Poetry inquiry
January 12, 2011 5:01 AM   Subscribe

Can't remember a poem about drowning, and I think it has a mention of a "piston". Can anyone help?

A long time ago I studied a poem in a secondary school English class. It is depressing and vivid and the overall plot is of a person drowning, and emphasises how painful and traumatic the experience is.

In particular, the poem distinctly shifts in tone and vocabulary as it progresses; in the beginning it is very much about humanity and feelings, whereas by the end the biology of the drowner is deconstructed into mechanical parts, including, at one point, the word "piston" being mentioned.

That's all I remember! Does anyone know this poem? My Google-foo is not strong enough.
posted by asymptotic to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A novel, not a poem, but Pincher Martin by William Golding?
posted by hawthorne at 6:24 AM on January 12, 2011

The only poem off the top of my head about drowning that I can think of is Stevie Smith's "Not Waving but Drowning" but it doesn't match your specifications. It is though something you might read in an upper-level English class; I read it in university.
posted by pised at 8:11 AM on January 12, 2011

There's also the "Death by Drowning" section of Eliot's The Wasteland, and an Emily Dickinson poem called "Drowning is not so pitiful"; but neither of those sounds like what you're looking for, either. Was it a long poem? Do you have any idea when it was written; did it sound pretty modern?
posted by steambadger at 10:10 AM on January 12, 2011

Response by poster: @hawthorn: although I'm sure I was studying a poem, I never though about it being sourced from a book. I need to try get my hands on the book to see if there's any connection. If it was published in 1956 surely it's out of copyright? Do you know if it's online?

@pised: sorry! not it.

@steambadger: I don't think the poem was long, but I may have only been studying an extract of it for the class I'm not sure. Don't remember when it was written, nor if it was modern or not...although I don't think it's that modern.
posted by asymptotic at 10:38 PM on January 12, 2011

Response by poster: @hawthorn: I'm reading the first few pages of Pincher Martin off of Amazon and, although you've piqued my interest in a book previously unknown to me, I don't think this is it. Am I correct in saying the protagonist in Pincher Martin probably dies but thinks he survives? As far as I can remember in the poem I'm looking for there's a terrible finality in the drowner dying.
posted by asymptotic at 10:50 PM on January 12, 2011

Yes, that's correct.
posted by hawthorne at 3:13 AM on January 13, 2011

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