Study Guide

Famous Fame

By Naomi Shihab Nye

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We assume you saw this one coming.

With the repetition of the word famous applied to unexpected situations, Nye shakes up our notions of fame, big time. In fact, we can almost think of the word famous as a kind of repeated refrain that slowly persuades us that we've been going about this whole 'getting-famous-thing' in the wrong way. People who are totally into poems call this anaphora. That's when the poet deliberately repeats a word or a phrase at the beginning of lines or stanzas, as in "The ______ is famous to the _______." Nye's pattern of "such and such is famous to so and so" qualifies as big time anaphora. But don't take our word for it. Take a peek for yourself:

  • Line 1: In these lines, our anaphora begins. Here, famous is used in the sense of important. That river is pretty important to those fish, because without it, they'd have nowhere to live. (Oh, and—let's face it—they'd probably drown.)
  • Line 2: Okay, so the loud voice famous to silence because silence needs the loud voice to exist so that it can exist, too, right? (If this logic seems a little foggy, check out the "Line-by-Line Summary" for a clearer explanation.)
  • Line 5: That cat sounds famous in the sense that it could really have an impact on those birds. Or maybe the speaker is talking about fame with the connotation of predator and prey, not unlike our modern definition with celebrities "hunted" by the press—paparazzi, anyone?
  • Line 7: The fact that the tear is famous to the cheek reminds us that even if the interaction is brief, something can still have an important impact. Fame helps the mundane get noticed.

And, there is a lot more where this came from, but we think you get the idea of repetition and anaphora. Don't you feel brilliant and famous?

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