Tuesday, January 09, 2007

"The Catch"

The Catch
By Robin Robertson

The tick you hear
is the heart valve’s catch,
holding back the wrong
traffic of blood;

this click is the notch in a run
of iron, and love is a ratchet
that slides only one way
and cannot return.

This poem is collected in Swithering, the winner of the 2006 Forward Prize for Poetry.

The Catch starts with a little sound, and Robertson spins this out in two sentences, which essentially, really, are just one sentence, as there is a semi-colon linking the second one.

I enjoy the monosyllabic manner in which Robertson conveys the ticking of a “heart valve’s catch” with just a pair of fall-rise rhythm. He reverses and varies this rhythm in the third line – rise-fall-rise - after showing us where the ticking is coming from, in the second line, where the rushing of “is the” leads to, and stops at, the slow rendering of “the heart valve’s catch”, with a comma to make sure you pause a little longer here. The third line runs-on very strongly towards the rushing sound (“traffic”) of the start of the fourth and last line of the first stanza, and stops at “blood”, a very strong end-stopping with a semi-colon.

In the first line of the next and last stanza, “click” rhymes back to “tick”, as a link. All these mechanical imagery of gears and valves and iron and ratchet is softened a little in the penultimate line, after “that”, with liquid and long vowels, because all this is because of love. What a ratchet does, the last two lines expands on, everything moving only in one direction, not able to go back. These two lines also link back to the last two lines of the first stanza with their motif of flow and direction.

Do you feel as in The Catch when you fall in love?

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Blogger Madcap Machinist said...

Thanks Leon, I enjoyed this poem too.

I love the way the poem's rhythm varies through: the quick first line; slower on the second & third; the rush and strong endstop on the fourth;--punctuated by the hard c's--; steady through lines five & six (mimicking the ratchet's 'rack'?); hesitantly falling away in the final lines...

Such precision.

I looked online and enjoyed "Wedding The Locksmith's Daughter" too, the melodious lines, "A chime of sound / on sound: the way the sung note snibs on meaning // and holds." ... snibs!

I will look for Swithering.

4:56 PM, January 09, 2007  
Blogger Leon Wing said...

Yes, isn't Robertson so precise at laying out the wordings. If you dig a little deeper still, there are more revelations.

I think Swithering is available now,here,in a US edition, for USD16 though. I'm having the ebook edition in MS lit.

9:12 AM, January 10, 2007  
Blogger dreameridiot said...

Haha, this one took me back to biology lesson ages ago on the human heart.

Thinking of this poem, I see the nice contrast and parallel imagery set up between the physical and biological heart organ and one's emotional heart or soul; the former which opens and shuts to direct the flow of blood in the desired direction, as opposed to the latter where one's emotions overwhelm, falling in love utterly and completely.

There's possibly a cheeky pun on the word "ratchet" with "wretched" - the state of being hopelessly in love. Unlike the 'mechanical' ratchet, one's emotional valve only goes one way - the way of love... (No catch to hold it back in place)

On a different note, I wonder how the ladies take to the use of precision and 'mechanical'imagery in describing love.

12:18 AM, January 11, 2007  
Blogger bibliobibuli said...

this one thumped me hard, leon. so true and such an effetive image and so effectively packed into a single sentence

1:53 PM, January 11, 2007  
Blogger Leon Wing said...

DI, good, you managed to catch "ratchet" to sound like "wretched". I missed it! DI, are you that when you fall in love?

Like Sharon, yes, this piece thumped me hard, too. In love, I have been given to something of a catch, as if the heart's blood is flowing the wrong way.

2:13 PM, January 11, 2007  
Blogger dreameridiot said...

Me spotting it? It was by chance, and that is the thing I liked about our blog, each person bringing in their unique perspective and/or personal experience to a poem, enriching the poem for everyone. There are often things I am pleasantly surprised to find after reading the write-ups or comments.

Oh.. falling in love. Err... that is the period when I am most afraid and embarrased about myself, because I go absolutely over the moon, really... Haha

11:24 PM, January 11, 2007  
Blogger The Lettershaper said...

As a poet, I very much enjoyed my walk through your blog...as an avid reader, I think I enjoyed it even more. Time well spent...

1:27 PM, January 15, 2007  
Blogger Leon Wing said...

I'm so glad you enjoy our blog here. We sometimes also invite readers to contribute a posting, about any poem you want to discuss about. How about it?

11:32 AM, January 16, 2007  

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