Cutting Loose by William Stafford focuses on being positive in life, despite circumstances and events trying to tear you down. Stafford urges the reader to let go of convention, embrace joy, and ‘sing’ your heart out. Sometimes when you feel most lost, you are at the point where the biggest life changes can occur. Get out of your comfort zone, experience the world in whatever way you desire.
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Cutting Loose by William Stafford begins by focusing on ‘sorrow’. Sometimes you feel down, which something that is completely okay. Use that sad energy to ‘sing’, let the words flow from within and ‘go where you want to go’. The poet then moves on to focus on how ‘sound comes’, how guidance can come out of seemingly nowhere. You must ‘listen’, be ready to accept advice, and willing to change your circumstances. The final stanza admits that there are ‘twisted monsters’ along the way, but nothing that you will not be able to overcome. On ‘earth, again and again,’ life is proved to be a magical experience. Stafford explores the positive side of life, hoping that the reader will join him in his devotion to liberation and joy.
You can read the full poem here.
Stafford splits the poem into three stanzas, each measuring five lines. There is no rhyme scheme within the poem, the use of enjambment and caesura manipulating the flow of different lines. Due to this, there is no consistency within the length of the line or stanza in terms of metrical rhythm. The lack of constraint within the poem could be symbolic of the message of the poem, with Stafford letting go of conventionality. Indeed, the poet urges the reader to begin ‘Cutting Loose’, something he then displays through his structurally free poem.
One technique that Stafford employs when writing Cutting Loose is enjambment. In doing this, the meter of the line flows quickly onto the next without interruption. This allows the poem to flow freely where enjambment is used. Also, when then paired with a caesura in the following sentence, Stafford places great metrical stress before the caesura, with the flowing rhythm suddenly stopped.
Analysis of Cutting Loose
Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason,
where you go where you want to.
Within the first line, Stafford uses a caesura to emphasizes the preceding word, ‘sorrow’. This is the central emotion that Stafford is rallying against, defining his argument in the first line of the poem. The sibilance across ‘Sometimes from sorrow’ draws upon this sense of sadness, the slow ’s’ sounds that reverberate across the opening line sets the initially melancholic tone of Cutting Loose.
The focus on ‘sing’ can be understood as a metaphor for accepting happiness into your life. Singing is an active, joyous process in which Stafford suggests one can ‘cut loose’ from social constraints and enjoy their time on earth. Singing is a representation of this, throwing away social concerns of judgment and embodying this sense of joy. By using enjambment across the first line, running into a harsh caesura on the second, ‘sing’ is further emphasized. The metrical flow of the poem is disrupted, forcing the reader to linger on ‘sing’ and draw upon its message.
Stafford argues that it is okay ‘being okay’, the ‘accep[tance]’ of this state actually something that can help you to be free. Instead of focusing on elements of negativity or oppression, Stafford instead argues that you must begin ‘electing a world when you go where you want to’, doing what you want and going wherever you may want to go. Stafford urges the reader to take their life into their own hands – a positive message that inspires one to do whatever they personally want. At the end of the day, you can never make everyone happy, so you may as well begin ‘cutting loose’ from these expectations and ensuring that you, yourself, are happy.
Arbitrary, a sound comes, a reminder
can slide your way past trouble.
The slow, but steady, arrival of sound (here, a metaphor for advice or understanding) is represented through the sentence structure of the first line of stanza two. The use of caesura within ‘Arbitrary, sound comes, a reminder’, with frequent metrical disruption, causes the flow of the line to be interrupted, slowing its speed. In doing this, Stafford is reflecting the process of understanding arriving to a person, it is not something that comes crashing into your life, but rather arrives slowly and steadily.
Everything in the world is reduced to ‘all else’, suggesting that things are not as important as they may seem. Stafford could be arguing that if everything in the world is held by the ‘steady center’, why would it matter how you personally choose to spend your time?
Stafford urges the reader to ‘listen’ out for that ‘sound’ of understanding, letting the realization that you are in control of your own destiny helping ‘your way past trouble’. Any confrontation can be overcome, Stafford again depicting life as something free. Even in the verb the poet chooses, ‘slide’, there is a notion of freedom, the quick moment reflecting the tone of Stafford’s writing.
Certain twisted monsters
here on the earth, again and again.
The final stanza begins by acknowledging that there will be adversity on the journey of life. Indeed, the caesura in the form of a hyphen within ‘bar the path—‘ further the suggestion of difficulty, the metrical break possibly reflecting the pause to overcome these ‘twisted monsters’.
Yet, in the face of adversity, Stafford suggests that ‘you get going’, you gain experience and knowledge of how to overcome things. Eventually, you will be ‘glad to be lost’, enjoying being beyond your comfort zone. The sense of being ‘lost’ is not something tragic here, but something to embrace. Stafford is suggesting that you must break out of your normal reality, leave your comfort zone and begin ‘cutting loose’ the oppressive ties that hold you down.
The final image of the poem is on the beauty of life ‘here on heart’. As you begin to experience things out of the normal bounds of your comfort zone, you will see the true beauty in the world ‘again and again’.