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Cetacean by Peter Reading
Terms in this set (17)
- known for his bleak and pessimistic outlook on life
- liked to write about natural subjects
- Poems were typically short and direct, with little description and emotion in order to "preserve" the moment being depicted
'Out of Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, Sunday, early,/ Our vessel, bow to stern, some sixty-three feet' lines 1 & 2
The first two lines of the poem are full with facts, which lack imagery. This provides distance between the reader and speaker. This is ironic, as whales are magnificent. Unlike Constantine in 'watching for dolphins', Reading lacks detail in the awe of whales. Alternatively however, this could suggest how Reading does not feel the need to point out all the fanaticism of whales, as they already are self explanatory or present in the facts. The assonance in these lines also slow down the pace of the poem, linking to the day this poem is written in - the day of rest (Sunday). Lastly, Reading's use of caesura (frequent commas), are illustrative of Readings immense and overflowing excitement and knowledge of whales.
'They were swimming slowly, and rose at a shallow angle' line 4
Similarly to the sibilance used in this line, the poem slows down to put emphasis on the massive power of whales. Additionally, the adverb "slowly" contrasts with the action of the first stanza. Whales don't need to rush. They are calm and majestic. Again, the use of precise detail reflects Reading's vast knowledge.
(they were grey as slate with white mottling, dorsals tiny and stubby,..) line 5
The simile 'grey as slate...' suggests gloom and the pessimistic and disinterested attitude of the speaker. This description interestingly, as it is a simile, rather than allowing readers to visualize the scene through imagery, is just factual statements stated by the speaker. However, as this line is placed in brackets, this suggests how this line was almost the speaker's afterthought and reminder of the beauty of the whale. Perhaps this demonstrates how the speaker is genuinely engaged with what whales are, rather than the extravaganza of whales
'They blew as soon as their head began to break the surface' line 6
the plosives in this line are reflective of the grand demonstration of water shooting out of the whales. This emphasizes the awe invoked within the reader as we recognize and are amazed by the whale's power, which is ironic as Reading's style of writing portrays his indifference to the spectacle
'Then their heads disappeared underwater, and the lengthy, rolling' line 10
The 'l' sounds slows down the pace of the poem, which mirrors the movements of the whales in the moment described by speakers - slow and majestic.
'And then the diminutive dorsals' line 13
This line is indented within the poem. This enforces the flow of the poem, revealing Reading's increasing excitement at the whales. This use of enjambment further helps to quicken the pace of the poem, suggesting excitement with the reader. Furthermore, the plosives of the 'd' sounds suggests the speaker's shock at the tininess of the whales. This is reflective of the poet's clear interest in the factual side of whales
'Showed briefly, after the blows had dispersed and the heads had' line 14
The time connectives used of 'after' and 'and' shows the speaker's great sense of anticipation for the whales also present within the readers, as we also are interested to see where the poem is going
'Then they arched their backs, then arched their tails stocks ready' line 16
The anaphora of 'then' help pick up the pace of the poem, as if the speaker is getting more excited and amused by the movement of whales.
'Then the flukes were visible just before the creatures vanished,' line 18
The description of how the whales 'vanished' links to the fascination of whales that seems to be growing within the speaker. This provides the imagery of whales being figures of magic and mystery.
'slipping into the deep again, at a shallow angle'
The readers repetition of the 'shallow angle' involves the use of assonance, which aids in slowing the pace of the poem down, perhaps reflecting the reverence of whales in the eyes of the poet. Furthermore, the use of the word 'shallow angle' is located symmetrically to each repetition in the poem.This engages ideas of belonging and structure within the world of whales and nature, of which Reading is fascinated by
The poet's heavy use of commas reflects the poets vast knowledge of whales, in which he delivers the audience in a list-like form. This creates a sense of reverence in relation to the whales, and how there is much to know about them
The caesura breaks up the flow of the poem, emphasizing the sense of detachment within the speaker, from nature
Stanzas 6 & 7
These last two stanzas are arranged in couplets (two lines). This reflects the brief encounter Reading has with the whales, and how the memory and excitement of the moment is fleeting
In this poem, there is no regular meter or rhyme scheme. This emphasizes the sense of detachment from nature within this poem. This also mirrors the behaviors of whales, as they are impulsive and follow their own instincts rather than a fixed routine.
Each stanza is either organized as tersets or couplets. This reflects the impact and memory of the whale (fleeting)
The tone of the poem is factual, offering feelings of detachment and indifference to the reader. However, this opposes the time connectives of the poem in stanzas 5 and 6, suggesting the poet's growing interest and excitement
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