the cockroach kevin halligan

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The Poet Kevin Halligan was born in Toronto, Canada in 1964. He regards himself as an Anglophile and has spent long periods living in England, but he also travelled in Asia, where this poem is written. Halligan hones his poems obsessively. He is able to use a variety of forms with great control, and deceptive ease. He lived in Phnom Penh and worked for the Cambodia Daily newspaper, where he became acquainted with Buddhist theology.

TRANSCRIPT

The Cockroach

Kevin Halligan

The Poet

Kevin Halligan was born in Toronto, Canada in 1964. He regards himself as an Anglophile and has spent long periods living in England, but he also travelled in Asia, where this poem is written. Halligan hones his poems obsessively. He is able to use a variety of forms with great control, and deceptive ease. He lived in Phnom Penh and worked for the Cambodia Daily newspaper, where he became acquainted with Buddhist theology.

KEVIN HALLIGAN grew up in Toronto and has lived in the UK and southeast Asia, wher. His poems have appeared in Vallum magazine, California Quarterly, Oxford Poetry, Acta Victoriana and the Times Literary Supplement.

THE COCKROACH

Kevin Halligan

I watched a giant cockroach start to pace,

Skirting a ball of dust that rode the floor.

At first he seemed quite satisfied to trace

A path between the wainscot and the door,

But soon he turned to jog in cooked rings,

Circling the rusty table leg and back.

And flipping right over to scratch his wings-

As if the victim of a mild attack

Of restlessness that worsened over time.

After a while, he climbed an open shelf

And stopped. He looked uncertain where to go.

Was this due to payment for some vicious crime

A former life had led to? I dont know,

Except I thought I recognized myself.

Subject Matter

The poet is the persona in this poemThe persona watches the cockroachThe cockroach goes through obstacles on his journeyHe feels pity for the cockroach which is not usual.The cockroach gets confused and puzzledWondering what his life had led to; the end of his life?The persona can relate to the cockroach; can see himself in this creature.The persona answers the cockroachs query with I dont know this concludes that they are both confusedBoth the Cockroach and persona have done something in their life that they feel they are being punished for.

Themes

Value of life/ struggle through life/Karma

Small insignificant creature, yet his life is precious to him Irony that a human would want him dead, yet he is trying to save himself The persona can relate to the cockroachs struggle in life, and therefore, is able to relate to it.

Loneliness

The cockroach is alone, ironic, as there are many cockroaches in this world known as pests The cockroach has no one to turn to in the time of need, he has come into this world alone, and shall die alone To get somewhere, or to reach a goal, you need to work through it alone

Choices in life one has to make

The cockroach doesnt know where to go, he looked uncertain where to go, but that choice could end in him dying, or finding freedom The persona tells us that its the choices we make in life which end with consequences we all must deal with

Main Idea / Theme

The cockroach is struggling to find his way around, until he becomes a victim of a mild attack and starts to struggle with restlessness that worsened over timeFrom this we can deduce that the persona is conveying the main idea, which is: In order to get somewhere in life, one has to face many challenges and cope with uncertainty. We too are dirty creatures that have committed many crimes/ sins, and what we receive in the future is a result of those sins we have committed in the past. By being victims of a mild attack, are we getting what we deserve?

Structure

It contains 14 lines, which is a sonnet - a sonnet is used to present a love for something.From lines 1-8 the poem has a rhyme scheme of 'a b a b' - "pace", "trace" - "floor", "door"But then from lines 9-14 the rhyme scheme of the poem starts to change into a weird rhyming scheme as "time" rhymes with "crime" which is in line 12 but "shelf" in line 10 rhymes with "myself" on the last line.The poem has only 1 stanza which conveys that life is short.There is no rhythm in this poemThere is 1 sestet and 1 octet in this poem

Tone

A detailed fascination he has for a cockroach. He starts the poem with admiration for the cockroach and later ends up with sorrow and confusion as the cockroach is soon portrayed as a parallelreflection of the poet.

Halligan also makes the reader have pity for the cockroach with the use of the cockroach's movement

Examples:

" skirting a ball of dust that rode the floor" " he turned to jog in crooked rings" " flipping right over to scratch his wings" as if the victim of a mild attack"

Language devices

Personification

There are quite a few examples of personification used in this poem. Halligan refers to the cockroach throughout the poem as he, for example, he climbed an open shelf. The poet also gives the cockroach human actions. This language device gives a clear description of the cockroachs action, connecting it with the persona.

Enjambment

Line 7-9:

And flipping right over to scratch his wings-

As if the victim of a mild attack

Of restlessness that worsened over time.

Shows the many various quick actions of the cockroach in this movement

Rhetorical question

was this due payment for some vicious crime a former life had led to?

Shows that Halligan has pity for the cockroach and himself.

Imagery

Clear images can be seen in the poem due to the adjectives used

Eg. Giant cockroach , Rusty table leg

This gives the reader a clear idea of what the surrounding is like at that time of observation. The word rusty may suggest to the reader that even he himself is like the cockroach, travelling towards his goal with dirty things along the way. Also emphasises the brevity of life the man-made object is old and rusty, but we pass by on our way to death

Points to consider

Consider the tone of voice of the narrator and what effect this produces on the reader.

Suggested comparison with this poem:

Hunting snake by Judith Wright