The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Flying Change” is a short poem; in its two distinct parts the speaker establishes a metaphor comparing a maneuver that is taught to a cantering horse to a stance the speaker has adopted for his own life. The poem’s two parts are numbered, as if to underscore their distinctive characters, and they look quite different on the page and exhibit very different voices.

Part 1 is a prose poem, set out on the page like a standard paragraph. It sounds rather like a textbook on horsemanship in its explanation of the flying change maneuver. It describes the nature of a horse’s canter, a gait in which the animal’s “leading foreleg is the last to touch the ground before the moment of suspension” as the horse moves forward. The horse can canter by leading with either the right or the left foreleg, but as it rounds a curve, it usually leads with the inside foreleg. If the horse must change leads to put the inside foreleg first (the “flying change”), it can do so easily when it is running free. If the horse is being ridden, however, the rider’s added weight makes the shift more difficult, and the rider must teach the horse to compensate in order to carry out the change. Part 1 of the poem explains these matters in a matter-of-fact, third-person voice and without editorial comment except for the last sentence: “The aim of teaching a horse to move beneath you is to remind him how he moved when he was free.”

In part 2 Taylor changes...

(The entire section is 466 words.)