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Analysis of Kate Clanchy’s ‘Recognition’

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1956 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Recognition is a poem written by the contemporary poet Kate Clanchy, who is a Scottish teacher and poet, and who has been awarded with several prizes, among them; the Scottish Arts Council Book Award. An important fact is that she was born in 1965, so she grew up while the hippie movement was in its heyday.

Firstly, it must be clarified that the poem belongs to the lyrical poetry, which ‘…describes all poetry into which the poet has poured his own emotions, feelings, ideas, and personal philosophies. It is highly subjective […] and, as the emotions and ideas expressed are too powerful […] the lyric is usually short.’[1] As it can be checked in for example ‘I think the…’ (l. 5), it is totally subjective, since it is actually a thought of the speaker.

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Moreover, it must be mentioned that the title is symbolic, since it is a simple summary of the poem, basically the speaker is trying to recognize people from hippie movement, since everything has changed, including people and their aspects. And with respect to the speaker, it would be important to say that the speaker is the poet herself, so she is actually giving her own point of view. So all the times that in the poem the first person is used, it is making reference to Kate Clanchy.

‘We can often tell how someone feels by listening to the tone of his or her voice. Like a person’s voice, a poem also has a tone or mood that shows a feeling or an attitude that the poet wants to convey.’[2] In that case it can be perceived that the tone is wistful, because she is remembering a part of her life, therefore she realises that she is getting older, so the poem shows nostalgically the general human experience of getting older.

Metrically, the poem is formed in total by 21 lines, separated in seven stanzas with three lines in each stanza. It is known as triplet, which ‘is a rather rare stanza form in poetry and is basically three lines that rhyme. […] If we look closely at the triplet, however, we’ll see how poets use form to build crescendo in a piece and even use the form to break form.’[3]

That specific poem has regular verses represented with the following rhythm scheme: aaa bbb ccc ddd eee fff ggg. Hence, the speaker is trying to tell something different in each stanza. Regarding to the rhyme, the poem has a syllabic rhyme, for that reason the last syllable of the last word of each line sounds identical, although the most of them have an unstressed syllable at the end, as: ‘candles’ (l. 4) and ‘bangles’ (l. 6)

And it cannot be forgotten to mention that it has been written mainly using the iambic tetrameter, with many variations, that later are going to be analysed carefully. Probably the tetrameter (Four feet in each line) was chosen since according to Debbie Notari: ‘… tetrameter is a natural rhythm and that it is easy to read out loud. After each 8-syllable line, the reader tends to pause.’[4]

With respect to the syntax, it must be clarified that the author used hypotaxis, in other words, the sentences are coordinated, for instance: ‘Either my sight is getting worse, /or everyone looks like somebody else.’ (ll. 1-2). Therefore the polysyndeton is also present in the poem, due to the continuous use of conjunctions. On the other hand, there are also enjambments, as it can be seen for example in the second stanza, where one sentence is divided, so it begins in a line, and it finishes in the next one: ‘…the girl in hippy sandals / could turn…’ (ll. 5–6) Moreover tense is really interesting, as she is speaking in present and then in past, so she tries to mix both periods of time, to confuse the readers.

Additionally, diction here is important too. The author writes with a colloquial diction to be closest possible to the readers, and although she uses concrete words to provide better images, as ‘…the skinny boy in the Aran jumper’ (l. 9), she also uses abstract and figurative expressions (‘shadows’ (l. 3), ‘crystallise’ (l. 19)) to produce a poetic environment.

And now it is time to move on to the analysis of each stanza. The first stanza begins with a substitution, specifically with a trochaic variation (also called inversion), it is used to emphasize the beginning since she opens the poem ironically saying that her ‘sight is getting worse’ (l. 1) since she cannot recognize other people. It is also a metaphor about she is getting older. Two anapaests can be also found in that stanza, and the third line finishes with a hypermetrical. Besides, there is antithesis in words like ‘light’ (l. 3), ‘dark’ (l.4), and ‘fancy’ (l. 4) ‘hippy’ (l. 5), showing that time has changed, referring specifically to the hippie movement of light and peace in which she lived.

Unlike the first stanza, the second one begins with two unstressed syllables together, i.e. a pyrrhic, but then it is followed by a spondee. That stanza also contains an anapaest, which at the same time is a paronomasia: ‘dark bar’ (l 4) /ˈdɑːk ˈbɑː /, and another spondee, that is to say, there are two heavy syllables together, what means that the speaker wants to highlight that specific part of the poem since something interesting is being saying: the speaker sees a ‘girl in hippy sandals’ (l 5), what reminds her when everyone wore hippie clothes, therefore it is definitely an allusion to the hippie movement. It is also related with the rhyme, since the final syllables are unstressed and these falling lines show the yearning and the sadness that the speaker feels when she realizes that the hippie movement already happened, and she is getting older.

