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Thread: Poetry Analysis Help!

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    Poetry Analysis Help!

    Hello, I was wondering if anyone can help me out with analyzing "The Catch" by Richard Wilbur. Here it is:

    * The poem is formatted differently *

    The Catch

    From the dress-box's plashing tis-
    Sue paper she pulls out her prize,
    Dangling it to one side before my eyes
    Like a weird sort of fish

    That she has somehow hooked and gaffed
    And on the dock-end holds in air---
    Limp, corrugated, lank, a catch too rare
    Not to be photographed.

    I, in my chair, make shift to say
    Some bright, discerning thing, and fail,
    Proving once more the blindness of the male.
    Annoyed, she stalks away

    And then is back in half a minute,
    Consulting now, not me at all
    But the long mirror, mirror on the wall.
    The dress, now that she's in it,

    Has changed appreciably, and gains
    By lacy shoes, a light perfume
    Whose subtle field electrifies the room,
    And two slim golden chains.

    With a fierce frown and hard-pursed lips
    She twists a little on her stem
    To test the even swirling of the hem,
    Smooths down the waist and hips,

    Plucks at the shoulder-straps a bit,
    Then turns around and looks behind,
    Her face transfigured now by peace of mind.
    There is no question---it

    Is wholly charming, it is she,
    As I belatedly remark
    And may be hung now in the fragrant dark
    Of her soft armory.

    ---Richard Wilbur

    I know the general idea of it. There's a woman who puts on a dress that changes her. It focuses on how clothes should be; they are unassuming when pulled out of the "dress-box," but when they are placed upon a person that is meant to wear them, they are transformed into a miraculous sight that enhances the beauty of the wearer making the personal qualities they possess visible to those around. This is general though.

    - Richard Wilbur was a fisherman. That's why he uses 'fish' diction within the poem.
    -The catch refers to the woman he is in love with. It relates to a fish and how a fish is usually the "big" catch. In this case, he is inferring that the woman is the "big" catch. She is a marvelous spectacle to be shown off to all.
    -He uses certain words, such as "plashing" and "fail" to signify the sound that a fish makes. It splashes and flails about.

    Thanks

    EDIT: DONE
    Last edited by bob247; 01-22-2014 at 06:17 PM.

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    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    That's not help, it's homework outsourcing. If you just need nudges, be more specific about what exactly you're having trouble with.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calidore View Post
    That's not help, it's homework outsourcing. If you just need nudges, be more specific about what exactly you're having trouble with.
    I just really want to know if i'm on the right track. Is what I said about the poem right?

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    Left 4evr Adolescent09's Avatar
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    I'm guessing the general theme has something to do with the female character's lack of self-authenticity. Hint: She is undressing over and over in front of a mirror in front of another person. If you are a man, which, with a name like bob I cordially presume you are, you should have some idea as to what such thoughts her actions would produce from the male perspective.
    My hide hides the heart inside

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adolescent09 View Post
    I'm guessing the general theme has something to do with the female character's lack of self-authenticity. Hint: She is undressing over and over in front of a mirror in front of another person. If you are a man, which, with a name like bob I cordially presume you are, you should have some idea as to what such thoughts her actions would produce from the male perspective.
    thank you for helping! I asked my teacher for some guidance and he helped me a lot. He said this is one of the hardest poems that he has given out so you can see why I'm asking. He told me a couple of things:

    - Richard Wilbur was a fisherman. That's why he uses 'fish' diction within the poem.
    -The catch refers to the woman he is in love with. It relates to a fish and how a fish is usually the "big" catch. In this case, he is inferring that the woman is the "big" catch. She is a marvelous spectacle to be shown off to all.
    -He uses certain words, such as "plashing" and "fail" to signify the sound that a fish makes.
    It splashes and flails about.

    Nevertheless, I still need a little help with the sound devices and figurative language, though
    I may find some by myself.

