Re: poetry essay

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Poetry Essay

Chinua Achebe and Ted Hughes, the poets of Vultures and Pike, have both written poems which show ambivalence towards their poem’s subjects, but do their poems have any messages about human and animal nature hidden within the text?

The first thing which strikes me about these poems is their titles; the title “Vultures” makes me think of predators and danger, whereas “Pike” makes me think of fishing and calmness. These titles both contrast with each other, but the actual poems have more of a connection than the titles would first suggest.
Both poems share the theme of darkness and evil. This can be shown in “Vultures” in the line “...with fumes of human roast clinging rebelliously to his hairy nostrils” because when the reader thinks of a roast, they would think of Sunday dinner but then when they realise that humans have been cooked, it’s a disgusting thought and quite scary, because they are a human themselves. A similar example can also be found in Pike, “killers from the egg.” This line portrays the pike as evil because in saying that they are killers from the egg means that they were born to be killers and programmed to be killers which is a unnerving thought.

The next thing I notice is the form and structure of the poems. Pike has four lines per stanza, which suggests to me that the poet feels trapped by his feeling of awe and fear for the pike; he is unable to break away from the pattern of four lines per stanza much as he is unable to break away from his feelings for the pike. On the other hand, it could also mean that because the poem has been organized into four lines per stanza with deliberation the poet is trying to show the deliberation the actions of the pike, trying to portray the consciousness and knowingness of the pike, and trying to suggest that the pike knows what it’s doing when it intimidates the poet. The form and structure of Vultures, however, represents free will as the poem was written in free verse, not following a pattern, which may show the free will of the bird and the man; they are responsible for they’re own actions when they eat and burn corpses.

The next thing I notice is the imagery and symbolism within the poems. One line within Pike, which I think not only uses imagery and symbolism but also relates to human and animal nature is this: ”killers from the egg”. I have already explained that they were born that way, unable to help who they are and what they are capable of. That is a scary thought because people are unable to change them but I think that this relates to human and animal nature because it’s saying you can’t help the way that a person/animal was born. When you read this quote you think of an egg cracking open and an evil monster spewing out, which automatically gives you the prejudice that the “monster” is evil. In Vultures there is also an example of imagery and symbolism, “...pick a corner in that charnel house tidy it and coil up there”. When the reader thinks of somebody who would clean up a house and then fall asleep in it they would probably think of a housewife, which gives the sentence a homey feel which is positive, but when the poet put those words together with “charnel-house” it shatters that image because the vultures falling in a sleep where bones of dead bodies are stored.

Another message about human nature which Pike puts across can be found in the line, “darkness beneath nights darkness had freed, that rose slowly towards me, watching” because the poet is showing his fear for the pike in it’s purist form. The fact that the author chooses to use the word “darkness” may represent death because the poet has already introduced the idea of darkness and death being the same thing, this can be found in the phrase, “last year’s black leaves”. This suggests that the poet is afraid of the pike because he feels like the pike is hunting him, because the darkness had been freed suggesting that it had escaped and he now feels as though he has lost control of the pike and the situation is now the hunter being hunted.

The vocabulary in the poems also shows ambivalence; in Pike there is something good and bad said about the fish in every stanza. One example of this would be “they dance among the surface of the flies”, which shows two sides to the fish. The word dance makes the reader think of something nice and romantic but when they hear that they are dancing among flies it obliterates this image; when they think of flies they think of something disgusting: something dead with flies buzzing around its remains. The vocabulary in Vultures also shows ambivalence, such as the phrase, “perched high on the broken bone of a tree”. The words “perched high” makes the reader think that they’re powerful, surveying the world below them and being in control, but when they hear that they’re on a broken bone of a tree it makes them think of death and also makes them think the vultures are repulsive for sitting on the remains of a once-living creature. However this line could also be reference to the Commander because not only does he work with corpses and death but in saying that the vultures are “perched high” it gives the reader the image of something that’s in control and powerful, which relates to the Commander as he is in control of the people that work for him. This may be to suggest that the vultures and the Commander are the same.
In conclusion I think that these poems are trying to say many messages about human and animal nature but two of which stand out the most. I think that they are firstly trying to say is that what humans are afraid of the most is not being in control and the thought of being hunted and not being able to do anything about it is a disturbing thought to humans but the most important message it that everything, no matter how evil, is capable of love and you shouldn’t judge them on what they have to do to survive.


the poets of Vultures and Pike,

Whenever you use the titles of the poems, be sure to put them into quotation marks.


Your conclusion needs work. It is a series of run-on sentences. Make your ideas more concise. You have some excellent ideas here.

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