The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Kingfisher” is divided into seven stanzas, each made up of six lines of approximately the same length. Although it is written in free verse, not in a metrical form, the poem looks more conventional than many other free-verse works, including some in the same collection by Amy Clampitt. It appears even more traditional because each of the first three stanzas is a definite unit, ending with a period; the remainder of the poem consists of double-stanza units, but again, the first stanza in each pair ends with a punctuated pause and the second with a period. Thus the poem is made up of five segments, each distinct in setting, which are arranged chronologically.

Clampitt emphasizes her narrative intent in her notes to “The Kingfisher” when she describes the poem as a “novel trying to work itself into a piece of cloisonné.” The subject of this poem, she says, is “an episodic love affair that begins in England and is taken up again in New York City.” Although the story is related in the third person, the point of view is that of limited omniscience, for while the author reports the thoughts and feelings of the woman, the reactions of the man are presented as his lover’s guesses or assumptions.

The setting of the first stanza and thus of the first episode in this love affair is rural England. In the late spring or the summer of a year marked by especially vociferous nightingales, the two lovers spend an evening going from pub...

(The entire section is 547 words.)