    Thanks

  6. #6
    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob247 View Post
    I wanted to ask about some specific questions:

    The general theme?
    Structure and type of poem?
    Rhyme and Rhythm of poem?
    Figurative language?
    Diction?
    Imagery?
    Sound devices?
    Didn't your teacher teach you what these terms mean? If so, in what way are you struggling to find them in the poem? I do think you're on the generally right track with what the poem is about. You may ask WHY the clothes seem so transformed when put on the woman (in whose eyes are they transformed?) and how that transformation relates to the title. Rhyme and rhythm, imagery, figurative language, and diction should be quite easily analyzed in this poem if you understand those terms. "Structure and type" are rather ambiguous (I mean, "structure" and "type" can refer to different things). FWIW, I'm always quite dubious about analyzing "sound devices." I mean, sure, you can point out alliteration and assonance and onomatopoeia, etc. but it's often laughable when critics speculate why such devices are used.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

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    Quote Originally Posted by MorpheusSandman View Post
    Didn't your teacher teach you what these terms mean? If so, in what way are you struggling to find them in the poem? I do think you're on the generally right track with what the poem is about. You may ask WHY the clothes seem so transformed when put on the woman (in whose eyes are they transformed?) and how that transformation relates to the title. Rhyme and rhythm, imagery, figurative language, and diction should be quite easily analyzed in this poem if you understand those terms. "Structure and type" are rather ambiguous (I mean, "structure" and "type" can refer to different things). FWIW, I'm always quite dubious about analyzing "sound devices." I mean, sure, you can point out alliteration and assonance and onomatopoeia, etc. but it's often laughable when critics speculate why such devices are used.
    no he did not. That's why I need help. I tried to find some on my own, but I am not sure if they are right. Can you tell me?

    -"plashing" = onomatopoeia? Sound of splash (fish)
    - Alliteration - "paper she pulls out her prize" (repetition of the "p" sound)
    - Simile - "Dangling it to one side before my eyes/Like a weird sort of fish " (I assumed since it has "like")
    - Hyperbole - "By lacy shoes, a light perfume/Whose subtle field electrifies the room" (exaggeration on "electrifies the room.")
    Last edited by bob247; 01-08-2014 at 08:21 PM.

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    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    Well, that's absurd that your teacher would ask you to analyze the poem for devices he hasn't explained. That said, you're right in all of your examples. "Electrifies the room" is also an example of figurative language (metaphor).
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

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    Quote Originally Posted by MorpheusSandman View Post
    Well, that's absurd that your teacher would ask you to analyze the poem for devices he hasn't explained. That said, you're right in all of your examples. "Electrifies the room" is also an example of figurative language (metaphor).
    Yes. That's why this is very hard for me. And thanks for the feedback. I also was wondering if you would guide me further.

    -I have learned that when he hyphens the "tissue" to "tis- Sue," it is a clever way of revealing the name of his love; Sue.
    -Also, I have realized that there is a 8, 8, 10, 6 syllable count in each stanza(is it called that?) Is there a term for that?
    -Furthermore, I noticed that the first and last lines as well as the second and third lines rhyme in each stanza(?) Is there a term for that as well?

    At the of the poem, I get a little confused because I don't understand why he's "in the fragrant dark/ Of her soft armory." An armory is a place where weapons are placed. Is her beauty the weapon? Also, weapons are called 'arms' so maybe it has something to do with her arms?

    The structure and type of poem is challenging too. I do not know if it is fixed form, free verse, lyric, or narrative
    Last edited by bob247; 01-09-2014 at 07:28 PM.

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    -The "tis-Sue" name play reminds me of Donne, where he often used his and his wife's name (Ann Moore). See "A Hymn to God the Father" as an obvious example. The poem in general reminds me of Herrick's Julia's Clothes.

    -There's not a specific term for that stanza structure (8, 8, 10, 6 syllables), but in general any 4-line stanzas are a quatrain. You could get fancy and say "octosyllabic" for 8 syllables, or "decasyllabic" for 10 syllables, but it's really not necessary. The poem is mostly written in iambs, which are metrical feet that go ba-BUM, or weak-stress/strong-stress.

    -The rhyme scheme is just ABBA. (The "A"s represent the first and last line rhymes, and the "B"s represent the two internal lines rhymes).

    RE Armory: Yes, armory's are places where weapons are kept. You might ask WHAT is being hung in the armory (of the things discussed in the poem, which can be "hung up" in a "dark place?"), how it's similar to a weapon, and what it has to do with catching fish. I wouldn't pursue the arm/armory angle.

