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Kelso High School English Department. ‘ Basking Shark’ by Norman MacCaig.

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Presentation on theme: "Kelso High School English Department. ‘ Basking Shark’ by Norman MacCaig."— Presentation transcript:

1 Kelso High School English Department

2 ‘ Basking Shark’ by Norman MacCaig

3

4 Learning Intentions Familiarise ourselves with the idea of a basking shark Familiarise ourselves with the poem Develop our understanding of the form and structure of the poem Develop our understanding of the poetic techniques used in the poem Develop our understanding of the themes in the poem and the way in which they are conveyed through an effective use of poetic techniques

5 Basking Sharks Every year, holidaymakers flock to the coastline in the hope of seeing these enigmatic sharks for themselves. Every year, holidaymakers flock to the coastline in the hope of seeing these enigmatic sharks for themselves. Reaching lengths of up to 10m, Basking Sharks are the largest fish in British waters and the second largest in the world after the Whale Shark. Reaching lengths of up to 10m, 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. One of only three plankton-feeding shark species, these gentle giants re-appear in our coastal waters each spring and summer.

6 Where Basking Sharks have been spotted

7 What is the poem about? The poet encounters a basking shark. The poet encounters a basking shark. This is an unusual / noteworthy experience for him. This is an unusual / noteworthy experience for him. It causes him to think about his origins as a human being. It causes him to think about his origins as a human being. It causes him to think about what it is to be human/animal. It causes him to think about what it is to be human/animal. It causes him to consider a value judgment in a comparison between humans and creatures. It causes him to consider a value judgment in a comparison between humans and creatures.

8 What is the poem about? This poem teaches us to think about our relationship with nature in a new way. It may also cause us to question what we are doing to our world and each other. It may also cause us to question what we are doing to our world and each other. Are we really as intelligent and civilised as we like to think? Are we really as intelligent and civilised as we like to think?

9 Listen…

10 Let’s read…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.

11 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.

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

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.

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 Form and Structure Split up into five stanzas, each consisting of three lines. Split up into five stanzas, each consisting of three lines.

16 Form and Structure 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.

17 Form and Structure 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.

18 Form and Structure 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. 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. Rhyme Scheme = Rhyming Triplets AAA / BBB/ CCC etc makes the poem more light- hearted Rhyme Scheme = Rhyming Triplets AAA / BBB/ CCC etc makes the poem more light- hearted

19 Form and Structure 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.

20 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. Slow, steady rhythm of these lines convey the gradual surfacing movement of the shark Poem opens with unusual sentence structure (two infinitive clauses) which captures our attention immediately and creates tension and suspense. Tension increased with mention that there is a rock where “none should be”. Word choice - Suggests that the boat's oar has hit on something solid, something that refuses to give even a little. Metaphor - we are led to assume that the shark, like a rock, is hard and immoveable Neologism (new word) – amalgamation of ‘slouch’ and ‘lounge’. Conveys slow, lazy, ponderous movement of the surfacing creature it describes. Immediately suggests its relaxed, non- threatening nature.

21 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. Word choice – ‘have’ - tells us that the shark is in charge of the meeting. The shark is carrying out the actions, whereas the poet has no choice in what is happening to him. Tone - he has not relished the encounter at all but the brackets indicate a slightly humourous aside: the poet was scared but is trying to make light of it now. Tone is informal / conversational. Word choice – make it appear significant as the poet seems to have been frightened by the encounter.

22 ANNOTATING THE POEM – STANZA 2 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. Word Choice - initially puzzling: it seems to contradict what he has said in Stanza One. Suggests that it was indeed a frightening experience. The use of the dash he indicates that he is in no rush to meet the shark again. Word Choice – although initially frightening he nonetheless found the experience worthwhile and enriching. So important is this meeting to him that he claims "I count as gain" the experience. He then concentrates on the specific reasons he feels the encounter was beneficial in the rest of the poem. Word choice ‘met’ conveys a friendly, less serious tone to the meeting.

23 ANNOTATING THE POEM – STANZA 2 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. Imagery - emphasises the sheer size and bulk of the shark. Long vowels in ‘roomsized monster’ lengthen the sound of the expression to reinforce size of shark Metaphor - water isn't solid but we can see the surface of the water as it is pierced by the raindrops like tacks being hammered into a tin plate. The alliteration of the hard ‘t’ sound in "tin- tacked" also reminds us of the noise the raindrops will be making. Contrast of size of body with its tiny brain. Initially suggests very little intelligence. Short clipped vowels reinforce small size. Some aspects of the shark are huge and impressive, some are not. Humans may not be as large as basking sharks, bu t we have bigger brains.

