James K. Baxter

James K Baxter expresses his thoughts and judgements using natural settings of his pasts. In Baxter’s poems, Rocket Show and Wild Bees, he comments about his boyhood, nature and how it taught him in life. In the poem wild bees, Baxter talks about a situation when he and his friends go out to smoke a beehive one evening to get the honey from it. The very simple language makes it easy for the reader to understand Baxter’s thoughts and judgements. The illusion of a ‘safe Ophelia ‘shows us knowledge of the great Shakespearean tragedy.

Where Ophelia, Hamlets girlfriend, went mad before drowning in a lake. Then he describes the bees as they are working in ‘passionless industry’. The language features such as similes and metaphors put him on the same level as the reader so that it becomes easier for him to understand his thoughts and feelings. Similes like wild bees as “(swift as tigers)” embodies the way bees are known as being fast and dart about. Also included in this description is a comparison to tigers which gives the reader a feeling that the bees are fierce and hazardous.

Powerful and meaningful metaphors such as ‘their sentries saw us’ and the ‘wounded sky’ also captures our imagination. The wounded sky creates the impression of the red sky and that he is waiting for dark, so they can smoke the bees out. After smoking the bees out of the hive, he realizes that it was a terrible thing to do and he believes that tragedies can exist on a small scale as well. But he lifts the scale high up when he talks about the destruction of Carthage by Rome and Troy by Greece. The poem Rocket Show is about a fireworks display held on an Otago beach.

In many of Baxter’s poems he describes his inner feelings using natural settings around him. The simile ‘love grows like a crocus bulb in winter’ explains that love is very tender in its early stages and is very vulnerable to damage and therefore needs to be looked after and nurtured. The poem compares a rocket and a love relationship, the words expressed in the poem implying that just as a rocket dies out after its flight, a ends its cycle, and when one cycle ends another one begins and so the cycle continues.

Baxter talks how the crowd has trampled the grass under their feet and there is no space to move around. Two examples of alliteration-‘Fireworks Flare… ’strident surf’- fully describe the ambience of the beach. The simile ‘like self-destroying flowers on slender stems’ is taken from nature again along with the ‘ardent showers’. Then Baxter talks about the Rosetta stone being blind whereas it was the key to understanding a lost civilisation.

The last simile ‘mad as the polar moon’ sums up the fact that the human heart is unpredictable just like the polar moon and cannot be understood, as it is illogical. Overall this essay has explained the meaning of the poems Wild Bees and Rocket show it has also given allusions to some of the many language techniques such as metaphors, similes and alliteration that Baxter has used in his surroundings around him in his poems which have enabled him to recount experiences of his youth and past.

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