    Free verse is unrhymed, un-metered poetry, so it's not free-verse. Fixed forms typically refer to poems that have to be a certain length and adhere to a particular rhyme scheme and/or meter. Sonnets are the typical example. As for lyric VS narrative, these are not really mutually exclusive terms. Narrative just implies a story being told by the narrator, while lyric implies a similarity with music (usually involving rhyme, meter, and an expression of feeling), so poems can be both, neither, or one of the two. You might consider analyzing how the poem is both narrative and lyric.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MorpheusSandman View Post
    -The "tis-Sue" name play reminds me of Donne, where he often used his and his wife's name (Ann Moore). See "A Hymn to God the Father" as an obvious example. The poem in general reminds me of Herrick's Julia's Clothes.

    -There's not a specific term for that stanza structure (8, 8, 10, 6 syllables), but in general any 4-line stanzas are a quatrain. You could get fancy and say "octosyllabic" for 8 syllables, or "decasyllabic" for 10 syllables, but it's really not necessary. The poem is mostly written in iambs, which are metrical feet that go ba-BUM, or weak-stress/strong-stress.

    -The rhyme scheme is just ABBA. (The "A"s represent the first and last line rhymes, and the "B"s represent the two internal lines rhymes).

    RE Armory: Yes, armory's are places where weapons are kept. You might ask WHAT is being hung in the armory (of the things discussed in the poem, which can be "hung up" in a "dark place?"), how it's similar to a weapon, and what it has to do with catching fish. I wouldn't pursue the arm/armory angle.

    Free verse is unrhymed, un-metered poetry, so it's not free-verse. Fixed forms typically refer to poems that have to be a certain length and adhere to a particular rhyme scheme and/or meter. Sonnets are the typical example. As for lyric VS narrative, these are not really mutually exclusive terms. Narrative just implies a story being told by the narrator, while lyric implies a similarity with music (usually involving rhyme, meter, and an expression of feeling), so poems can be both, neither, or one of the two. You might consider analyzing how the poem is both narrative and lyric.
    My feeling is the space between stanzas is a very clever rhetorical scheme, it sort of puts a jutting pacing to the poem, which, knowing Wilbur is quite likely deliberate. Notice how much push he puts on the last line of every stanza, by twisting a metaphor, or throwing an unexpected line out there. the sort of matching rhyme seems more a sort of "dress" of a scheme than something particularly structuring, the general lack of concreteness would also be something to do with the sort of themes expressed.

    The guidance your teacher gave you is rather obscure, sure, Wilbur may have been a recreational fisherman, but generally his use of fish in his poems are metaphorical, such as in The Ballade for the Duke of Orleans.

    When you read Wilbur, the most important thing to look for is a sort of language play and punning. He is very much a technically brilliant poet, who manipulates language to its fullest. But on the second level, you also need to look at his use of female imagery as text, not as an actual woman. The poem itself contains its own metaphorical self-acknowledgement on a metatextual level, like his other works.

    So if I were to read it, lets say that the woman in the poem is a sort of Muse, and the catch is a sort of text, lets say a poem. the dressing, if you will, with language, and the turning in front of the mirror, and the fine tuning is part of a compositional metaphor, to sort of "catch" the prize. Generally Wilbur plays around with these ideas, which led to one of my professors who has written about Wilbur extensively to remark generally that Wilbur metaphorically has a sort of "sexual" relationship with his poetic muse, which is a textual construction. To frame the poem in this light brings more sense to it - how he is hooked onto it, looking for what to say, to dress it, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MorpheusSandman View Post
    -The "tis-Sue" name play reminds me of Donne, where he often used his and his wife's name (Ann Moore). See "A Hymn to God the Father" as an obvious example. The poem in general reminds me of Herrick's Julia's Clothes.

    -There's not a specific term for that stanza structure (8, 8, 10, 6 syllables), but in general any 4-line stanzas are a quatrain. You could get fancy and say "octosyllabic" for 8 syllables, or "decasyllabic" for 10 syllables, but it's really not necessary. The poem is mostly written in iambs, which are metrical feet that go ba-BUM, or weak-stress/strong-stress.

    -The rhyme scheme is just ABBA. (The "A"s represent the first and last line rhymes, and the "B"s represent the two internal lines rhymes).

