Critical analysis of Climbing My Grandfather by Waterhouse !

Climbing My Grandfather by Andrew Waterhouse 

Waterhouse was an environmentalist a writer and a musician who won the four-word poetry prize for his collection entitled in during 2000. Now Waterhouse suffered from depression and tragically died by committing suicide in 2001. His fellow poet and friend Linda Frances stated that there are lots of confined spaces in his work suggesting that there are hints at darkness and tragedy that are mentioned in his work in his obituary published in The Guardianan. Another poet Sean O'Brien commented that Waterhouse's poetry was full of solid objects and hard edges once more highlighting this sense of grit and unrelenting suffering in the midst of his poetry.


So let's take the title Climbing My Grandfather this poem faces us with as readers this extend as a metaphor where the speaker presents the grandfather as a mountain or cliff face that must be summited. We understand the freedom of an upward summit and the climbing in the open spaces but we also know that is arduous and difficult. As we on earth this poem the discovery of the grandfather is tender and it heightens our admiration for who they were and also who our speaker is just like we call some people are rock for being stable the grandfather seems to have this same presence even potentially after death with the speaker and it's as if our poet is climbing out of their own mental anguish.

I decide to do it free, without a rope or net.
First, the old brogues, dusty and cracked;
an easy scramble onto his trousers,
pushing into the weave, trying to get a grip.
By the overhanging shirt I change
direction, traverse along his belt
to an earth-stained hand. The nails
are splintered and give good purchase,
the skin of his finger is smooth and thick
like warm ice. On his arm I discover
the glassy ridge of a scar, place my feet
gently in the old stitches and move on.
At his still firm shoulder, I rest for a while
in the shade, not looking down,
for climbing has its dangers, then pull
myself up the loose skin of his neck
to a smiling mouth to drink among teeth.
Refreshed, I cross the screed cheek,
to stare into his brown eyes, watch a pupil
slowly open and close. Then up over
the forehead, the wrinkles well-spaced
and easy, to his thick hair (soft and white
at this altitude), reaching for the summit,
where gasping for breath I can only lie
watching clouds and birds circle,
feeling his heat, knowing
the slow pulse of his good heart.

The first thing that strikes us is that if Climbing his Grandfather is so positive why is our speaker always hinted as so dangerous the first person I decide to do it free without a rope or net sounds dangerous but more than anything. As we move through the middle of this poem we're identifying that climbing has its dangers so perhaps the most obvious danger is this sense of revisiting feelings of loss and grief that are painful after years may be without their grandfather. Another suggestion might be that writing about someone you love is dangerous he wonders what they think of your writing and if they no longer with you worry if you're somehow downgrading them with your sentiment. But the most obvious is that well the danger of climbing is you could fall and inline fall we understand that this speaker is trying to get a grip and trying to get a hold on their grandfather because I don't want to fall. As we move through this block of poetry that graph illogically looks like a mountain. We hit the line that describes his finger smooth and thick like warmice and that's a paradoxical almost oxymoronic image. I'm not used to seeing warm ice it rarely stays warm for long because it melts it's as if this memory might be melting but also the image of his glassy Ridge of a scar as aslippery cold surface and as readers were questioning what's happened to this grandfather to get him this scar in life what's happened in his life to give himthis rugged look.

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It's interesting that our poet has chosen to simultaneously immortalize his grandfather in this poem but also to dehumanize him by taking away human features and instead make it more like a mountain we're just struck by how great the grandfather is in terms of size andenormity and in comparison our speaker is tiny and we have to question is the speaker meant to be pathetic in comparison to the epicness the greatness of their grandfather. Another thing to note is that there is an absolute lack of rhyme and lack of connection between the words and their message in sonic terms that's the sounds that are created which highlights that for the speaker anyway harmony is missing may be in their life but in their sentiment anyway. As I mentioned earlier the graphology the poem makes it seem like we are viewing the side of a mountain with it'shard edges and crevasses that need to be battled and held onto. More than anything our troubled speaker is seeking to climb this mountain of their grandfather to unearth qualities that might bring them joy and help them as a speaker manage their life.

By focusing on this semantic field of aging or physical appearance we want to as readers work out what were the experiences and scars of this grandfather's life. Reaching the summit is the top of the grandfather, in this case, their hair is white like the top of a mountain might be white. When our speaker takes in this view there's this absolute sense of intimacy between the speaker and their grandfather and in that moment there is peace there gasping for breath and all they can do is lie exhausted our peakers watching nature and nature that we associate with freedom without the birds and the clouds up above as they circle.

As we move towards the end of this poem we're aware that there are two types of freedom there's the freedom of the physical feeling the heat of his grandfather and also the mental freedom of knowing the slow pulse of his good heart. That final phrase of good heart highlights his emotional bond that physical and emotional connection that can never be broken even if the grandfather is no longer with him. And then finally I suppose the point that we have to take away from this poem is that it is full of nuance our poet or speaker is seeking to hold on to moments that life can throw at them and this huge figure of the grandfather presents security. So I suppose the overarchingtheme for us to take away from this poemis not just familial love and the love for those that have helped raise you but also how their memories can continue to galvanize and push you forward perhaps the question that Waterhouse is leaving with us as readers is what sets us free what are the things that fire us up and what other people that look down on us now maybe from heaven thinking of how we live our life. 
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