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Turtle By Kay Ryan Essay

Turtles Hatching

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Turtles Hatching

The poem Mark O’Connor wrote “Turtles Hatching” at a time in his life when was closely studying nature.
In this poem Mark O’Connor closely observes turtles hatching and contemplates the ritual that turtles share with the beach. This poem also has close connotations to life cycle and family.
Mark O’Connor begins the poem with one single line which emphasis the information that he is giving the reader. The continuation of this line from the rest of the poem to the next without a pause creates an urgency, which is used to emphasis the situation.
In the second stanza Mark O’Connor sets the scene as the turtles, “break through to twilight.”
The poet uses imperatives and personification of the elements in the line, “Downhill, fast; when you hit water, swim.” This technique is used to let the reader into the turtle’s head so they can feel the instinct that is overcoming them.
The poet uses lining in this poem to create stresses on words at the beginning of lines such as, ‘last, will be picked’. Creating a new line between last and will creates a tone of finality, which is associated with last.
In the second stanza Mark O’Connor sums up the odds for the turtles notifying the reader of the terrible fact that only one in a hundred will survive. This is used as a shock treatment towards the reader, which makes this figure stand out even more.
Mark O’Connor uses an extended metaphor that begins in the second stanza and returns again in the fourth. This technique is used to create a special prominence on the line “high-revving toys”.
In the forth stanza the poet uses hyperboles like “castles and every hole an abyss,” to create vivid visual imagery emphasising the peril of the turtles situation.
“Scrambling, sand, scrabbling, slime, sculling and sand pools” are examples of alliteration, which slows down the line when spoken.
In this poem there are military contexts like “death lane” which portray through visual imagery images such as trench fighting.
In the sixth stanza Mark O’Connor creates contrast between reality and the minds of the turtles, the line, “Caught in cracks” shows how they think they’re safe when really they’re not.
Throughout this poem Mark O’Connor reinforces a biological imperative, which is shown through words such as, oceans, limbs and nature. This is used to create a friendly and informative tone.
The seventh stanza is suddenly written as though a human voice has suddenly taken over and began reading the poem.

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The simile “as a dry handshake” is used in this stanza, to help create a vivid literal description of a turtle. The feeling portrayed is one that is not pleasurable but not disgusting either, this gives the impression of a childish innocent pleasure. The simile “as determined as cats” creates a weird image as cats would usually be chasing the cats.
The next stanza changes tone and Mark O’Connor writes as if taking the reader on a tour guide. “That will reach, tourist,” creates this feeling perhaps making the reader feel as if they’re only watching the turtles.
The first word of the ninth stanza, “tweaks” is colloquial language, which is more personal and reveals an emotional commitment made between the poet and the turtles. Mark O’Connor also includes himself in this stanza by using I.
The second half of this poem gives the impression that the poet is frustrated that he cannot help the turtles. He cannot help because he realises that just because he might help the turtle to the ocean doesn’t mean it will be strong enough to survive in the open sea. The connotation of the life cycle appears here as you realise the importance of the turtles journey down the beach.
The next stanza gives a very descriptive image of the violence of nature by using terms such as, crushed and sheared, these images are used to express to the reader the peril of the turtles danger. The “armoured tarantula legs” of the crab give a threatening image, which is again used to emphasise danger.
The extended metaphor returns again in the eleventh stanza, “fighting on in my hand” this repetition is used to enforce the motion image, which is both pertinent and accurate in the readers mind.
The thirteenth and fourteenth stanza’s many verbs like “squirmed, righted, hurried, pressed on, capsized, scrambled and plugged” are used to enforce the action.
The fifteenth stanza leaves the reader with a feeling that the hardships for the turtle are over now that it has reached the water, but we realise that the turtle’s journey has just began. We get the feeling of relief from words like “spinnering out to the moon”, and “gentle water” which create a beautiful image. This feeling of relief is then dashed with the phrase, “the shadow, a thousand times larger”, which immediately makes the reader feel like there is danger that is usually associated with shadows is coming.
This poem ends with a feeling of relief that the turtle is not dead and the connotation of lifecycle again appears as you realise the consequences of the turtle making it off the beach. The journey down the beach is merely a test to see who is strong and who will not be able to make it in the ocean.
Throughout this poem there are connotations to lifecycle and family. Including the mother turtle meeting the babies on the beach and the fact that the 99 turtles that don’t survive the journey are then food for other animals, which adds to the great circle of life and death.

