How does Allen Curnow convey his feelings in the poem "Continuum," refering to literary devices?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Allen Curnow, a poet and satirist from New Zealand, is probably most popular for his poetry regarding the landscape:

His works concerning the New Zealand landscape and the sense of isolation experienced...are perhaps his most moving and most deeply pertinent works...

While a satirist generally writes of things of a more serious nature, Curnow also captured the essence of the child in his poetry with...

...a childlike engagement with the environment... bringing the hopeful, curious, questioning voice that a childlike view entails.

Curnow's poem "Continuum" deals with the poet's struggle to "create." (However, his child-like humor regarding the environment is clear.) The literary devices that he uses give a sense of the work the poet does, almost like the work he claims the "landscape" experiences, as if it, too, were alive. Curnow uses elements of nature as well as symbolism in his poetry.

The first literary device in "Continuum" is found in personification—giving human characteristics to non-human things.

The moon rolls over the roof and falls behind

my house...

The moon rises and it seems that the author is ready to break into lyrical prose...but humorously, the moon keeps going, rolls over the roof and falls behind the author's house. Not a very auspicious start to what the speaker hopes to be the start of a moving poem. He cleverly continues, stating that he can't get "off to sleep," "off the subject" or "off the planet," and he can't stop thinking. So he walks outside in bare feet.

The speaker looks over the "hedges" ("privets") and past the palms, into "washed out creation." This seems to refer to the sky, but it might also symbolize the author's sense of feeling "washed out" as he struggles to create poetry. Generally, a symbol is... object/person/idea that represents another idea through association or resemblance.

In this case, the author may be using literal language (language that means exactly what it says) when writing about the "washed out creation," or may be using figurative language as well—language that cannot be taken literally: it is language that may use some literary device to give a clearer image or provide deeper, artistic insight into a specific topic. Here the author is feeling empty: unable to create.

Again, in a literal sense, the author refers to the clouds in the sky:

a dark place with two particular

bright clouds

It is safe to say there are two clouds, but Curnow uses figurative language again, inferring that they are possessions—not just heavenly bodies—in that the speaker "owns" one cloud; the other cloud is "an adversary" (enemy), and this is also personification. The inference is that the "cloud" is the speaker's enemy—perhaps "clouding" his artistry. Or, the writing may simply suggest that the other cloud is something that shifts or moves because of "the wind, or something"—clouding the sky...nothing more.

Imagery is present describing a long moment—and that the following moment is not "on time"—or longer still (personification). This creates an sense of extended waiting.

In the end, the sky has nothing to offer that will help the author find his way: he cannot create and he cannot write, and so he returns defeated (for now) to bed.

In essence, the literary devices support the author's sense that there are forces at work against him, preventing him from experiencing success with his writing.

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