    RE Armory: Yes, armory's are places where weapons are kept. You might ask WHAT is being hung in the armory (of the things discussed in the poem, which can be "hung up" in a "dark place?"), how it's similar to a weapon, and what it has to do with catching fish. I wouldn't pursue the arm/armory angle.

    Free verse is unrhymed, un-metered poetry, so it's not free-verse. Fixed forms typically refer to poems that have to be a certain length and adhere to a particular rhyme scheme and/or meter. Sonnets are the typical example. As for lyric VS narrative, these are not really mutually exclusive terms. Narrative just implies a story being told by the narrator, while lyric implies a similarity with music (usually involving rhyme, meter, and an expression of feeling), so poems can be both, neither, or one of the two. You might consider analyzing how the poem is both narrative and lyric.
    Thanks for the help! I really appreciate it. I researched some more and found something called "in memorian" stanzas. Someone said that they are "quatrains with the rhyme scheme ABBA. It's called that because that's the form that Tennyson used for his long poem called "In Memoriam.""

    RE RE Armory. I presume that it is the fishing rod! He is using it to "reel" her in as his "big catch."
    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    My feeling is the space between stanzas is a very clever rhetorical scheme, it sort of puts a jutting pacing to the poem, which, knowing Wilbur is quite likely deliberate. Notice how much push he puts on the last line of every stanza, by twisting a metaphor, or throwing an unexpected line out there. the sort of matching rhyme seems more a sort of "dress" of a scheme than something particularly structuring, the general lack of concreteness would also be something to do with the sort of themes expressed.

    The guidance your teacher gave you is rather obscure, sure, Wilbur may have been a recreational fisherman, but generally his use of fish in his poems are metaphorical, such as in The Ballade for the Duke of Orleans.

    When you read Wilbur, the most important thing to look for is a sort of language play and punning. He is very much a technically brilliant poet, who manipulates language to its fullest. But on the second level, you also need to look at his use of female imagery as text, not as an actual woman. The poem itself contains its own metaphorical self-acknowledgement on a metatextual level, like his other works.

    So if I were to read it, lets say that the woman in the poem is a sort of Muse, and the catch is a sort of text, lets say a poem. the dressing, if you will, with language, and the turning in front of the mirror, and the fine tuning is part of a compositional metaphor, to sort of "catch" the prize. Generally Wilbur plays around with these ideas, which led to one of my professors who has written about Wilbur extensively to remark generally that Wilbur metaphorically has a sort of "sexual" relationship with his poetic muse, which is a textual construction. To frame the poem in this light brings more sense to it - how he is hooked onto it, looking for what to say, to dress it, etc.
    Sorry, I know your trying to help by adding your own input and shed some light, but I don't really understand what you are saying lol. Wilbur is in love with his poetry? I apologize if I offended you, but I am only in grade 12, and this is the first time I have actually DONE poetry. In grade 9, I mostly focused on how to write essays in MLA format and analyze significance in TCEA (my teacher is the one who invented it). Then in grade 10 , I had a different teacher that was laid back and said all of my work was excellent. In grade 11, the same teacher who said the same thing. But in grade 12, there was such a change. Nobody expected a teacher like this! Sorry for rambling on, but it frustrates me.

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    King of Dreams MorpheusSandman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob247 View Post
    Thanks for the help! I really appreciate it. I researched some more and found something called "in memorian" stanzas. Someone said that they are "quatrains with the rhyme scheme ABBA. It's called that because that's the form that Tennyson used for his long poem called "In Memoriam.""
    The reason I didn't mention In Memoriam is because that stanza used Iambic Tetrameter (8 syllables per line) instead of varying it like Wilbur does here, with his tetrameter/tetrameter/pentameter/trimeter (8 syllable/8 syllable/10 syllable/6 syllable) variation. If you do compare it to In Memoriam you'd have to note how Wilbur's 3rd line GAINS a foot (4 beats to 5 beats) and his fourth line LOSES a foot (4 beats to 3 beats) compared to Tennyson's. It's possible this gain/loss is making some formal point, but if so I'm not seeing it.

