This poem caught my eye a few days ago. I was strangely unable to find a single analysis piece, however.

What is the meaning of Praxis by Wendy Xu?

  • @Zyerah Why are you guys making this post worse? :-/ It's better to be self-contained than requiring answerers to go elsewhere (cf. link-only answers). If it's copyright issues you're worried about, the poem is already reproduced in full online.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 1, 2019 at 9:21
  • 4
    @Randal'Thor Relevant snippets of a poem, yes. Full text of a copyrighted poem, no. Even if posted elsewhere online, that doesn't give us purvey to copy from them wantonly. People copy poems without authorization all the time -- let's not be a part of that unhealthy ecosystem. If the OP wants to include specific lines they'd like help with, though, that's totally fine.
    – user80
    Feb 1, 2019 at 9:37
  • See this question on meta. Feb 1, 2019 at 10:14

1 Answer 1


‘Praxis’ means:

the practice or exercise of a technical subject or art [OED]

and there are several references to writing and poetry: “put down in writing”; “pastoral description”; “do what your poems want”. So it looks as though the poem is about the practice or experience of writing poetry.

The narrator seems to be describing an internal conflict over the wish or need to write two types of poetry. She has been writing politically engaged poetry:

I had put down in writing my fear of the war

but this kind of poetry is not fulfilling for her:

Newness does not, for me, equal satisfaction

and she wished she could have been writing a different kind of poem:

I too pined for pastoral description

The narrator knows that she has only time to publish a limited number of poems:

A finite number of concentric rings I push out into space

There is further intimation of mortality in this image, which might represent a grave being filled:

The sound of the earth closing its one good eye over me

The narrator imagines putting aside the “thorns” and “arms” of her political poetry and being satisfied with writing her preferred pastoral poetry. The imagery used for this kind of poetry is pure and clean: “blue of the water”; “margin’s white hand”, and:

You do what your poems want and are clean

The rhetorical figure in this line is hypallage: it’s the the narrator who wants to write these poems, not the poems themselves.

(This is just my personal interpretation, and the poem is written very elliptically, so other readers might come to different conclusions. Someone familiar with Xu’s oeuvre might be able to find more detailed interpretations, for example “put down in writing my fear of the war” might refer to a particular poem.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.