Have you ever been so terrible at something—perhaps a class, a sport, a game—that no matter how many hours you spend desperately trying to improve your performance on such an activity, you still make little or no progress? If not, then props to you for being a superstar at everything you do, but if so, then the speaker in the poem “Practice” by Joseph Campana likely relates to you. The speaker talks about how he used to practice playing the clarinet a long time ago, but his self-seemingly unsatisfactory playing forced him to quit and now causes him to renounce the idea of picking up the clarinet again. In this poem, music functions as a characterization tool by playing a key role in the speaker’s past experiences, exposing his negative emotions and giving the reader insight into the speaker’s decision to abstain from playing the instrument he used to practice on a regular basis.
In the first stanza of “Practice”, the speaker paves the way for the reader’s understanding of his attitude toward playing music by touching on his history with the subject. Looking back, the speaker remembers how he “squeezed the same ladder of tone from a clarinet now gathering moss in a closet far from here.”(Campana, 184) Although the narrator of the poem brushes on his memory of music, he does not speak of it fondly, but instead, uses a monotonous tone. The amount of time that has gone by since the narrator has touched his clarinet is so long ago that moss has grown on it, allowing the