“Advice from a Caterpillar” Amy Gerstler

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The poem is a sassy life lesson about not dwelling on past mistakes. It is structured as one left-justified stanza with enjambment and hard punctuation. The extended metaphor of a caterpillar is used to offer advice for dealing with future problems. The poem is instructional and uses humor to imply that life should not be taken too seriously. The lack of a formal rhyme scheme and the use of alliteration create a short and concise structure mirroring the sentence structure. The poem can be interpreted as a metaphor for growing as a person and finding something beautiful in life, even after difficult times.

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After reading the poem, I felt that it was very sassy. I interpreted it as a life lesson, and to never dwell on your past mistakes. The poem was short, sweet, and easily understood. I really enjoyed this poem; it reminded me of how I want to live my life.

The structure of the poem is one left justified stanza. There is enjambment on lines two, four, five, six, eight, nine, eleven, twelve, and fifteen. In the third the line the word “everything” is italicized, this is the only word that sticks out. The speaker uses hard punctuation using periods and commas. There is no formal rhyme scheme. The speaker is using an extended metaphor and is personifying a caterpillar. The poem is instructional.

None of the pieces of advice the speaker suggests are repeated, implying they are of equal importance (except for the italicized “everything”). There is some use of alliteration throughout the poem, such as in line eight, with “crumpling” and “climbing,” and in lines 12-13, with “cryptically,” “confuse,” “change,” and “colors. ” The structure of the poem mirrors the sentence structure: short and concise.

You should present the poem, both its literal meaning and any other interpretations that have arisen from your meeting with it. Initially, I thought the poem was simply about not dwelling on the past. After further readings, I realized that even though it has a short and sweet format the poem can be interpreted as much more. Literally, the poem is about a caterpillar giving advice to the audience, but it is clearly a metaphor. Not only does the poem talk about forgetting your mistakes, it talks about growing as a person.

The poem offers advice for dealing with future problems, it does so with humor. The humor is found when the speaker says, “When threatened, emit foul odors/ in self-defense,” (11-12) and again when the speaker says, “If all else fails, taste terrible” (14). By using humor, the speaker is implying that life should not be taken so seriously. Because the speaker is a caterpillar, the audience can imply that it will turn into a butterfly. From this, I see that no matter how bad life is something beautiful may come about.

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“Advice from a Caterpillar” Amy Gerstler. (2016, Sep 16). Retrieved from


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