American Poetry
for Students of English Worldwide

..............Jack Kimball.............

The Beautiful Argument:
Generalization and Refutation with TONY TOWLE

Tony Towle, a New York art critic and poet, makes playful general statements (using words like every and always). He develops these generalizations into even more playful, elegant and specific (that is, detailed) observations. When reading the following two poems, consider the beauty of his logic and his fascinating generalizations.


Looking off in the ocean of color
the world is understood,
a tossing city of nightingale confusion,
through which is seen also a window
in the repeated necessity to be seen.

The rest is history,
the sun moving further away
in the space of the previous moment
to create a space at either end,
another trip into the distance,

from which the eye looks out once more,
once more provoked by its limitations,
and on the point always of departure
and to the furthest sea of color
in the normal creation of distance.

For Rachel

Hello Mr. Mirror, where is Mrs. Mirror?
On the other side.
Oh, thank you. Hello Mrs. Mirror,
where is Mr. Mirror?
On the other side.
Oh, thank you: hello Mr. Mirror.
Hello Mrs. Water,
where is Mr. Water?
In the sink, with me.
Every day some of us goes down the drain,
to a new house, the big river,
and to a dark new house, the dark ocean.
On the top we touch the blue children of sky,
and always we look back
everywhere through ourselves for the rest of us,
and see us.

Match the words from Tony Towle's two poems in "A" with words in "B" that mean the SAME.


drain _______
creation _______
repeated _______
provoked _______
moment _______
sink _______


in all places
point in time
water basin
opening to a water pipe

Match the words from the poems in "A" with words in "B" that mean the OPPOSITE.


tossing _______
departure _______
normal _______
confusion _______
necessity _______
previous _______
limitations _______



In Highway "the world is understood" is a generalization. What words later in the poem make this generalization more specific?

How does the writer explain the generalization, "the rest is history"?

Quoting from Highway, refute (that is, disagree with) the following statement: The eye is blind but at peace with its freedom.

Again, quoting from Highway, refute this statement: Existence is incomprehensible.

Find at least one generalization in For Rachel.

Find a metaphor for "ourselves."

What does "going down the drain" mean?

Quoting from For Rachel, disagree with this statement: No one ever fails.

Step 1: Create a few general statements of your own. For example:

Television is always a big waste of time.
Outer space must be very beautiful.

Step 2: Develop some ideas that refute (or disagree with) your generalizations. Like these:

Every day there is something to learn on TV.
Outer space will always be very dangerous to travel through.

Step 3: Write down some details that develop both your generalizations and refutations. For instance:

TV is a waste:

too many commercials

TV is educational:

lots of news
variety of information

Now write a poem using two or more generalizations and at least one refutation. Be sure to give specific details to expand your statements. Try to include one statement that is an outright lie!! Have fun!!

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