Storyteller This poem is a descriptive poem, which illustrates the effect of storytelling on the human mind.
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Storyteller This poem is a descriptive poem, which illustrates the effect of storytelling on the human mind. The poet creates a setting of village life where the only form of evening entertainment was oral storytelling. The poet seems to be talking about a time before electricity made watching television possible. The whole poem has a nostalgic tone. The poet creates an ambience and a mood for storytelling. It would be late evening when 'the last crumb of daylight was salted away'. In preparation for the storytelling session after supper, the women would clean up the kitchen, rub the table clean and place the 'cracked delft' back on the dresser. The reader can actually hear the sweeping motion of this process because the poet uses alliteration - she sat down / at the scoured table /in the swept kitchen / beside the dresser with its cracked delft'.
As the tales were being told they would stitch, grate corn from the husk, create patchwork quilts or finish the darning. The emphasis on the 'f' sound in 'five or forty fingers stitched' reflects the swiftness with which the fingers moved and tells us how adept these women were at their work. We can also relate the putting together of pieces to make a patchwork quilt to the art of storytelling where different elements of a story are arranged together to make a well-structured whole. The audience for these women was usually children who waited 'night in', that is, every night, to hear the story. The poet says that they waited 'held breath, for the ending we knew by heart. 'Held breath' suggests their eager anticipation.
A world that is soaked in more colour and magic than the 'grey' and 'flat' world outside. The fantasy stories of the night before softly permeate into their dreams. They are 'dissolved in the whorl of the ear'. The poet creates a striking visual image of the stories swirling in the coils of the ear. It also reminds us of the image of spinning that she has used earlier. Another unusual piece of visual imagery engages the reader when the poet uses a metaphor and compares the stories to bats. She says 'they / hung themselves upside down / in the sleeping heads of the children'. The stories will lie dormant in the minds of the children, like bats in hibernation. They will be preserved 'salted away' for future generations and the oral art of storytelling will survive. The stories will then take flight again in the imagination of the children and be repeated at other 'storytellers night'.
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