Black Humor Through Poetry In Stevie Smiths Not Waving But Drowning

963 words - 4 pages

Black Humor Through Poetry in Stevie Smiths Not Waving But Drowning

In the poetry of Margaret “Stevie” Smith (1902-1971), life and death are constantly being juxtaposed. For Smith, life was usually a painful or tedious experience and death a blessed escape from its misery and futility. Having had a religious upbringing, she is also much preoccupied with God, but cannot accept traditional Christian teaching about redemption and heaven. Death is seen as an end, rather than a beginning and a relief, instead of a gateway to a reward. In “Not Waving but Drowning”, Smith’s philosophy of life as a pointless and sad experience for many people, is focused on the event of a drowning man. In the style of the poem, she writes characteristically, here, in the off-hand, irregular lyricism - often bordering on the conversational - which is the distinctive feature of her manner.

“Smith was born in Yorkshire, England but lived all but the first three years of her life in her aunt’s house in Palmers Green, London” (Washington University Libraries). She went to work at a publishing office owned by George Newnes, Ltd. soon after her graduation from North London Collegiate School (Washington Univeristy Libraries). Although continuing to write through the 1940’s and 1950’s her work was ignored by critics and the public until about the last ten years of her life (Washington Univeristy Libraries). Smith received the prestigious Queen's Gold Medal award for her poetry in 1969, two years before her death (Washington Univeristy Libraries).

Smith uses simple, short sentences, “barely audible” to express “feelings such as emotional pain, tenderness, sadness, loss, and despair” (Sternlicht 63). “Not Waving but Drowning” is saturated with irony, which is not uncommon in Smith’s poetry. The title alone implies that the poem relies heavily on irony to communicate its message. An implication of an ironic circumstance suggests that the “dead man . . . lay moaning:” possibly expressing his thoughts even after his death (line 1-2). Also note that Smith uses an imperfect rhyme scheme on the even numbered lines. An imperfect rhyme scheme occurs when the final consonant sounds in two words are the same but the vowel sounds are different. She carefully chooses the words “moaning” and “drowning” in line 2 and 4, “dead” and “said” in line 6 and 8, and “moaning” and drowning” in lines 10 and 12. I believe this simple rhyme scheme produces an even flowing poem that effectively expresses characteristics of her bluntness on life and death.

The utilization of persona that the poet assumes is an extension of her feelings for life. She is very cynical towards life in general and has an uncanny humor about the invitation of death. “The deceased persona’s indignation at being misunderstood is grotesquely as well as pathetically amusing” (Sternlicht 64). In line 5...

Find Another Essay On Black Humor Through Poetry in Stevie Smiths Not Waving But Drowning

"Neither a believer, an unbeliever nor agnostic, but oddly all three at once", with reference to two or three poems, consider how this aspect of Stevie Smith is reflected in her poetry

816 words - 3 pages beliefs are more stressed rather than atheist, because it is mocking how Christianity views the creations of man, however, it does not question the role or existence of God. There is little necessity in attempting to place Stevie Smith's religious views into a certain category, because it can be seen through her diverse poetry that is belongs in a group of its own. It must be taken into consideration that one does not necessarily have to believe in

'Jealousy and deception in the play is not just confined to Othello'. Show how these themes are explored not only through the character of Othello, but the play as a whole

2933 words - 12 pages weak point, and Iago played on this weak point of his. Othello was visibly different because of the colour of his skin, so he lived amongst, but was separated from, other people. Shakespeare presents this fact in the dialogue of the play. Othello is constantly referred to as "The Moor", whilst others go by their own names and are seen as individuals. When characters call him black, they not only refer to the colour of Othello's skin, but also to

Satire and Black Humor in Dr. Strangelove

1394 words - 6 pages crude leftovers despite millenniums of evolution; it is pathetically instinctual that humans create trouble regardless of their intellectual genius. Kubrick employs all techniques of humor but most notably black humor, parody, and irony. Each character is employed to be the amplified version of their real-world counterparts. Americans are military cowboys, Russians are haughty drunks, scientists are insane, and the only woman in the film happens

Satire, and Black Humor in Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle

696 words - 3 pages Satire, and Black Humor in Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut was written in 1963. "It is a satirical commentary on modern man and his madness" (back cover). It is a book that counters almost every aspect of our society. As well as satire, Vonnegut also includes apocalyptic elements in this novel. Satire, "the use of irony, sarcasm, or ridicule in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice or folly" (Webster 1193), is

