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Dana Gioia's "The Sunday News"

Updated on February 25, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Dana Gioia

Source

Introduction and Text of Poem, "The Sunday News"

Dana Gioia's "The Sunday News" consists of five stanzas each with the rime scheme, ABCB. (Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

The theme is the reaction to a memory. The poem captures the details of a man browsing the Sunday newspaper and happening upon a face and name from his past.

The Sunday News

Looking for something in the Sunday paper,
I flipped by accident through Local Weddings,
Yet missed the photograph until I saw
your name among the headings.

And there you were, looking almost unchanged,
Your hair still long, though now long out of style,
And you still wore that stiff and serious look
You called a smile.

I felt as though we sat there face to face.
My stomach tightened. I read the item through.
It said too much about both families,
Too little about you.

Finished at last, I threw the paper down,
Stung by jealousy, my mind aflame,
Hating this man, this stranger whom you loved,
This printed name.

And yet I clipped it out to put away
Inside a book like something I might use,
A scrap I knew I wouldn't read again
But couldn't bear to lose.

Dramatization with reading of Gioia's "The Sunday News"

Commentary

The speaker in "The Sunday News" gets a blast from the past after sighting a wedding notice in his Sunday newspaper. Even the speaker himself is surprised by his reaction to that memory.

Stanza 1: Flipping Through the Sunday Newspaper

Looking for something in the Sunday paper,
I flipped by accident through Local Weddings,
Yet missed the photograph until I saw
your name among the headings.

In the first stanza, the reader encounters the speaker "flipp[ing]" through his newspaper on a Sunday morning. He "by accident" scurries through the weddings section but is stopped as he sees a familiar name. He points out that he "missed the photograph" at first and noted it only after he had caught the "name among the headings."

Stanza 2: Sniping at the Past

And there you were, looking almost unchanged,
Your hair still long, though now long out of style,
And you still wore that stiff and serious look
You called a smile.

The speaker is addressing the woman who has just gotten married. In the second stanza, he tells her that she looks almost the same with the same hairstyle. The reader then learns that the relationship between the speaker and the woman was not a satisfying one for the speaker, perhaps she had dumped him, or they experienced some sort of unhappy breakup.

The speaker takes the opportunity to snipe at her by saying her long hair was "now long out of style." And he describes her smile in a rather demeaning manner: "you still wore that stiff and serious look / You called a smile."

Stanza 3: A Disturbing Blast from the Past

I felt as though we sat there face to face.
My stomach tightened. I read the item through.
It said too much about both families,
Too little about you.

The speaker finds that remembering the past is now disturbing him after seeing the picture. The former girlfriend's countenance hit him and he feels "as though we were face to face." He experiences a tightening of the stomach. Still he continues to read the article.

But the speaker finds the information lacking; he wanted to find out more details about the woman, not about her family and that of the groom. He feels let down for the lack of detailed news about his former paramour.

Stanza 4: Hating on Paper

Finished at last, I threw the paper down,
Stung by jealousy, my mind aflame,
Hating this man, this stranger whom you loved,
This printed name.

The speaker then flings the paper away from him and admits that he was "[s]tung by jealousy." His emotion roars as he finds himself "[h]ating this man, this stranger whom you loved." The speaker freely admits that really what he hated was a piece of newsprint on a page, scraps of ink on paper, "[t]his printed name."

Stanza 5: The Grip of Negativity

And yet I clipped it out to put away
Inside a book like something I might use,
A scrap I knew I wouldn't read again
But couldn't bear to lose.

Despite the emotional negativity aroused by the woman's recent marriage, the speaker then does an odd thing: he clips the wedding notice and places it "inside a book." He then acknowledges the irrationality of such an act.

The speaker calls the clipping a "scrap," and furthermore admits that he knew he would never take that clipping out to re-read it. But for some nagging reason that grasps him at the moment, he feels that the memory was one he just "couldn't bear to lose."

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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