No longer the mournful, gentle and intelligent-looking being who had so often guided you safely through a dark impenetrable world, language appeared to be changing its mind. Then, all at once, to lose it completely, nearly strangling itself on the leash before snapping right through it and turning, very slowly, its blind eyes to gaze into yours.
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Review by Arkava Das
The poem seems to deal with a crisis of faith in language: language as something that seems trained to take care of you; a faithful guide to meaning. You have given it a quasi-human being, made it a part of your life. The final image, the role reversal and dissolution of language’s guiding role is stifling; the ‘snapping’ almost audible — the uncontrollable nature of language, the ‘breakdown’ of language, the significance (or perhaps the Kristevan ‘significance’ is more appropriate here) of language referring back to itself for guidance — tearing the subject apart in its failure to provide any final meaning/closure. It’s hard to miss the repetition of ‘it’ in that energetic long line — ‘to lose it completely, nearly strangling itself on the leash before snapping right through it . . .’ Of course, part of ‘it’ is the guide-dog metaphor, but ‘it’ also creates a fluid interplay here (‘losing it’ — a literal breakdown — losing one’s grip on a language-mediated reality — losing faith in language.) The poem brings us close, perhaps uncomfortably close, to our own concerns and anxieties about what language can mean for us or what it means to us.