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Not Waving but Drowning
Not Waving but Drowning
by Stevie Smith

Not Waving but Drowning Analysis

Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Form and Meter

Ballad StanzaIt takes a little detective work to suss out the form of this poem, especially when the line lengths in stanza 2 vary so much. A good way to start thinking about form is to look at the...

Speaker

So many speakers to choose from, so few lines to contain them. Where most poems of this length would only find room for one point of view, this one crams in three.Speaker #1: The NarratorThe first...

Setting

We have something of a mystery on our hands here. We know someone died, we have some guesses about how, but the location is never stated. So we have to make some guesses based on context. If he was...

Sound Check

It looks so simple, this poem, that you might skip right past how it sounds to get at what it means. But if you do that, you'll miss a big ol' treat because "Not Waving but Drowning" is chock-full...

What's Up With the Title?

In a poem that's already big on repetition, "Not Waving but Drowning" is spoken twice, in lines that are exact copies of each other. The fancy term for a repeated phrase like this is refrain. So it...

Calling Card

Macabre HumorStevie Smith is as obsessed with death as Emily Dickinson or Sylvia Plath, but if you're reading a morbid poem that makes you giggle, chances are you're reading a Smith poem. She often...

Tough-o-Meter

(4) Base CampOnce you get past the Britishisms "chap" and "larking," the poem seems very easy to understand. It's short, in line length and word length. In fact, it's mostly monosyllabic, with only...

Trivia

According to our poetess, the poem's based on a news article with the headline "Needless Dash to Bather on Rubber Float." Yep, that's right: Smith turned the situation inside out. Not even fact can...

Steaminess Rating

GThere's no hanky-panky here, just cold, cold water and a lonely death. You could say this poem is the opposite of steamy.

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