“Catch” by Robert Francis belongs to the most inspirational pieces of American poetry of the twentieth century. In his poem, the author compares the process of creating poetry to a sports game. Francis employs a variety of poetic elements such as metaphor, simile, epithet, an interesting rhythmic pattern, alliteration, assonance, and repetition. Out of all these devices, I would like to elaborate on sound effects as the most noteworthy poetic element in the poem.
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In the first line, there are two cases of assonance. Diphthong [ou] is used in the words “uncoached” and “poem” (1). Although the word “boy” has a diphthong [oi] in it, it is quite possible to trace assonance between this word and “tossing” (1). The words “attitudes,” “latitudes,” and “altitudes” all start with sound [æ], making another example of assonance (3). One more case is noted in the words “high” and “fly”: sound [ai] (4). The next issue of assonance is in words “tricky” and “risky”: sound [i] (7). The last one is noticed in the words “tree” and “sweet”: sound [i:] (9).
Alliteration is another important sound effect in the poem, although its instances are not as numerous as assonance. Sound [s] is used at the beginning of the words “stoop” and “scoop” (4-5). The same sound is used in several words inline 5. Even though it is not in the initial position, it plays an important role in creating an engaging sound effect: “as-almost-as possible miss” (5). In the last line, sound [p] makes a great phonetic impression by being used in several words in a row: “posy,” “pretty,” and “plump” (11).
The third sound effect is the rhythmic pattern used in the poem. The repetition of words that have similar parts makes the lines sound more substantial and distinct. Such repetition makes the reader want to linger on these lines and even reread them to evaluate the poetic mastery of the author. The element “hand” is used five times in succession: “overhand,” “underhand,” “backhand,” “hand,” and “everything” (2). In the very next line, the same effect is created with the help of a suffix “-ude” and ending “-s” in four words: “attitudes,” “latitudes,” “interludes,” and “altitudes” (3). Another way of enriching the rhythmic pattern of the poem is the use of the same word in the initial position in two consequent lines: “anything” at the beginning of lines 7 and 8 and “over” at the beginning of lines 9 and 10.
Sound effects (alliteration, assonance, and rhythm) draw my attention because they make the poem sound rather vigorous. These instances produce an impact both visually and when reading the poem aloud. They give the poem some substantial carcass to stand on and defend its position.
I think that by focusing the audience’s attention on sound effects, the author hopes to encourage the readers to seek for the meaning of the poem. Not only does Francis write about the creation of poetry but he also demonstrates a variety of ways of making a poem sound engaging and memorable. The metaphoric group of effects is also rather significant, but it requires a more thorough analysis. Meanwhile, sound effects are easier to discern and immediately draw attention to the ideas expressed in the poem. Thus, the author reaches the aim of explaining his point of view on the creative process by drawing readers’ attention with the help of alliteration, assonance, and rhythmic patterns.
Francis, Robert. “Catch.” Poem Hunter, n.d., Web.