Knowledge of Poem I watched a giant cockroach start to pace, Skirting a ball of dust that rode the floor. At first he seemed quite satisfied to trace A path between the wainscot and the door, But soon he started to jog in crooked rings, Circling the dusty table leg and back, And flipping right over to scratch his wings- As if the victim of a mild attack Of restlessness that worsens over time. After a while, he climbed an open shelf And stopped.
He looked uncertain where to go. Was this due payment for some vicious crime A former life had led to?
I don’t know, Except i thought i recognised myself. Kevin Halligan was born in Toronto, Canada in 1964 He regards himself as an Anglophile and has spent long periods living in England, but has also travelled in Asia, where this poem was written. His collection “Blossom Street” is based on his travels and he often observes alien counties with detailed fascination.
In this poem he apparently focuses an intense concentration on an insect, but in a powerful twist of focus the whole poem flips back to reveal that the poet himself is actually the subject.
Halligan hones his poems obsessively. He is able to use a variety of forms with great control, and deceptive ease. This seems at first quite a simple poem but it is tightly constructed with great skill. Some points for classroom discussion Consider the tone of voice of the narrator and what effect this produces on the reader. Suggested comparison Judith Wright ‘Hunting Snake’. The Cockroach by Kevin Halligan ‘The Cockroach’ by Kevin Halligan is a poem about reflection on life through watching the movement of a cockroach.
Through the use of structure, detailed description of cockroach as an extended metaphor of the persona, the theme of confusion and realization of life is well conveyed. Halligan describes a frantic movement of the cockroach throughout the poem. The title foreshadows and reveals that the poem is about a small and trifle insect- a cockroach. However, the poem opens with the exaggeration of it ‘a giant cockroach’. This highlights that he is observing it very closely feeling as if it is a ‘giant’.
The word ‘giant’ also conveys that it is not only an insect but also a device to reflect on life giving it great importance with the repetition of word ‘cockroach’ in the title and first line. The persona can even sense how it feels and thinks; ‘he seemed quite satisfied’ ‘he looked uncertain where to go’. These illustrate that the cockroach begins to feel distracted and confused suggesting that the persona involves his thoughts to it. The movement of the cockroach is closely described. The cockroach is an extended metaphor of the persona and human being.
The cockroach moves through ‘a path between the wainscot and the door’ which symbolizes a steady path that people follow early in life. But, ‘soon he turned to jog in crooked rings’ suggests human being’s confusion in later life reinforcing a sense of confusion of human being. Purpose To construct and deliver a presentation on ‘The Cockroach’ by Kevin Halligan, which will widen the readers knowledge and explore things in depth that they would not have gained from a simple reading of the poem. List of Points to be dealt with Kevin Halligan’s Biography Writing Techniques
Themes Symbolism Biography/Intro The purpose of this presentation is to widen your knowledge of ‘The Cockroach’ By Kevin Halligan, which will allow you to explore his writing more in depth. I will start with Kevin Halligan’s Biography. Kevin Halligan was born in Toronto, Canada in 1964. He spent most of his life living in England though, and he became an Anglophile which means he admires all things English. Throughout his life he travelled a lot, and wrote poems about his observations of different countries which his collection called”Blossom Street” is based on.
Part of this collection is “The Cockroach” which he wrote while he was travelling through Asia. Theme, Symbolism and Writing Technique The Cockroach is structured like a Shakespearean sonnet. It contains 14 lines and the first 6 lines follow a strict iambic pentameter rhyme scheme, where every second syllable is stressed. One of the main Themes covered by Halligan in “The Cockroach” is the Confusion and Realization in life that humans experience at some point in time. Halligan conveys the theme by using the cockroach as an extended metaphor of a human life.
The description of the cockroach as a GIANT even though we expect it to be a small insect, and the repetition of cockroach in the poem reflects the importance of a human life. Halligan describes the cockroach’s path closely; he describes the cockroach’s initial movements saying how it “seemed quite satisfied to trace, A path between the wainscot and the door” which in my opinion symbolises a human life with guidance possibly from the parents and could symbolise the paths we take as children. Then there is a twist and the cockroach “started to jog in crooked rings” and ”stopped and looked uncertain where to go. This to me symbolises the confusion of humans in later life when they are unsure of which paths to take. This could relate to all of us, with our confusion and uncertainty of which Universities to apply for, or even what direction in life to take after High school. That’s it for my presentation, but I’m going to leave you with the following question. The cockroach’s structure is very similar while Halligan is describing the cockroach, but it changes after the full stop in line 11, why is this, and what effect does it have on the readers Tone?
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