Milton Acorn, “The Fights”

  1. In the first stanza of this poem why does Acorn refer to a “gillettes width” rather than a razor’s width? How do the connotations differ? Which suggests the more personal image?
  2. Explain the phrase “a rude brush-cut to the chin/tucks on brain safe under another.” (Note that the word “rude” here means rough or simple, rather than impolite.) How does this add to the impression of the fighter as a human being?
  3. Throughout the poem Acorn is concerned with the effect of the fights on the mind inside the boxer’s target – the human being inside the trained fighter. How does the contrast between the TV picture and the actual fight contribute to this idea?
  4. In the first stanza Acorn likens the brain of the fighter to a coconut set up as a target in a carnival game. Who has the best chance of winning in a carnival game? The player? The promoter? The coconut? Do the players have a fair chance? How does this parallel his concept of the fights in stanza three?
  5. Acorn pictures the fighter, finally, as a jerky bum/humming with a gentleness less than human.” Is this another way of suggesting that boxing is a brutalizing sport? Would the effect have been the same if Acorn had used the term “brutalizing”?
  6. “We need something of its nature, but not this,” Acorn concludes. What aspect of the fights is he suggesting that we need?