Chad Abushanab’s “On the Dred Ranch Road Just off 283” and Emily Dickinson’s “Better—Than Music!” use their poetic forms to express the idea of music as being representative of each of their speakers’ spectrum of experiences and troubles. Despite the two poems being separated by hundreds of years and completely different life experiences, both speakers use the premise of music to establish their troubled pasts. The two poems begin to diverge when they also use music as a means of conveying their expectations for the future. Abushanab’s speaker laments his father’s alcoholism and the speaker has convinced himself the he will suffer the same dismal fate of his father. The music he expresses is dark and shows overwhelmed and depressed view of his fears. Dickinson’s speaker, on the other hand, knows how disheartening her past has been (although she never reveals specifically what has happened), but looks forward to the future as hears beautiful music as a sound of hope of what is to come. Both speakers have reason to fear their respective futures but take conflicting approaches as how to reconcile those fears. Music is able to express an extreme range of emotions where words often fall short and each poet employs the language of music to convey their acute fear, despair, joy, and hope that their speakers feel at this point of conflict in their lives. Abushanab and Dickinson are able to employ both form and content to express the vivid musicality of abstract emotions. Although each speaker ends in a different place in their respective emotional journeys, they use similar modes of communication to work through their traumatic pasts to create conflicting visions of their potential futures.



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