by Naomi Shihab Nye
"Famous" is all about making us feel rather uncomfortable with our definition of fame. What better way to make us question everything we know than to give us a list of insignificant things that would certainly never make the cover of the National Enquirer, and then tell us how famous they all are? We wouldn't have thought to do this either. That's why Nye's the poet, and Shmoop's, well, not. But hey, at least we're here to help.
- Lines 1, 3, 6, 19-21: Practically this entire poem is an extended metaphor for how the ordinary should be seen as extraordinary (hence, famous) for doing exactly whatever it can do. Line 1 gives us rivers and fish, line 3 presents birds and cats, line 6 focuses on boots of all things, and then, in the grand finale, we celebrate buttonholes and pulleys. You don't get much more everyday than that.
- Lines 1, 2, 5, 7, 10: Nye is a bit of a master when it comes to a little something we like to call parallelism. She begins each of these lines with an example of an ordinary item (a river, a cat, a tear… you get the idea) that is famous according to her definition, but very unfamous according to society's. Then, each line ends by telling us whom the item is famous to. Check it out; if you line up all those lines right on top of each other, they even look parallel.
- Lines 3, 7, 20: Another cool tool Nye uses is personification, which is attributing all kinds of feelings and emotions to ordinary objects—things that can't feel at all. For example, the silence in Line 3 can't actually know. It's silence! But Nye makes it know.
- Line 15-18: The image of the shuffling men crossing streets and the sticky children in grocery lines emphasizes that fame is more about the little people you impact and not what you do.
- Lines 19-20: Likewise, the speaker's desire to be like a pulley or a buttonhole stresses how ordinary she is aiming to be. That's the paradox of the poem-- in just being ordinary and doing what we can, we will actually be extraordinary.