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Hunting Snake and the Cockroach Note

By vizzzzer Oct 13, 2012 1365 Words
“Hunting Snake” Judith Wright ** Australian poet fascinated by Aboriginal life and a reverence for nature. Poetic Devices: Alliteration/hypnotic quality that lulls reader and reflects simple poetry of youth Assonance/like alliteration, many soft repetitive sounds (‘w’ and ‘s’ particularly) that also mirror snake’s movements Imagery/very strong, visceral poem. Sensory-oriented. Creates a strong, confident, beautiful, awe-inspiring image of snake (focus of poem) Rhyme scheme/very simple until ‘twist’ at end that highlights a shift in focus – from close observation of snake to poet’s mix of complicated emotions – fear and awe Blank narrator/ lets us a) focus on the event, not narrator, b) relate to experience (put ourselves there), c) makes poem more visceral Extended metaphor/ the relationship between the poet and the snake is a reflection of how Man and Nature’s relationship should be characterized (ie, poet’s main message) Structure: - 4 stanzas, 4 lines each (regular, simple, tight) - Simple rhyme (abab/cdcd/efef/ghhg) with ‘twist’ at end – draws focus, has a tenderness/peacefulness of children’s poems. It can also be seen as a reflection of the duality of the poem’s content (Man vs Nature) - There’s a musical effect (allit/asson/rhyme) which is romantic, hypnotic Stanza 1. Harmonious, romantic world. Idealization of nature 2. contrasts suddenly with darkness/terror of snake. The snake’s appearance is abrupt and shocking at end of harmonious stanza 1. This forces the reader to experience the shock the poet must’ve felt when real snake appeared – visceral 3. fear reaches its peak. Human’s fear aligns us more with the prey than snake – shows where we are on food chain, so to speak, and who is actually superior (Nature, when met on nature’s terms). This is humbling for Modern man who usually likes to align himself with ‘power’ animals. 4. twist here reflects the contrasting feelings of fear and awe NB. This poem is not powerful because of its complexity or its unique experience; it’s powerful because of its tightly constructed simplicity/commonness/it’s relatable/visceral nature. Analysis:

The simple structure reflects the simple content of the poem. It’s a microcosm that shows Man’s relationship to Nature (an overarching theme for our course). It’s a small ‘snapshot’ of life that contains fear, old vs new (ancient instinct vs modern man’s ideas about his superiority), our modern detachment from life, a message that our relationship with nature should be characterized by fear/awe/respect/humility (concept of TONE reviewed) This poem is also relatable because of its common experience – we all have ancient, instinctual reactions/relationship with Nature. Here it is shown to be ‘common’ at end, when neither person has to explain what just happened. They both know, they both share that instinct. We are made uncomfortable by this realization that we’re not always in control – an illusion Modern Man likes to believe. On its own terms, this small snake manages to stop two grown adults in their tracks without even noticing them – it’s focused on hunting. The word lists show humans only as scared, whereas they show the snake to be powerful, scary, in control (of even life and death in a way), confident, etc. (we’re frozen, the snake is ‘great’ – nothing to do with size, note, it’s about presence and power; something small seeming great because of our awe/hubris). Possible class discussion questions/ homework: 1. (at start) create word lists for ‘fear’ and ‘snake’ from poem. What do these lists tell you about fear/snake? 2. Write theme statements for this poem. 3. Have you ever had an experience like this with Nature? (with an animal/landscape/natural disaster?) Write about it – make it visceral.

“The Cockroach” Kevin Halligan ** Canadian poet, widely traveled, this was written while in Asia. Influenced, it seems, by the simplicity and focus on minute detail of much Asian poetry (haiku) – small ‘snapshots’ of life that represent large ideas. Fun Cockroach Facts: - when I say ‘cockroach’ what do you think of first? - Bleed white blood, have no veins (sloshes freely) - Can live for a month without food, a week without water - Can live for a month on the glue of one stamp - Breath through their sides, hold their breath for 40 minutes - Stung by a stingray? Crushed up cockroaches will help - Heart can stop without harming them - Spend 75% of their time resting - Have been the same for 280 million years Poetic Devices: Tone/ big focus in this poem. Tone is not the usual revulsion people have toward cockroaches. It’s objective and analytical, moving toward empathetic and meditative. Rhyme/ simple, focus on content/moment, twist at end signals shift from obvs to realization Line/ long sentences which extend past the lines rep the continuous nature of life Blank narrator/ focus on event, relatable Extended metaphor/ cockroach as the poet/as us; snapshot reflects Man’s relationship to Nature (affinity and empathy) Structure: simplicity is tightly constructed (like “HS”) and is crafted to focus on content and feeling, not distracting or lengthy prose. The CR is given great attention and importance – usually reserved for human subjects. This foreshadows the CR “being” the poet at the end.

CR moving along straight line of “wainscot and door” symbolizes our steady paths early in life. We all go to school, graduate, uni, grad, job, married, kids…but then confusion happens: ‘restlessness’, ‘flipping right over’ and ‘victim of a mild attack’. We don’t know what comes next. No one is telling us what we should do anymore. The short sentence amid all the long ones, “And stopped”, also shows this confusion. Life works in cycles: stability  confusion  decision. The CR/poet stops dead because of indecision (instead of fear in “HS”). He needs to decide what to do next – like a midlife crisis. Feelings/tone of pity for CR shown. The poet feels this same existential/life crisis. The rhetorical question focus reader on their choices/actions/repercussions. The concept of karma comes into play here – people’s responsibilities re: actions and consequences. That the poet jumps to the conclusion that this is karmic punishment for CR could signal guilt he has over something he’s done. The focus is beginning to shift here from CR to poet. “I” emerges as a true character then. This emphasizes that poet is now reflecting on his own life, own confusion about life, own need to make choices. Analysis: Tone is not the usual revulsion associated with cockroaches. Not awe, like “HS”, but empathy/affinity. The poet is shown to know no more about life/these existential issues than a cockroach. This connects the poet and CR (just as it universally connects all of us – none of us know what is supposed to come next. Karma again: some believe you are on Earth to figure out your purpose. You keep coming back and making choices until you do. We don’t know what the ‘right’ choices are and this lack of knowledge brings us together). This idea of ‘oneness’ with a CR is humbling. Man likes to think with our big brains we’re superior – but we’re not. We’re equal (diff from “HS” but both involve idea of respect for Nature, just for different reasons). Serious poem (simple, straight-forward structure is more informative than poetic). Few breaks, remember, reflects the continuous nature of life and how it will go on without you if you don’t make decisions. The short line (line 8) signals a shift in the poem from straight-forward observation to a more complex process of existential realization (we’re all the same). The irregular rhyme scheme at end is not just a reflection of this more complex content, but it also reflects the existential confusion felt by the CR/poet/all of us. We can see a theme of a) need to live responsibly, b) Man and Nature as equal, sharing an affinity over life’s crises/ a lack of definite knowledge of what to do next. Here, Man and Nature are not inferior/superior like in “HS” (we’re equal), but respect for Nature is shared in both poems (via fear/awe in “HS” and via understanding/ affinity in “TC”) and a sense of Man being humbled (via fear/awe/inferiority in “HS” and via affinity/empathy/equality in “TC”).

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