Introduction & Overview of It's like This

Stephen Dobyns
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It's like This Summary & Study Guide Description

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“It's like This,” originally published in 1980 (and collected in 1994 in Velocities: New and Selected Poems, 1966-1992), is a not-so-pleasant look into the not-so-inspiring life of some undefined everyman. Even if it is taken on a metaphoric level, the outlook as espoused by Stephen Dobyns's poem is not good. There is existential angst lingering here, to which almost everyone can relate at various times in a lifetime—those moments when everything seems to be going wrong or, worse yet, when nothing seems to be happening or, even worse than that—as in this poem—when something is going on but it is difficult to express it and no one else seems to care.

“It's like This” is a philosophical poem that might have been written to frighten people into waking up from the stupor that a modern, mechanized existence can induce. It is not clear if the nondescript protagonist of this poem even knows who he is. Instead, he seems to be trying to become what he thinks other people want him to be. His only solace appears to come at nighttime, when he sinks into the nothingness of sleep.

Dobyns's poems have been studied and applauded by literary critics, other poets, and scholars. He is an award-winning writer, whose language and style are down to earth and whose subject matter is easily understood. He is a philosopher and writer, but his topics are not hidden behind abstract thoughts. “It's like This,” for example, can be read by anyone and from whatever philosophical stance, and it can be used as a meditation. As Dobyns often does, in this poem he opens his soul and invites his readers to take a peek inside. It is as if he is saying, through this poem: This is how one man's life is going. Then, after one reads the poem, it seems that Dobyns might be encouraging other people to ask themselves: How is my life going in comparison?

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