ambiguity could also imply that the speaker is referring to themselves. One might imagine them looking in a mirror, speaking the words of the poem to their reflection as a reminder to not isolate themselves and connect with others.

Why does it mean for pain to become a “story?”

Here the poem introduces some irony and even paradox because how can a pain that causes such intense loneliness also be perceived as a means of connection? But Markul is referring to the ways in which people can empathize and bond over shared experiences, even painful ones. That story also doesn’t need to be defined by the pain either and instead provides a means to transcend that pain by opening up about it.

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Eleven by Tanya Markul

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Tanya Markul (poems)

Tanya Markul

This short poem from Markul showcases her talent for imbuing even just a few lines of verse with her deeply cathartic introspections. Intimate and moving, the poem reflects tenderly on an exceptionally personal and somewhat isolating sentiment. Markul's unvarnished style and diction make the poem all the more lucidly powerful and reveal her knack for poetic simplicity.
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21st Century

Markul's poem is indicative of the contemporary style of the 21st century. Relying on diction and language that reflects everyday speech while also balancing free verse and a minimalist fashion. The poem's most striking feature is its brevity and consolidation into a single sentence, a feature not entirely unheard of in the history of poetic expression but one that speaks to the directness of the times.
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This poem by Markul reveals a number of tenets of her poetry, from its willful vulnerability and intimate expression to its directness. Like any poet, a reader might not find all of her work personally enlightening or affecting, but there are one's that speak earnestly and incisively about the human condition. This is no doubt one of those poems.
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New Life

The poem is very much concerned with transforming one's past pain into something meaningful, not just to oneself but to those around us. In a single sentence, it offers a lucidly wise way forward and also provides a reminder that sometimes the most profound connection we have is shared suffering. In this way, the poem makes our own rejuvenation and healing synonymous with our ability to relate to others.
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Markul's poem unfolds as this comforting acknowledgment by the speaker of both the isolating nature of pain and its ability to connect us more fully to others. Offering hope to people who've experienced tragedy and sorrow by revealing the opportunity for recovery and catharsis that comes with sharing one's pain. The poem serves as a reminder that empathy is a two-way street.
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The goal of Markul's poem is wellness through a reminder that the best catalyst for catharsis lies in sharing our pain. The poem itself reads like a small reminder spoken either to oneself or a confidant, which in turn contributes to its intimacy. It is also just as profound that the poet manages to squeeze such a lucid introspection into a single sentence.
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Empathy is the implied emotion that exists between the lines of Markul's poem, as the speaker comforts someone whose pain has isolated them and created a barrier to receiving any empathy. But the recognition of other people's pain is presented as a pathway to fostering such compassion. The reader experiences something similar, either identifying with the isolating pain or is simply moved to sympathy.
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Although ambiguous, the pain referred to in the poem makes up for its lack of specificity with a far-reaching perspective. Everyone experiences pain at some point in their lives, and it's an emotion well understood by anyone alive. This is kind of the point: pain can isolate us and make us feel alone, but its universal nature means it connects us all; finding comfort in that is key.
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The poem's expression of resilience doesn't appear until near the end but it is the dominant feeling you are left with after finishing Markul's poem. The speaker's words serve as an impactful reminder to not succumb to the isolation created by one's personal suffering. But rather use it to find connection with others and, in doing so, reshape our own pain into something empathizing.
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Plenty of poems are expressions of epiphany, but some of the best narrate the moment it arrives. In Markul's short poem, she doesn't focus on a moment so much as the words themselves that make up such an epiphany. The poem reads as a piece of advice given either to yourself or a close friend, which only strengthens the revelatory nature of the poem.
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Hard Times

Markul's poem may not offer an intense catharsis itself, but its relative simplicity and disarming thoughtfulness make it an important reminder nonetheless. One that is best read during times of strife and adversity, when whatever pains you emotionally, physically, or spiritually drives you further from other people and deeper into your own despair. It is in these moments that the poem urges us to think about the ways we remain connected to others, not just despite but because of our individual pain.
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Loneliness is also important in Markul's poem, which is presented as the consequence of such pain. In the context of the poem, it is not just an isolating force, though, but one that seems to mark one as out of place. There is a branding effect to pain, whether imagined or real, that keeps us from connecting with others in its aftermath.
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One of the poem's core topics is the way pain can be transformed into something other than itself. The speaker advises that it be changed into a story, something that can be shared and thus alleviated through shared empathy. Markul's use of metaphor emphasizes the power we too often forget we have in healing ourselves.
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Free Verse

Markul's free verse is characterized by the poem's structure as a single sentence, though there is a certain cadence offered in the various line breaks and use of enjambment. The poem also relies on a relatively simple diction that weighs heavily on certain words like "pain" and "story," as well as ending phrases like "odd one out" and "healing world."
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Markul's poem can be read as both a highly literal and symbolic reflection. On the literal level, some of the elements appear ambiguous for the purpose of making them universal, including the pain and healing referenced in the poem. But viewed as symbolic representations, the poem can also be interpreted as referencing a wide-ranging understanding and imagination of pain, personal narrative, and healing.
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Steven Ward Poetry Expert
Steven Ward is a passionate writer, having studied for a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and being a poetry editor for the 'West Wind' publication. He brings this experience to his poetry analysis on Poem Analysis.

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