19 pages 38 minutes read

Derek Walcott

The Flock

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1985

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Literary Devices


This poem depends heavily on metaphors to convey ideas. The main metaphor features birds, which become the speaker’s imagination and his words on the page. Facing the endless winter, the speaker laments that his bird-ideas have migrated out of his mind. Faced with this dearth of creativity, the speaker describes his writing as “pages of torn birds” (Line 37) that might as well be “engulfing snow” (Line 38). When the bird-words return at the end of the poem, the speaker feels the triumphant return of spring.

Another pervasive metaphor in the poem is winter. Snow, the “white funeral of the year” (Line 12), describes the isolation, figurative death, and loneliness of the blank page. Crossing it feels to the poet like the doomed task of a knight crossing a snow-capped mountain again the wind.

The metaphors give the poem a sense of unity and show that ideas and associations are flexible. The birds can be ideas. The snow can become discarded birds left to “engulf” (Line 38) the mountain, which is also the unwritten page. The poet uses these evolving metaphors to suggest an evolving consciousness. Notably, in the last stanza the “wintry flare of dawn” (Line 46) transforms the winter metaphor to associate it not with cold or loneliness or death, but rather with a flare of warmth.