Tetherball Poem Analysis

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The poem “Tetherball” by Tim Bowling, published in the Winter 2015 edition of The Fiddlehead, uses a variety of metaphors to describe what is at the most basic level a popular old schoolyard game. At a deeper level, however, Bowling sets up the game as a metaphor for life itself. The layered metaphor in the first stanza demonstrates this technique of using metaphors to describe metaphors. Further, the images painted of what is generally considered a children’s game are anything but cheerful, instead evoking violence and death. The use of enjambments which go against expectations also parallels this hidden, darker meaning. The first metaphor of the poem is the most detailed and complex, containing metaphor within metaphor. In brief, the tetherball pole is compared to a scarecrow, the ball is compared to a clock (specifically in how kids smash it, as they might wish to smash the clock that keeps them trapped in school), the clock is compared to a stalled tractor, and muddy…show more content…
Bowling will set up an idea in one line, then take it in an entirely new direction in the next. The description of “scarecrow of iron” (6) is simple enough; however, the addition of “with its head lopped off, dangling, waiting / for some kid to smash it in the face” (7-8) takes it in an entirely new and disturbing direction. In the fourth layer, muddy potato fields are compared to the battlefields of Passchendaele, an extremely costly battle in World War One. This comparison is unexpected, and seems to make light of a serious subject. In the next line, however, he changes direction again, saying that the two are so alike that “they weren’t alike at all” (13). These repeated switches leave the reader uncertain as to what is really meant. This can also be said to parallel the tetherball game, in which the ball is hit one way, then the other, rapidly changing direction and threatening to hit players in the face at any
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