278. The Fly by Karl Shapiro

This poem is told from the perspective of the disgusted and irritated human, discussing the everyday activities of the fly, and the eventual death of the fly at the hands of the speaker. This perspective, although not from the point of view of the fly, offers a fairly apt idea of what flies do in their usually quite short lifetimes. It is through this point of view that the poet allows his readers to further connect with what he is saying, because Shapiro is aware that all people have had at least one less-than-enjoyable encounter with this gross flying insect. He appeals to the readers' memories in order to create a more interesting, impacting poem, and has a loathing, disgusted tone that also connects with the reader. Along with his choice perspective, Shapiro utilizes a creative rhyme scheme, with six, eight-line stanzas, each of which ends in an A-B-B-A pattern. it is the first and third lines that are interesting, because they do not have any rhyme connection, while the second and fourth lines do, however, the non-rhyming lines have a metric quality, with the same number of syllables in each line, which in turn forms a sense of rhythm. Although the first half of the stanza does not follow a rhyme scheme as does the second half, Shapiro successfully creates a rhythm that is reminiscent of a fly coming closer and then leaving and then returning again with the back and forth nature of the rhyme and meter of the poem.

The literary devices that Shapiro uses in this poem are that of simile, and his diction. The similes that Shapiro employ add to the general sense of disgust in regards to the fly, for example, in line 16 the speaker says "And inlay maggots like a jewel," to describe how the flies utilize the dead as their personal breeding ground. He also compares the fly's noise to "Sounding your buzzer like an urchin toy"(line 12), which gives the reader a sense of how, just as a child's toy, the fly is extremely irritating. Then Shapiro utilizes similes to describe the destruction of the fly by the speaker: "Knock your head sideways like a drunkard's hat,/Pin your wings under like a crows"(Line 37-38), which procures an image of a fly with a crooked head and useless wings. Shapiro's word choice is the main strength of the poem, because without many of the adjectives "The Fly" would not have the same affect. The first line of the poem "O hideous little bat, the size of snot" is an immediate clue that this poem is not a friendly portrayal of the fly, and then he emphasizes the disgusting character of the fly with his other word choices. From lines 29 to 32 it is written: "You glue yourself to death. Where you are stuck/ You struggle hideously and beg,/ You amputate your leg/ Imbedded in the amber muck." The word hideous is repeated , and the struggle of a fly dying in a sticky trap is given an almost war-like tone, showing the fly's slow trek toward death with the words struggle, beg, amputate, amber, and muck.

As gruesome as this poem was, I liked how it gave such a disgusting little creature a part in a poetic thought. It made the various ways that the flies died, and what happens to the flies after death seem extremely repulsive. The last lines say: "I sweep. One gyrates like a top and falls/And stunned, stone blind, and deaf/Buzzes its frightful F/ And dies between three cannibals." This is a chilling view of how the fly, once it has been killed, is simply devoured by its fellow insects, who face the same fate as it met. The fly was killed by horses, killed by men, killed by wives and children, killed by its own fellow insects. The poem has a transition point to arrive at these various forms of death, where the first two stanzas of the poem are about the life of the fly, and the final six stanzas are about the fly being killed, which I found interesting because it shows that more happens to kill the fly than to keep it away. It is made out to be the hated insect of the living population, a fascinating perspective that allows for the reader to see just how the annoying little bane of their summer is annihilated.


Mr. Klimas said...

You left out "apostrophe" and "juxtaposition."

Manuel said...

Thx for the breake down..
Just what i needed to start annotating the poem. =D