The third stanza is pretty interesting since there are two anapaests in the last line, and it finishes with a hypermetrical. But what is really interesting is the polypton found in the words ‘know’ and ‘knew’ (ll. 8 – 9), and the epanalepsis (the repetition of ‘her’ (l. 8) in the same line) emphasizes that she is speaking about ‘the girl in hippy sandals’ (l. 5). Moreover there is an antithesis in the words younger (l. 7) and older (l. 13).

The first line of the fourth stanza is dactylic like the beginning of the last line, and lines 11-12 end with a hypermetrical rhythm. That stanza and the fifth one finish with a consonance repetition, for instance: ‘feather’ (l. 10) /ˈfɛðə/ and ‘further’ (l. 14) /ˈfɜːðə/. The fourth stanza introduces with the colon the following one, i.e. the fifth stanza, which has a meter effect, specifically a synaloepha or elision: ‘no one’ (l. 13), which is pronounced as /ˈnəʊwʌn/ in order to fit with the metrical pattern. That stanza has some variations as the dactylic rhythm and the hypermetrical.

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The first line of the sixth stanza ends with a pyrrhic, and here it can be also found an alliteration of the sound /ʃ/: ‘sheer short’ (l. 16) / ʃɪə ʃɔːt /. There is another alliteration in the following line: ‘recover, rewrite’ (l. 17) /rɪˈkʌvə, riːˈraɪt /. In that way, a musically effect is created and in consequence reader’s attention is got. In addition, in the word ‘recover’ (l. 17) there is a dactylic, and in the last line there is a ploce, which ‘… is the insistent repetition of a word within the same line or phrase…’[5] The repetition of the word ‘face’ (l. 18) is a device used to call reader’s attention. For the speaker the faces that she sees are important, since they reminds her to faces that she had already seen. It means that through the faces that she sees, she can remind the hippie movement, and it is the same that seeing again the hippies that she met in this epoch.

And finally the last stanza, which makes the difference since there is a line alteration; the lines 19 and 20 were written in catactelic trimeter, as the same way that we miss a syllable at the end of the line, the speaker also misses someone. The author miss people who she met in the hippie movement, according to her a wonderful period, so wonderful as to create a poem about it. And here again a consonance repetition: ‘crystallise’ /ˈkrɪstəlaɪz/ and ‘recognise’/ˈrɛkəgnaɪz/ (l. 21). These words also create a dactylic rhythm. It must be highlighted the verb ‘recognise’ (l. 21) which is related with the title, so basically it finishes with the key of the poem: She tries to recognise people from the hippie movement, a minimum detail like an ‘Aran jumper’ (l. 9) makes the speaker think that maybe she knows this person, maybe this person is someone who she met during the hippie movement but a bit older. Now both are older.

To sum up, Kate Clanchy uses many variations in her poem to show that life also varies, as the same way that her lines change, the world changes too. People that she met are not already here, and she expresses her sadness due to the falling lines. She actually wanted to say that now it is time to remember who are not with us, now we only can see them in our ‘blue eyes’ (l. 21)

Word count: 1650 (excluding footnotes and bibliography)


  • Clanchy, Kate, ‘Recognition’, in 18EAA104 Analysing Poetry: Coursework Assignment 1 (Loughborough: Loughborough University, 2018), p. 4.
  • Rawson, Claude, The Cambridge companion to English poets (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)
  • Shelley Tucker, Writing Poetry, (California: Culver City, 2001), p. 119, <https://www.goodyearbooks.com/pdf/GDY239EX_WritingPoetry.pdf>, [accessed 13 November 2018]
  • Turne, M. J., The Study of the English Literature (Canada: Ardmore Publishing, 1998)
  • Working Scholars, ‘Iambi Tetrameter: Definition & Examples – Video & Lesson Transcript’, Study.com (revised 20103 – 2018) <https://study.com/academy/lesson/iambic-tetrameter-definition-examples-quiz.html#transcriptHeader> [13 November 2018]
  • Working Scholars, ‘Triplet in Poetry: Examples & Concept – Video & Lesson Transcript’, Study.com (revised 20103 – 2018) <https://study.com/academy/lesson/triplet-in-poetry-examples-lesson-quiz.html> [13 November 2018]

[1] M. J. Turne, The Study of the English Literature (Canada: Ardmore Publishing, 1998), p. 89.

[2] Shelley Tucker, Writing Poetry,(California: Culver City, 2001), pp. 119, <https://www.goodyearbooks.com/pdf/GDY239EX_WritingPoetry.pdf>, [accessed 13 November  2018]

[3] Working Scholars, ‘Triplet in Poetry: Examples & Concept – Video & Lesson Transcript’, Study.com (revised 20103 – 2018) <https://study.com/academy/lesson/triplet-in-poetry-examples-lesson-quiz.html> [13 November 2018]

[4] Working Scholars, ‘Iambi Tetrameter: Definition & Examples – Video & Lesson Transcript’, Study.com (revised 20103 – 2018) <https://study.com/academy/lesson/iambic-tetrameter-definition-examples-quiz.html#transcriptHeader> [13 November 2018]

[5]Claude Rawson, The Cambridge companion to English poets (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 81.


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