After studying this poem I have learned that not only is Mark O’Connor a writer and poet but he is also an amateur biologist. I also learnt that great poets are those who study the subject of the poem they are about to write very closely so they can add details about even the smallest things. This poem taught me lots off things about the life cycle of turtles, the most interesting is the fact that they return to the same beach to lay eggs every time.
I believe that I learnt the most of this poem when we studied it in small groups in class. This technique helped me to see other people’s views on this topic. This helped me to realise many things that did not occur to me in the beginning.

For my visual representation I created a 3D poster which I believes helps to create the perspective of the what the turtles faced better than if it was flat. I also used both pictures and models of turtles, crabs and shells to create variation. My image is of baby turtles making there way down the beach crossing bumping sand to duplicate the feeling of an abyss. In my poster I have not included any images of turtles being killed as I tried to concentrate my poster on showing the success of the turtles that did make it down the beach. I have used feathers to symbolise seagulls hunting on the turtles, and I made the water appear wavy to symbolise that even after they make it down the beach they then have to deal with the ocean, which isn’t always kind. I believe that using real sand gives a more authentic touch to the image.



Little kids love to pretend they're animals. They delight in flapping their wings or tossing their manes or flexing their claws. Many of us actually never outgrow that love of animals. Watching a bird fly overhead, we can't help but imagine ourselves surfing those currents of air. (Pop quiz: If you could be any animal, which animal would you choose to be?)

In her poem "Turtle,"Kay Ryan turns this question on its head, identifying the turtle as an animal that people wouldn't choose to be. "Who would be a turtle who could help it?" demands the poem's speaker. Through a startling series of word pictures, the remainder of the poem goes on to show us why the life of a turtle is so tough and unenviable.

When she published "Turtle" in 1994, Ryan was 49 years old. A slow starter, she did not even start writing poetry until she was 30, and like the turtle in her poem, had only "modest hopes" of success. Yet, she persevered, eventually earning the respect of a literary establishment that initially discounted her work. In 2008 she was appointed the nation's Poet Laureate.

Ryan acknowledges that she wrote "Turtle" during a time of personal frustration. That sentiment is certainly present in the poem, which describes the turtle's awkward struggle merely to eat and not be eaten. As readers, we can't help identifying with this clumsy creature, despite the speaker's warnings not to get involved.

But frustration isn't the only emotion the tale of the turtle evokes. Rather, the poet's concoction of whimsical images and meaning-packed words creates a unique emotional chemistry. What emotions do you experience when you read "Turtle"? Those feelings may tell you something interesting about yourself, not to mention the turtle.

Remember Aesop's fable about the race between the tortoise and the hare? While the boastful, over-confident rabbit pauses for a nap, the turtle perseveres, plodding to victory. Moral: Slow and steady progress wins the race. On the one hand, you have to love it. Who doesn't enjoy rooting for the underdog (or, in this case, the under-turtle)? On the other hand, doesn't "slow" seem just a little, well, boring?

In Kay Ryan's poem "Turtle," boredom is the least of the turtle's problems. This solitary creature is struggling simply to survive, and it's a lonely business. She must make or break it on her own. Come to think of it, the same might be said for human beings. Though ours is a social species, nobody can live your life for you. And some days, life can seem awfully hard.

So, is this, like, a really depressing poem? If so, the turtle lovers among us might be a little put off. Shmoop, for one, thinks turtles are actually pretty cute, so we're not sure about the Debby Downer attitude. Not to worry, though. There's another side to Kay Ryan—a funny side. In fact, she's one of those rare poets who know how to be serious and funny at the same time. "With my work," says Ryan, "you have to always think there's a smidgen of laughter in it, however sad it might be, however lonely or lost. If you feel worse after you've read it, then I've failed."

So take the poet at her word, and test out the poem for yourself. Does the image of the turtle as a "four-oared helmet" tickle your funny bone just a bit? By the end of the poem, are you smiling or frowning? As you explore these questions, take care to avoid the rabbit's mistake: don't underestimate that turtle. Some days we all feel like losers, but the turtle in Aesop's fable didn't end up as a loser, and maybe—just maybe—the turtle in Kay Ryan's poem won't either.

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