The Writer by Richard Wilbur
On order to effectively analyze “The Writer,” one might look to the Advanced Placement format, for instance, to best understand the meaning of Wilbur’s poem. Some questions we might ask as a basis for analysis are as follows:
1. Who is the speaker in the poem?
In “The Writer,” the speaker is likely Wilbur speaking about his daughter.
2. Who is the audience of the poem?
The poem seems to be directed toward parents who might relate to Wilbur as they watch their children grow up. Likewise, the poem might also be directed at young people, who will inevitably undergo a journey similar to that of Wilbur’s daughter in the poem – fraught with many ups and downs, and hopefully the triumph that the iridescent creature experiences – “beating a smooth course out the window.”
3. What is the situation and setting of the poem.
In the poem, Wilbur is observing his daughter writing a poem in her room. He is presumably just outside listening and admiring her hard work. Perhaps, also, the poem on another level is referencing the journeys that young people undergo. It is symbolic for life.
4. State the poem’s central idea or theme.
The theme that life is a journey filled with tough times and triumph. Also, a father takes compassionate interest in his child.
5. Describe structural patter of the poem both in terms of visual patterns and sound patterns (stanzas, rhyme scheme, meter, free verse, alliteration, repetition, etc.)
Interestingly, Wilbur departs from his usual style in this poem, choosing to write a free-versed poem rather than a rhyming poem, which normally characterizes his poetry. He notes in an interview with the Paris Review that indeed, this was a deviation for him, and that the poem was meant to be written this way. Nonetheless, the poem has a rather lulling flow for which I am particularly fond.
Wilbur uses three-line stanzas and interestingly makes a number of references to boating and the...
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