Essay on Satire and Black Humor in Catch-22

2937 words - 12 pages Satire and Black Humor in Catch-22         The only thing going on was a war, and no one seemed to notice but Yossarian and Dunbar. Yossarian is one of the few "normal" characters found in the books, or at least he thinks he is. As the story progresses, it appears that no one is "normal." Values either no longer apply, or do in reverse. In this backwards world of Catch-22, where everyone is crazy, Heller uses black humor and satire to make

The Black and Blue: Music in Poetry

599 words - 3 pages establish and reinforce a mood consisting of people quite literally experiencing the blues, or melancholy. Further, another line in the song explicitly refers to hardship: “Trouble taken place in the lowlands at night” (43). The hardships Brown points to are those symptomatic of being conditioned black, as opposed to white, in a color-conscious (racist) society, wherein African Americans are oppressed, or kept “li’l an’ low,” and experience “hard luck

Unified, But not United Germany in 1890

2253 words - 9 pages Unified, But not United Germany in 1890 In January 1871, as the Franco-Prussian war neared its end, King William I of Prussia was announced as the Emperor of the Second Empire (or Reich), with Otto Von Bismarck as his Chancellor, in the Palace of Versailles. From this point Bismarck had led a once weak nation into achieving his acclaimed 'master plan': to become the most dominant power in Europe, this was then confirmed

?Literary ?value? is not inherent in the text but is

1421 words - 6 pages ?Literary ?value? is not inherent in the text but is produced by the institutions of society, especially the education system. Thus the text is not only ?produced? by its writer, it is ?re-produced? by society?.? Literary value can be determined by the relevance a piece of literature has to an audience. The determination of whether this relevance falls solely within a text, or on the other hand is somewhat universal in its context and thus

Humor and laughter do not play a role in "One flew over the cuckoos nest", by Ken Kesey

1029 words - 4 pages Humor and Laughter do not play a significant role in the lives of the patients in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey.In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, the patients of the ward live miserable existences, drifting day by day in the homely-looking, sterile, depressing world of a mental asylum. They have forgotten how and when to laugh, or otherwise express humor, because they are under such strict and authoritative rule at

Defeats but not Defeated in "The Parrot in the Oven" by Victor Martinez

1054 words - 4 pages Maya Angelou once said “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”(http://www.great-inspirational-quotes.com/maya-angelou-quotes.html) Most of these defeats that we encounter come from our choices, and whether they are good or bad, we learn something from them. Accordingly, Manny

'Human Resource Management works well in theory but not in practice'. Discuss

4320 words - 17 pages Human Resource ManagementWorks Well In Theory ButNot In PracticeA Report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Master of Science of the Loughborough University.November 2004ABSTRACTThis paper discusses the issue of whether Human Resource Management (HRM) works well in theory but not in practice, through the topic of 'Motivation and Reward'.Through the use of both qualitative and quantitative data, this paper

Similar Essays

"Not Waving But Drowning" By Stevie Smith And "Los Vendidos" Written By Luis Valdez. Poetry

1123 words - 4 pages heart gave way," his heart was cold, too cold perhaps, (maybe) he thought that if he'd reached out, nobody would listen, so he appeared in control when he really wanted to be saved in his despair.In conclusion, the poem, "Not Waving but Drowning" written by Stevie Smith strongly exemplifies the deceptive attitudes of people when hiding their true melancholy through the authors theme and tone of someone appearing in control but in reality floundering

"Not Waving But Drowning" Essay

579 words - 2 pages heart gave way,"(line 7) his heart was cold, too cold perhaps, he thought that if he'd reached out, nobody would listen, so he appeared in control when he really wanted to be saved in his despair.Bibliography:Smith, Stevie. ""Not Waving but Drowning"." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. 5. Kennedy, X.J./Gioia Dana. New York, New York. Pearson Longman, 2007. 514-515

Analysis Of Not Waving But Drowning

803 words - 4 pages The Pit of Despair The poem "Not Waving But Drowning" struck an emotional chord inside of me upon reading it. Stevie Smith's simple but poignant poem is an incredible description of my first detox from alcohol. Each line in each paragraph took me right back to that sense of impending doom I felt five years ago in my parents basement. Five years ago my alcoholism progressed to a point where I couldn't picture life with or without a

In The Play "Romeo And Juliet," Shakespeare Satisfies The Many Tastes Of His Audience Through Action, Poetry, And Humor

633 words - 3 pages , Romeo, full of love and passion for her bursts into poetic exuberance. "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks..." In the tomb, Romeo again pours forth the passions of his heart in exquisite poetry. "Thou detestable maw, thou womb of Death, Gorged with the dearest morsel of the earth..." Shakespeare has obviously chosen the language for the play very carefully. The depth and beauty of the language is a true reflection of the depth and