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Climbing My Grandfather

I say tucking into my fourth bowl in a day. This poem was reproduced on a postcard for National Poetry Day Eight poetry postcards are published each year by the Scottish Poetry Library to celebrate National Poetry Day and are distributed throughout Scotland to schools, libraries and other venues.

The theme for was the food. You can find out more about National Poetry Day in our National Poetry Day pages, where you'll also find resources to go with the poems. Donate Ask a Librarian. In contrast, a grandfather is a symbol of experience, wisdom, kindness and fatherliness. In the poem there are several crossover points where these oppositional qualities come together and compliment each other. Perhaps this is what the poet was after - climbing a mountain can be risky yet the effort is worthwhile because we get to know the mountain better, and in addition come to know a little bit more about ourselves.

The poet Andrew Waterhouse was a lover of the outdoors so choosing to climb a mountain to metaphorically represent his grandfather is most appropriate. Mountains conjure up all kinds of awesome and inspirational thoughts. They're also a daunting image for some, a risky challenge for a select few who opt to climb to the summit. From the start the reader is right there by the speaker - first person, present tense - giving an immediate feel of excitement and risk.

The climb is to be free, the ultimate expression of any mountaineer, without aids.

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This means that the speaker is vulnerable. We're onto the earth-stained hand suggesting a manual worker's background, or someone who likes to garden or farm. The nails are splintered also a sign of hard work. The finger skin is like warm ice which is an oxymoron, a contradictory pairing. As the climb progresses the speaker reaches a glassy ridge of a scar where old stitches are still visible. Higher now, at the shoulder, where the speaker rests, perhaps to regain strength and composure because it is a long way down should he stumble or fall.

This is a way of saying that as a child he's reached a place where he's uncertain.

Analysis of Poem Climbing My Grandfather by Andrew Waterhouse

He's getting to know his grandfather bit by bit but there's a long way to go before he can be certain of their relationship. The climb has to continue however, so the speaker makes a move upwards on the neck's loose skin and on again up to the smiling mouth. Here is the reassurance he was looking for. He can even get a drink, somehow, with all those teeth present. The pupil is that part of the eye allowing light to enter and strike the retina at the back. It is smaller in bright light, larger in low light.

Now the speaker heads for the summit, having seen into the eyes of the grandfather, perhaps crossing a threshold in the process. The hair is like snow on the summit and the speaker, out of breath, needs to rest and take in the surroundings. The view is of clouds and birds.

Restoring Poetry In Music - Grandpa

He's come a long way, the reward is immense. There is no triumphant conquering tone in this latter part of the poem, more a deep satisfaction with the intimate know-how of the grandfather.

Grandfather is alive and warm and has a slow pulse courtesy of a good heart. In the end the risk, the potential danger and the challenge all add up to a better understanding of what it means to be a grandfather, a good man.

Andrew Waterhouse And A Summary of Climbing My Grandfather

Climbing My Grandfather is a free verse poem, a single stanza of 27 lines. There is no set rhyme scheme and the metre varies from line to line. In total there are 7 complete sentences, the shortest being the first line, the longest occurring at the end, from lines 20 - This brings a sense of steady progress and a sort of climax being reached at the snowy summit. The poem's shape, a single block of text, with slightly shorter lines at the bottom, reflects the idea of the grandfather being a mountain of a man, with the summit reached at the poem's end. The speaker manages the climb in one go, various pauses - caesura , when a comma or other punctuation interrupts the flow of a line midway - indicating a slight rest here and there.

Climbing My Grandfather Poem Summary and Analysis | LitCharts

Note that the first four lines end with punctuation, pausing the reader's progress, slowing things down as the climb begins. Three out the four have a comma or two which also slows the action. Enjambment on the other hand, when one line runs on into the next with no punctuation, helps build up momentum. During my childhood, his language did have some English in it. He used a relatively common, if idiosyncratic, commixture of words from his native and adopted tongues.

This kind of language is a historical phenomenon—the product of migration patterns and economics, schooling and lack thereof.

Grandpa’s Soup

It is born from necessity: urgent speech with a social services provider, with a bus driver, with a recalcitrant young grandchild seemingly deaf to the Italian reprimand she very well understands. Of course, it spreads beyond these contours.


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I vividly remember my confusion and embarrassment when he used this pidgin in Italy, with Italian strangers, family, and friends. Each of his marked words represented both communication and the limits of communication; they spoke volumes about him, what he had achieved, what he had given up. Ours was playfully combinatory and private. We would squeeze Italian roots through the more blunt frames of English structure and sound.

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We could speak real Italian if we wanted to. But our Italian was marked, too.


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It was imperfect. One of the things our made-up language performed was our intimacy with family and the place they came from. It also performed our distance. These words in which languages collide were a proxy for the deep and messy relationships between people, places. They were a longing.