The Cockroach Kelvin Halligan

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THE COCKROACH
BY
KELVIN HALLIGAN
Presentation by Mutale Chewe
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY
Kelvin Halligan is a Canadian poet.
 He was born in 1964 in Canada but spent most of
his time in the England.
 He travelled a lot and wrote the poem ‘The
Cockroach’, on one of his jaunts to Asia.
 The poem cockroach is part of his collection
which is called: “Blossom Street,” to which ‘The
Cockroach’ received the most recognition.
 There is not much information on his personal
life and he describes his own life in the poem.

POEM
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 started to jog in crooked rings,
Circling the dusty table leg and back,
And flipping right over to scratch his wingsAs 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 payment for some vicious crime
A former life had led to? I don't know,
Except I thought I recognised myself.
LITERARY TERMS

The writer uses a lot of personification to talk
about the cockroach
STRUCTURE/IMPORTANCE OF WRITING





It is a Sonnet as it has
14 lines
This poem has an
iambic pentameter
It has an irregular
rhyming scheme of abab
cdcd efg egf
It is a mixture of both
an Italian and
Shakespearean Sonnet:
It has 2 quatrains which
added together make an
octave of: abab cdcd
enabling the them to be
an
English/Shakespearean
Sonnet
And a sestet of efg egfe
enabling it to qualify as
a Italian/Petrarchan
Sonnet
1. I watched a giant cockroach start to pace,
2. Skirting a ball of dust that rode the floor.
3. At first he seemed quite satisfied to trace
4. A path between the wainscot and the door,
5. But soon he started to jog in crooked rings,
6. Circling the dusty table leg and back,
7. And flipping right over to scratch his wings8. As if the victim of a mild attack
9. Of restlessness that worsened over time.
10. After a while, he climbed an open shelf
11. And stopped. He looked uncertain where to
go.
12. Was this due payment for some vicious
crime
13. A former life had led to? I don't know,
14. Except I thought I recognised myself.
THEMES
The theme of this poem is Person vs. Self as the
character has a problem deciding what to do in
the situation.
 To be specific, in this poem the character
(cockroach) has a problem deciding what to do in
his situation when he has finally reached his
‘destination’ at the top of the shelf – but now, he
hesitates as he does not know what to do.
 This is showcased in lines 10 and 11:
After a while, he climbed an open shelf
And stopped. He looked uncertain where to go.

ANALYSIS
 It
is an extended metaphor of the persona
(the poet himself) or human beings as a
whole
 This is first hinted by the fact that the
cockroach is ‘giant’ – is it large for its
species, or large to the point it is the size
of a human?
 He gives the cockroach human
characteristics such as: ‘jog’, ‘trace’, ‘circle’
which are more of what a human being
would do than that a cockroach would.
ANALYSIS
 In
lines 3-11 he describes the frantic
actions of a human being:
 How we are content with our situations
(at first he seemed quite satisfied to trace)
 And then after a while, he gets bored (but
soon he turned to jog in crooked rings)
 He is then struck by a case of restlessness,
but then finally finds something exciting,
new – the open shelf
ANALYSIS
 When
he reached the open shelf, he begin
to question himself of whether what he’d
come for was worth it
 In the last two lines, the writer shows the
turn (solution to the problem) and the
cockroach personifies the character of the
poet/human being as he asked: ‘A former
life had led to? I don’t know, Except I
thought I recognised myself.’

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