Summer Farm by Norman Maccaig

Read about the author of the poem

Read about EM, the writer of “Horses” Can you find any similarities between them?

Read the poem

Summer Farm 

Straws like tame lightnings lie about the grass
And hang zigzag on hedges. Green as glass
The water in the horse-trough shines.
Nine ducks go wobbling by in two straight lines.

A hen stares at nothing with one eye,
Then picks it up. Out of an empty sky
A swallow falls and, flickering through
The barn, dives up again into the dizzy blue.

I lie, not thinking, in the cool, soft grass,
Afraid of where a thought might take me – as
This grasshopper with plated face
Unfolds his legs and finds himself in space.

Self under self, a pile of selves I stand
Threaded on time, and with metaphysic hand
Lift the farm like a lid and see
Farm within farm, and in the centre, me.

1. Summarize each stanza in a sentence.

2. Look up words you don´t know in the dictionary.

3. Find an oxymoron, a simile and a metaphor. Explain the meaning.

4. What is the poem about on you view?

Read this analysis of the poem:

This theme of identity is strengthened through the use of parallelism, metaphor and imagery:
-Beginning poet is listless, just observing the farm (st. 1 and 2). The details show how precisely the poet (Man) can observe his surroundings when he’s not preoccupied thinking about himself/Self/existential issues or turmoil. This precise observation is seen through the thoughtful imagery and use of metaphor.
– Poet’s untroubled mind (in this state of pure observation) is parallel with “shining water” and “glass”. This shows his mind’s clarity and foreshadows the realization he comes to (his own identity as the ‘everyman’ and his place in the world as ‘intertwined with Nature’). His quiet meditation of the world around him has led to this clarity of understanding about himself.

Maccaig’s philosophical conclusion seems to be subjective – all we can be certain about is the “now” the things we see, the feelings we feel, at this precise moment in time. There may well be an “I” that existed a second ago, in the same way that there may well be an “I” that will exist a second from now. However, those essentially aren’t real: you can’t prove their existence. All that is real is now, this moment – in which I see crazy weird things like one eyed chickens or agile swallows. And maybe that explains the positivity of the nature imagery: of now is all we can be certain of (and note Maccaig doesn’t particularly want to entertain the idea that this may not even be right – for he is “afraid of where a thought might take me”), then we should look at the beauty of the world and its goodness rather than its potential destructiveness (ie, look at the aesthetics of the “tame” lightning with appreciation rather than with fear at its devastating potential).

Which other poems we have read can be compared to Summer Farm? Give reasons for your answer.

Write all the answers in a google drive document. Share it with your partners and with me:

Post the finished analysis in your blog!

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