The Rarity of Accidents



In a poem by Alan Shapiro, the simultaneous accidents of beauty and trauma, the visitation of a hummingbird and the sudden fall of the brother who suffers from terminal brain cancer, appear in bitterly ironic contrast. The poet must interiorize both accidents in their incompatible simultaneity. The two events have considerable rarity — phenomenological and moral — in that both appear as ungrounded, inexplicable, unjustified. They are materially represented by the insubstantiality of a hummingbird’s beautiful whirring wings and by an equally insubstantial hospital gown whose papery lightness briefly and poignantly reveals the unbearable weight of the suffering body.


Brain Cancer Aesthetic Experience Childhood Memory Sudden Fall Sunday Morning 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Alan Shapiro, “Sleet” in Song and Dance (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002), 8. Subsequent references to Song and Dance are cited parenthetically.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Heidrun Friese, “Augen-Blicke” in The Moment: Time and Rupture in Modern Thought, ed. Heidrun Friese (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2001 ), 83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 5.
    Jean-François Lyotard, The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992 ), 111.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Emily Dickinson, “A Route of Evanescence” in The Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. R.W. Franklin (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999), 1489. Wallace Stevens, “Sunday Morning” in Collected Poetry and Prose, 55.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Harold Schweizer 2016

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations