The Stone Crab: A Love Poem

Blog: Analyze your chosen poem as best you can and pose any questions you have about it.

As I was looking through our Pocket Anthology for a poem to write about, I came across The Stone Crab: A Love Poem by Robert Phillips and it immediately caught my attention. Me being a fan of stone crabs, I liked this poem right away; not only because of that, but how it is written. The poem talks about a stone crab’s life and how one of its claws is picked and the body (still alive) is thrown back “upon his resources,” “mutilated,” in order to grow back a claw and repeat the process for the rest of its life. As soon as the crab grows back a new claw, the speaker comments, “And one astonished, snap! it too/is twigged off, the cripple dropped/back into treachery.” The crab does not get a chance to enjoy its life with its true form: two claws. The speaker says, “One giant claw/is his claim to fame, and we claim it,/more than once.” The speaker uses the word “we”, probably referring to fishermen, and how the crab’s only pride is taken away, its body “undesirable.” One question I came up with to help lead my essay is: Even though the crab constantly grows back a missing claw, is it OK to repeatedly do this? The speaker asks, “How many losses/can he endure?” which shows slight sympathy for the crab. Another question is, what could the crab be a metaphor or symbol for; what could it represent in life? The poem ends with this: “Something vital is broken off, he doesn’t nurse the wound; develops something new.” This denotes the stealing of the crab’s claw, a vital part of the crab, and how it does not care for the damaged limb, but creates a new one. This really shows the fighter inside the stone crab. The poem itself is very detailed, but it is difficult to see beneath it and figure out what the crab represents.

UPDATE: After doing a group analysis in class today, I uncovered more about this poem. One main theme is perseverance and how, through the poem, the capabilities of the stone crabs teach an important lesson to man. We (humans) have to be like the crabs and be strong enough to grow a new “claw” and now worry about mending the broken one.

The Stone Crab: A Love Poem
Delicacy of warm Florida waters,
his body is undesirable. One giant claw
is his claim to fame, and we claim it,
more than once. Meat sweeter than lobster,
less dear than his life, when grown that claw
is lifted, broken off at the joint.
Mutilated, the crustacean is thrown back
into the water, back upon his resources.
One of nature’s rarities, he replaces
an entire appendage as you or I
grow a nail. (No one asks how he survives
that crabby sea with just one claw;
two-fisted menaces real as night-
mares, ten-tentacled nights cold
as fright.) In time he grows another,
large, meaty, magnificent as the first.
And one astonished, snap! it too
is twigged off, the cripple dropped
back into treachery. Unlike a twig,
it sprouts again. How many losses
can he endure? Well,
his shell is hard, the sea wide.
Something vital is broken off, he doesn’t
nurse the wound; develops something new.

“Fire and Ice” – Analysis

Blog: What do “fire” and “ice” symbolize in the poem? Be sure to tie your analysis to very specific evidence. You may post this to your blog, but the writing should be formally argumentative, not exploratory: it should begin with a topic sentence that states your overall argument, and then back it up with analysis of cited evidence. Pay close attention to The Commandments.

In Frost’s poem, “Fire and Ice,” the speaker symbolizes fire as desire or love, and ice is symbolized to be destruction and hate. Another way to symbolize ice in this poem is coldness. Frost immediately connects fire with desire because of its perfect rhyme. There is controversy about how the world will end; in fire or in ice. Desire can go hand-in-hand with greed, and the speaker talks about the fate of humankind and the planet. Being greedy and desiring so many things, humans weaken the world. The persona says, “Some say the world will end in fire/Some say in ice.” Frost takes the two and suggests that they both can have the same effect. The speaker has experienced desire, saying, “From what I’ve tasted of desire/I hold with those who favor fire.” This denotes that after understanding desire, he sides with “those who favor fire.” However, on the last few lines, the idea of the world ending twice appears and Frost writes that ice can do the same damage as fire: “But if it [the world] had to perish twice,/I think I know enough of hate/To say that for destruction ice/Is also great/And would suffice.” The speaker admitted to feeling both desire and hate, that he is the same as those he describes. Fire and ice are both opposites for numerous reasons, such as that fire consumes its prey rapidly, whereas ice freezes slowly and less severely. Fire is burning hot, and ice is freezing cold. Frost makes a point that they both can do the same damage. Experiencing both desire and hate, the speaker first says that fire would end the world, but at the end, he says that ice “Is also great/And would suffice.” This shows that humans are fated to die both ways.

Symbolism in “Ulysses”

Blog: In Tennyson’s poem, could the character represents something more than the man Ulysses who conquered Troy, ventured home, and set out again on a voyage into the unknown? What might he symbolize?

In the poem, Ulysses, Ulysses’ story is taken further to a few years after his long-awaited return home. Throughout Ulysses’ whole trip, his goal is to return home to Ithaca, no matter what stands in his way. But when he finally comes home, “among these barren crags,” and is finally with his “aged wife,” he realizes he does not want to be home; he wants to “drink life to the lees.” I find it a bit ironic that on his whole journey he was dying to get home, and when he finally reaches his goal, he craves more adventure out of life. Ulysses represents more than this legend who encountered dangerous obstacles and nearly died numerous times; he represents perseverance and the idea of taking the most out of life. He says, “How dull it is to pause, to take an end,” showing his thoughts about never stopping. He says, “Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’/Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades/For ever and forever when I move.” This quote connotes his perseverance to move forward, however he never gets any closer to the “untravelled world.” But, his yearning to explore pushes him to the very end.

“After Apple-Picking” – Analysis

Blog: This poem certainly seems to be about apple picking, and about sleep. What more could apple-picking and sleep represent? And if they represent more than themselves, then what sort of figure does that make them?

In “After Apple-Picking,” Frost uses two symbols; apples and sleep. Both are symbols because they exist in the speaker’s life, but also figuratively. In this case, apples are a symbol for the accomplishments in life (in the speaker’s life). By picking apples, the speaker accomplishes something, however when he misses the apples, the speaker does not achieve anything. The persona says, “And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill.” That barrel is supposed to hold apples, and by not filling that barrel, the speaker missed so much that is out there (in the world). The speaker says, “There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,” meaning there is much to experience in the world, and the persona missed so much of it; there is simply not enough time to see everything the world offers. This is why the speaker is ready to sleep. In this poem, sleep is used as a symbol for death. After feeling finished with apple-picking, the speaker mentions fatigue and sleep approaching him. The first time it is used is on line 7. Right before that, on line 6, the persona says, “But I am done with apple-picking.” Following that, he says, “Essence of winter sleep is on the night,” showing how death is coming near and how, who I think is an old man, the speaker knows death is around the corner. The word, “winter,” is often associated with the words dark and death. He says, “I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight,” connoting that he cannot get away from his weariness. To further show how he is tired of apple-picking, he says, “For I have had too much/Of apple-picking: I am overtired/Of the great harvest I myself desired.” This proves how he is “overtired” of apple-picking. Soon after, at the end of the poem, the speaker describes his upcoming sleep. He says, “Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,/Or just some human sleep.” This quote shows how the speaker is tired of life and how he is readily awaiting his “long sleep.”

“Harlem,” “Digging,” and “The Writer” – Literary Figure Use

Blog: “Harlem,” “Digging,” and “The Writer” each open with one type of literary figure (simile, metaphor, symbol), only to replace that figure with one of a different type by the end. Consider what the shift achieves in each poem: overall, how do the shifts demonstrate the differences between simile, metaphor, and symbol? This question is about how the different literary figures operate, not about the specific shifting meanings of the deferred dream, the poet’s pen, and the young writer.

In “Harlem,” the poem opens up with a question, “What happens to a dream deferred?” as well as a simile: “Does it dry up/like a raisin in the sun?” This shifts to a metaphor in the last line: “Or does it explode?” This shift helps emphasize the possibilities of what can happen to a dream. Throughout the whole poem, each literary figure has a negative connotation; for example, a raisin drying up in the sun suggests the dream is abandoned and loses its juice. However, the last line with the italicized word, “explode”, can mean that the dream flourishes and becomes alive. From starting with the first simile and ending with this metaphor of the dream exploding, a whole new possibility for the dream is created, giving the poem’s ending a certain effect. The reason it is a metaphor and not a symbol or imagery, is because a dream cannot really explode (imagery), nor can it both literally explode and mean more than what it says (symbol).

In “Digging,” the poem begins with a simile and ends with a metaphor. The simile in the beginning: “Between my finger and my thumb/my squat pen rests, snug as a gun” shifts to a metaphor at the end of the poem: “Between my finger and my thumb/my squat pen rests, I’ll dig with it.” This shift achieves a newer meaning for the pen; by using this metaphor at the end of the poem, the pen becomes a metaphor for a spade. It is not a physical spade that he can dig like his father and grandfather did, but he can dig with his pen through writing. The pen cannot be a symbol for a spade because it does not infinitely relate to it, like symbols do. The reason it is a metaphor for a spade is that the boy can dig with it to follow his dream, but he cannot literally dig using the pen. By having this shift, the poem takes something from the beginning and in the end transforms it into the boy’s decision and plan of not following his ancestor’s tradition, but still keeping it alive by still digging, but differently.

Finally, in “The Writer,” the piece begins with a metaphor to be replaced with a symbol. The metaphor relates the young writer’s life and/or writing career to a ship’s journey, using many nautical elements such as the first line, “In her room at the prow of the house,” immediately brings in boats to the poem. Throughout the first half of the poem, her life and/or writing career are related to a cargo ship, and the second half of the poem uses a bird that was trapped in the girl’s room to symbolize the young writer. Struggling to put her heavy burdens onto paper, the speaker calling it a situation “Of life or death,” the young girl can infinitely be related to the bird. By switching from a metaphor to a symbol, the poem gives the reader a real sense of what the girl’s life is like, but also by taking a memory that the speaker describes and using the subject of that memory to symbolize the girl ties everything up in a sense that the reader understands the girl, and is able to infinitely interpret and relate her to the bird.

“The Writer” – Analysis

Blog: Just a free reflection this time: what do you think is the message of the poem? Why?

I really like this poem because of the way it portrays its message through the use of similes and metaphors. The first metaphor is comparing the girl’s life to the sea. The first line uses the word, “prow”, and on the second line, the speaker says “the windows are tossed with linden”, both relating to situation to a journey at sea. The linden being the ocean and its waves. On the sixth line, the speaker uses a simile, comparing the girl typing to “a chain hauled over a gunwale.” Throughout this poem, the girl’s life is used metaphorically with the sea. She often pauses, connoting the struggles she faces in writing her story, but even more to represent the obstacles in life. Her father wishes her a “lucky passage”, also relating to a ships journey, hoping she will do well. The journey in this case is the girl’s life and how her father can get the ship to start, but the girl has to guide and steer it. This idea is portrayed in the majority of the second half of the poem, when a starling was trapped in the same room the girl is typing in. Her father watched and waited for it to find the open window, careful of not frightening it. This is a similar situation to the idea of opening the door for the daughter. Finally, on lines 26-30, the bird gathers its brains to find the open window and escape the room, and “Clearing the sill of the world.” The father wants his daughter, the writer, to face the world.

“Digging” – Analysis

Blog: Contrast the first stanza of the poem with the last, considering specifically the replacement of “snug as a gun” (2) with “I’ll dig with it” (31). What kind of attitude toward the speaker’s work does each phrase suggest? What does this slight change from the beginning of the poem to the end represent? Can you support your analysis with evidence from the middle stanzas?

I really enjoyed the way this poem was written and how it portrays its message of following you talents, but begin aware of what came before you. The first and last stanzas are the same, except Heaney added “I’ll dig with it” to the last stanza, referring to the speaker’s pen. As it says in the first stanza, the pen rests as “snug as a gun” in his hand, suggesting that he feels comfortable with the pen, and the pen fits well in his hand. Throughout the poem, he watches his father dig outside, “Stooping in rhythm through the potato drills.” He sees how well his father digs; how he has been digging for his whole life: “Bends low, comes up twenty years away.” The fifth and sixth stanzas describe the young man’s grandfather digging out his years as well. The speaker says, “Through living roots awaken in my head, but I’ve no spade to follow men like them,” connoting his desire to follow a different path. He takes the strong qualities that he has seen growing up in his father and grandfather, and uses them with writing. The last stanza says, “I’ll dig with it,” showing how he will use his pen to dig like his elders. The young man is breaking the tradition, however, he will still dig with the pen, symbolizing the spade, but this time through writing.