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Basking Shark Annotation of Poem Learning Intention: I can show my analysis of a poem through annotation of the text.

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Presentation on theme: "Basking Shark Annotation of Poem Learning Intention: I can show my analysis of a poem through annotation of the text."— Presentation transcript:

1 Basking Shark Annotation of Poem Learning Intention: I can show my analysis of a poem through annotation of the text

2 Poet’s Main Idea This poem depicts the startling encounter MacCaig had with a Basking Sea. Basking sharks are one of the largest species of the shark family, in fact they are the second largest species of any fish, reaching sizes in excess of ten metres and weighing several tonnes. They are harmless filter feeders, having no true teeth, and as such pose no real danger to humans. Still, a surprise close encounter with a creature of that size would be unnerving, particularly if close enough to touch the oars of a small boat, as happened to MacCaig.

3 Basking sharks in the uk Every year, holidaymakers flock to the coastline in the hope of seeing these enigmatic sharks for themselves. Reaching lengths of up to 12m, Basking Sharks are the largest fish in British waters and the second largest in the world after the Whale Shark. One of only three plankton-feeding shark species, these gentle giants re-appear in our coastal waters each spring and summer.

4 Theme of poem This encounter sparked in him a reflection on the comparative paths of evolution such differing species took: basking sharks on the one hand, relatively unchanged for millions of years, and humans on the other, vastly changed since the days when marine life first crawled ashore and adapted to a life on land. This train of thought leads to a disturbing question: who is the monster? Is it the shark, literally monstrous in size and aspect to the human; or is it the poet himself, representative of the human race and all the dark, monstrous deeds of which our race is capable? The thought remains with the poet, unresolved, as the shark swims off.

5 Structure  This poem is set out in five stanzas, each of three lines, and each line being end-rhymed with the others in the stanza. The meter of the poem is also fairly regular: the first two lines of each stanza have five stressed syllables, while the final one has four. The effect of the final shorter stressed line is to create a sense of fitting closure to the stanza.  In this poem the tightness of structure serves to encapsulate the uniqueness of the experience, and the regularity of rhythm and rhyme matches the rhythmic quality of the rise and the fall of the sea itself, and likewise the steady pulling of the oars.  The subject of the poem is never mentioned in the body of the poem itself, instead we infer from the title what the poet's small boat collided with that day.

6 Stanza One To stub an oar on a rock where none should be, To have it rise with a slounge out of the sea Is a thing that happened once (too often) to me.

7 Stanza One To stub an oar on a rock where none should be, To have it rise with a slounge out of the sea Is a thing that happened once (too often) to me. Infinitive verbs Captures attention Metaphor comparing the shark to a rock – bulky/solid without feeling or intelligence Slounge – onomatopoeia – noise of waves, clumsy movement Shark that it is in charge Although the poet is frightened he tries to inject humour to make light of the situation

8 Stanza Two But not too often - though enough. I count as gain That once I met, on a sea tin-tacked with rain, That roomsized monster with a matchbox brain.

9 Stanza Two But not too often - though enough. I count as gain That once I met, on a sea tin-tacked with rain, That roomsized monster with a matchbox brain. Dash – indicates no rush. While it is frightening at first, he now thinks experience is worthwhile Emphasises experience is worthwhile – explains reasons why in rest of poem Met – experience is now not a shock Visual/aural imagery Can see and hear the rain on the sea Roomsized – emphasises size Monster – low down on evolutionary scale There is clever use of long and short vowels in this final line too: the long vowels in roomsized monster appropriately extend and elongate the expression to reinforce the size of the shark in contrast to the short, clipped vowels of matchbox brain. Basic animal - large animal with small brain – like a dinosaur. Opposite to us

10 Stanza Three He displaced more than water. He shoggled me Centuries back - this decadent townee Shook on a wrong branch of his family tree.

11 Stanza Three He displaced more than water. He shoggled me Centuries back - this decadent townee Shook on a wrong branch of his family tree. Idea of shark making him rethink his life and man’s position in it. Shark in control again – shark moving him. Self deprecating Use of colloquial words. Enjambment – Draws attention to the words. Shows he is thinking back to prehistoric times. Decadent townee – Moved far away from his origins Decadent -- he has lost a sense of purpose in his life and become too immersed in the pursuit of hedonistic pleasures He is reminded that this shark too is part of our own family tree and is inextricably linked to us in much the same way as any other ancestor.

12 Stanza Four Swish up the dirt and, when it settles, a spring Is all the clearer. I saw me, in one fling, Emerging from the slime of everything.

13 Stanza Four Swish up the dirt and, when it settles, a spring Is all the clearer. I saw me, in one fling, Emerging from the slime of everything. An analogy is made at the opening of this stanza between stirring up dirt in a spring and the water then being all the clearer, and the present situation the speaker finds himself in. The onomatopoeic swish of the water also alludes to the idea of displacement in the previous stanza. The dirt in this case is the murky thought of how humans evolved into what they now are. The idea of dirt in our origins continues with the choice of the word slime Growing up from prehistoric times. The word emerging in the final line of this stanza reinforces this new, almost epiphanic sense of clarity associated with coming out of the dark into light, he primeval slime from which we and all other living organisms were created, linking the evolution of humanity once more with that of the shark. How the poet is connected to every animal.

14 Stanza Five So who's the monster? The thought made me grow pale For twenty seconds while, sail after sail, The tall fin slid away and then the tail.

15 Stanza Five So who's the monster? The thought made me grow pale For twenty seconds while, sail after sail, The tall fin slid away and then the tail. Not so confident as to who the superior being is This magnificent, awesome creature is monstrous simply because of its relative size, but in the metaphorical sense it is clear the speaker now considers humanity to be the true monster. Doesn’t think about it for long – emphasises how man is the monster Shark is an elegant being – contrast to at the start of the poem

16 An overview of the stanzas Stanza One – MacCaig describes the chance meeting with the shark and makes it clear it has happened before. Stanza Two – the meetings have had an effect on him and he thinks back to one particular meeting. Stanza Three – he begins to question his position in the evolutionary process. Stanza Four – explains how indistinct humans were from other species at the beginning of the evolutionary process.

17 Stanza Five – his opinion of the shark changes and the poet reveals that he is not so sure of his own superiority over the rest of nature.

18 Reflective nature of the poem In the interview ‘A Metaphorical Way of Seeing Things’, MacCaig maintained that poetry is a ‘psychological Optrex, it clears your eyes and you see things’. Like many of MacCaig’s poems, ‘Basking Shark’ moves from description to reflection. This experience leads the poet to reflect on his own and humanity’s relationship with the natural world and to ponder ‘Who’s the monster?’.

19 Reflective nature of the poem The encounter with the shark caused the poet to reflect on some big ideas. Complete the following table, explaining how the quotations illustrate the poet’s reflective process.

20 Details/quotationsExplanation/effect 1. ‘I count as gain’ 2. ‘he displaced more than water’ 3. ‘he shoggled me/Centuries back’ 4. ‘this decadent townee’ 5. ‘Swish up the dirt and, when it settles, a spring / Is all the clearer’ 6. ‘emerging from the slime of everything’ 7. ‘So who’s the monster?’ 1. On reflection MacCaig feels that he has benefitted from the experience Complete the following table, explaining how the quotations illustrate the poet’s reflective process 10 minutes


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