24 ANNOTATING THE POEM – STANZA 3 He displaced more than water. He shoggled me Centuries back - this decadent townee Shook on a wrong branch of his family tree. Turning Point in relation to poet’s reflection on the experience. Moves from OBSERVATIONAL TO REFLECTIVE. Word Choice – shark has moved and upset both water and poet. The sighting of the shark has prompted poet to think about our own origins as human beings. Shark has displaced poet’s thought. Short simple sentence makes it stand out more. Enjambment of the lines draws our attention to the word and suggests the gap in time the poet is talking about "Centuries", emphasising how long it took humans to evolve but the poet is travelling quickly back in his mind. Word Choice ‘shoggled’ means ‘shook’ or ‘cause to move’. Suggests that MacCaig has been unnerved by his encounter with the shark.

25 ANNOTATING THE POEM – STANZA 3 He displaced more than water. He shoggled me Centuries back - this decadent townee Shook on a wrong branch of his family tree. Imagery - discovering our ancestors, the people we have been related to down the years. Here, MacCaig is reminding us that the shark too, is part of our "family tree", that we are related to all of nature in the process of evolution. Ambiguity – is it wrong because of our inherent sense of intellectual superiority over these creatures that we are unwilling to recognise that we are in any way related OR is it humans who have gone wrong in the evolutionary path? Is it humankind rather than the shark who is the monster? Word Choice – ‘decadent’. Suggests someone who has no worthwhile purpose to their life and that they only live for luxury and enjoyment. Suggestion that in poet’s decision to remove himself from the natural world to an urban setting, he has lost his sense of purpose in life. Although both part of the natural world, the shark has less interest in ‘luxuries’. Word Choice – ‘shook’ reminds us that he is both literally and metaphorically shaken by the experience.

26 ANNOTATING THE POEM – STANZA 4 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. Idea of dirt in our origins continues with Word Choice of ‘slime’- the primeval slime from which we and all other living organisms were created – linking the evolution of humanity once more with that of the shark. Emphasises the basicness of our beginnings. Imagery - swirling has stopped, we can see the spring of water more clearly from the dust having settled. Analogy made as poet suggests it is the same with our thoughts. Stir them up from time to time and they become clearer. Image prepares us for conclusion of poem. Suddenly, he sees his position in evolution much more clearly. MacCaig now has an image of himself crawling out of the slime and returning to the beginnings of human existence. Word Choice of ‘ emerging’ reinforces this new sense of clarity of ‘coming out of the dark into light. Word Choice of ‘everything’ reinforces our similarity with every other species at the start of the process. Onomatopoeia -suggests the noise of moving water. It also describes the swirling movement of water and dirt. Word Choice ‘dirt’ – murky thought of how humans evolved into what they are now.

27 ANNOTATING THE POEM – STANZA 5 So who's the monster? The thought made me grow pale - Word Choice ‘ pale’ suggests experience/reflection has shaken the poet For twenty seconds while, sail after sail, The tall fin slid away and then the tail. Word Choice – emphasises size of shark as it takes shark twenty seconds to swim past poet. Also suggests that experience happened quickly BUT had a lasting effect on him. Poem is about a quick, unexpected experience that he has recorded for us. Rhetorical question - at the start of the poem, the poet is almost insulting the shark, dismissing it as a brainless monster. However, now he is not so sure of himself, not so confident that he is the superior being. Now he questions himself. Is he a monster, an intelligent being who has failed to use that intelligence usefully? Do monsters always have to come from the animal kingdom, can humans not be monsters too? Stanza begins with a rhetorical question. Draws the reader into the poem and makes them consider the question themselves. Imagery – refers to its tail and fin above the water. Sequence long vowels in ‘sail’, ‘tail’, ‘slid away’, ‘tail’ combine to suggest the gradual exit of this vast animal. The clumsy, bulky creature of the first stanza has been replaced by an elegant, graceful shark, which the poet compares to a ship sailing away. Emphasised by repetition of ‘sail’. OVERVIEW: just as the poet has seen himself and mankind in a new light, he has also had to think about the shark in a new way. It is now something graceful and elegant. The poet is much more humble now, not so sure of his own superiority over the rest of nature. The shark is monstrous simply because of its relative size. Metaphorically, the poet now considers humanity to be the true monster.

28 “ ” BASKING SHARK Themes: Nature and Man’s connection to Nature Man’s position within evolution

29 “ ” BASKING SHARK Themes connect with : ‘Aunt Julia’, ‘Memorial’, ‘Sounds of the Day

30 Success Criteria: We understand and can explain what a basking shark is. We are comfortable with the poem. We can explain the form and structure of the poem. We can identify and explain the effectiveness of the poetic techniques used in the poem. We can identify the themes in the poem and explain the way in which poetic techniques are used to convey these themes. We understand the way in which the themes of this poem link to other poems by MacCaig


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