    Quote Originally Posted by bob247 View Post
    RE RE Armory. I presume that it is the fishing rod! He is using it to "reel" her in as his "big catch."
    Note that it's HER armory, not his. So what object in the poem that plays a significant part might be "hung up" in "HER armory?" (hint: substitute "armory" for "closet").

    I know your trying to help by adding your own input and shed some light, but I don't really understand what you are saying lol. Wilbur is in love with his poetry?
    You'll have to pardon JBI for forgetting that you're a poetry neophyte. A lot of poets like to play around with symbols/allegories (some more/less subtle than others) about their creative process. JBI is saying that "the catch" can be the completed poem itself, the woman is "the muse/inspiration," the "dress" is technique/form that the poet uses in order to achieve the completed poem. So you have inspiration by itself (the woman), you have technique by itself (the dress), and once you put them together you have your "catch," since the two rely on each other to achieve the final result.

    This reading is a bit esoteric, and probably far more than you teacher expects from you. If you do use it, I'd HIGHLY recommend citing JBI as I suspect any teacher encountering this interpretation from a high-schooler (assuming you're not some recognized genius who loves poetry) would suspect that they stole it from somewhere else.
    Last edited by MorpheusSandman; 01-11-2014 at 04:39 PM.
    "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being." --Carl Gustav Jung

    "To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." --Neil Gaiman; The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

    "I'm on my way, from misery to happiness today. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh" --The Proclaimers

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    The last lines of the poem do not rhyme denoting the end of the poem -another sound device.

    I think you need to think about who is caught is this poem as Wilbur seems to be (over)playing with the image of fishing, and being caught.

    The wife has caught the dress, and she has caught her husband. The last verse suggests this.

    The narrator not attracted/interested in his wife until she puts the (hooked and gaffed) dress and accessorises it, so whilst the narrator may feel the wife is his catch, the language shows aware shows that he is also caught by his wife in the dress. He is to be hung (like a caught fish) in the fragrant dark of her armory (her body and hooked dress).

    So everyone in the poem is caught - the dress is caught, the wife is caught and the narrator is caught after his wife dons the dress. He's using it as a metaphor for love.

    It's a play on language and imagery.

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sandy14 View Post
    The last lines of the poem do not rhyme denoting the end of the poem -another sound device.

    I think you need to think about who is caught is this poem as Wilbur seems to be (over)playing with the image of fishing, and being caught.

    The wife has caught the dress, and she has caught her husband. The last verse suggests this.

    The narrator not attracted/interested in his wife until she puts the (hooked and gaffed) dress and accessorises it, so whilst the narrator may feel the wife is his catch, the language shows aware shows that he is also caught by his wife in the dress. He is to be hung (like a caught fish) in the fragrant dark of her armory (her body and hooked dress).

    So everyone in the poem is caught - the dress is caught, the wife is caught and the narrator is caught after his wife dons the dress. He's using it as a metaphor for love.

    It's a play on language and imagery.
    Then what of the opening of the poem? "like a weird sort of fish".

    the weirdness is generally the play, the dress is not just about the material in her hands but on how it is "worn". The wearing is in a sense, the art of it, getting the lines in the right place, etc.

    You are seeing being caught as a sort of "being snagged". but rather Wilbur is using it as a sort of "to snag" usage. The mute poet, trying to frame the woman, who, once the dress is in place, is frameable. The dress, in a sense, is the poetic imagery of the muse, a clever conceit.

    I don't see the poem as much about "love" than as much about poetic expression and language, which is quite common from Wilbur. As for the end not rhyming, it is a slant rhyme, or half-rhyme, which is actually a sort of rhyme, to the point where you don't even notice its break, as the rhyming has been rather soft throughout the poem.
    And the poem is caught from the beginning. There is nothing to suggest the poet is not enticed from the beginning, he merely does not have the words of expression - the vehicle, the clothing, is not in place. language is very much a sort of clothing for the meaning we intend, which is sort of what Wilbur is getting at.

    As for above, I was not responding to the homework question, but the actual poem itself. If the kid fails his homework it is his problem, his teacher didn't assign it to me.

    As for the muse-poet relationship, it's age old and a sort of staple of Wilbur's. This is hardly the only example.
    Last edited by JBI; 01-17-2014 at 12:06 AM.

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