‘Mementos, 1’ by W.D Snodgrass

Alright, this may not get you through your essays but it will help.


1. ‘Mementos, 1’ by WD Snodgrass
2. An Analysis
3. ‘Mementos, 1’: an illustrated version
4. Notes on editing process, credits.

‘Mementos, 1’

Sorting out letters and piles of my old
    Canceled checks, old clippings, and yellow note cards
That meant something once, I happened to find
    Your picture. That picture. I stopped there cold,
Like a man raking piles of dead leaves in his yard
             Who has turned up a severed hand.
Still, that first second, I was glad: you stand
    Just as you stood—shy, delicate, slender,
In that long gown of green lace netting and daisies
    That you wore to our first dance. The sight of you stunned
Us all. Well, our needs were different, then,
             And our ideals came easy.
Then through the war and those two long years
    Overseas, the Japanese dead in their shacks
Among dishes, dolls, and lost shoes; I carried
    This glimpse of you, there, to choke down my fear,
Prove it had been, that it might come back.
             That was before we got married.
—Before we drained out one another’s force
    With lies, self-denial, unspoken regret
And the sick eyes that blame; before the divorce
    And the treachery. Say it: before we met. Still,
I put back your picture. Someday, in due course,
             I will find that it’s still there.



‘Mementos, 1’ was written by W.D Snodgrass in the 1960s. I could go through how the ‘old clippings’ represent memories past, or how the subject concerns his divorce; however, the strongest point here lies in the poem’s relationship with the Second World War, which like the speaker’s marriage, is but a collection of memories.

Snodgrass notes this with ‘Through the war… the Japanese dead in their shacks’. World wars hold immense significance, namely because the entire globe was involved. Consequently, the worldwide perception of warfare was changed. Gone were the 19th century ideals of honour, valour and dying for your country no longer seemed like such a great idea after the advent of tanks, machine guns, nuclear bombs; instead, the people’s will to maintain world peace has been very prevalent since 1945. Effectively, we have had to divorce ourselves from society’s previous perceptions of war; we had to divorce ourselves from our past.

But to ‘divorce’ something, is only to break an association with someone or something, not to completely ignore or deny its existence. And that is why Snodgrass decides to keep ‘that picture’. His marriage, much like society’s marriage to warfare, did happen. That is undeniable. Both marriages brought ‘treachery’ and ‘unspoken regret’ onto all parties involved; however, good times were also had. Speak to any Briton over Britain’s greatest point in history and they will tell you of a time when colonial domination was rife, concentration camps were being used on Boers in South Africa, and profits from the slave trade were used to build beautiful cities like Bristol. Readers, they speak of the British Empire. I doubt that the same list would be compiled by those more patriotic than I; however, the point remains: although the British Empire brought the world many horrors, it also brought the world many gifts. For this, we must be happy. Simultaneously, we must be ashamed.

The same can be said for Snodgrass’ marriage. In his past, he found himself happy with his wife by his side. Upon publishing this poem, the reader can be quite sure that he wouldn’t feel the same way if ol’ wifey rolled back into his life; however, this does not mean that he is unhappy that he married her in the first place. Presently, he feels pain for his failed marriage, and yet, in his past he was happy to be married. And this is what I mean by ‘divorce’. This poem asks the reader to separate himself from the past, but in doing so, must acknowledge and, somehow, enjoy its passing.

Similar post-WW1 feels can be found in MacNeice’s work, particularly around 1938, with Autumn Journal (part IV, especially). And for a proto-analysis of the changing view of war, you should read Isaac Rosenburg’s ‘Upon Receiving News of War’. Both fantastic poems.




On the Editing Process

This appeared in: bearpitzines.tumblr.com (still got like 5 copies if ya wanna cop dat)

Although I was unsure of illustrating a poem (’cause the words are the images, maan’), I talked myself into it, because Snodgrass needed a little more hype.   In reflection, however, I won’t be incorporating text and images again. The editing process was a fxcking slimy cxnt and I think it kinda’ ruins the structural integrity of the poem as a whole. And so, next time, I’ll just draw some pics and then provide the poem below. But, I jus’ gotta’ ask: what do you think about this shxt? All comments are welcome (except constructive criticism/criticism/anything that’s not entirely fanatical and sycophantic about the above, lel).

Somehow, this post has got major attention and because of that we’re 3rd in the world on Google for ‘Mementos, 1’ – that’s some crazy shxt, brahhh. So, if you dudes wanna Czech out some more poetry, view my side-blog: staysquare.wordpress.com – where I post up poetry stuff.


19 thoughts on “‘Mementos, 1’ by W.D Snodgrass

    • Hey Udyniour, I’d love to help you; however, could you please identify the figure of speech you would like explained? Thanks.

  1. Will you please help me to prepare my self about mementos,1.for June exams 2015.

    I will be happy for you assistance

    Thank you.


    • I think it’s part of a series called ‘Mementos’, a physical collection of memories, in this case, it’s her picture. The ‘1’ notes the beginning of the series.

  2. Pingback: ‘Mementos, 1’ W.D Snodgrass, an analysis. | Stay Square Scribes

    • hello out there, are you talking in a literal sense? If so, it is about a man cleaning out his room, finds a picture of his ex-wife, remembers the good times, remembers its breakdown, and then reflects, and feels that he should not feel bitterness over the divorce, because he found happiness in his marriage. More figurative readings are far more subjective; however, I have written my own analysis in the text above.

  3. Pingback: Illustrated Poetry Links from All Over, Volume 3 | Illustrated Poetry

    • Although I can’t say exactly, it feels as though this is an appeal to the needs of youth, as opposed to that of middle age. I say this because the ‘our needs were different…’ is followed by ‘our ideals came easy’; accordingly, youth, or perhaps, being a young adult, is seen as an idealistic time in one’s life; we grow and become more pragmatic, less inclined to give way to dreams, ideals.

      Subsequently, if I were to guess, the ‘different’ ‘needs’ of youth could be love, freedom, dreams; those of age would be getting enough money to pay the bills, pacifying one’s boss to keep the job/gain promotion, y’know, real life pressures.

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