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Robert Francis's poem "Catch" has a double meaning. On the surface, the poem is about two boys playing catch with each other in all kinds of variations, including tossing "overhand, underhand, backhand," etc. They make it difficult for each other at times, making each other bend and almost miss the ball.
The other extended metaphor in the poem is understanding poetry. The two boys playing are like the poet and the audience. The poet throws various kinds of ideas at his audience, including concepts and words that are "tricky" and "risky." The poet throws ideas at his audience that are "over his [or their] head," much the same way a person might throw a ball over another person's head to make it hard to catch. Finally, the poet throws a nice idea or set of words into his audience's hands "like a posy." The gyrations that the boy catching the ball goes through are similar to the mental gyrations the audience must make to understand the deeper meaning of a poem and its combination of words and ideas.
This is a most engaging poem, particularly for those persons in your class who have had experience with baseball and softball. Many students are fascinated by the comparison of playing catch and understanding poetry. The double meaning of the poem’s diction is made clear in the very first line, where we learn that two boys are “tossing a poem” with each other. Once this language is established, readers are on guard to continue the comparison of throwing baseballs and understanding poems. Readers can then find comfort that in understanding poems, it is as easy as playing catch with someone.
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