How does "The Lost Dances of Cranes" compare natural cranes to mechanical ones?

Quick answer:

The poet compares the natural cranes to the mechanical ones in "The Lost Dances of Cranes" by looking at their respective relationships to the new city that's being built. The mechanical cranes are helping to create the new city on land that was once the natural habitat of the birds.

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In Juliet Wilson's short poem "The Lost Dances of Cranes," we are presented with two kinds of cranes. First of all, there is the crane of the title, the natural crane, the family of birds renowned for their long necks and graceful mating rituals. Then there's the mechanical crane, the sight of which against a sky is invariably a sure sign that something is being built, or at the very least about to be built.

Wilson compares the two kinds of cranes in their relation to a new city that's being built. The mechanical cranes are helping to build that city; they are dancing it into existence. But the dances of these cranes, the mechanical variety, are not in the same league as the graceful dances performed by the birds of the same name.

As the title of the poem suggests, however, these dances are lost. Because the new city is being built upon what was once the cranes' natural habitat, their dance can now only be seen in grainy old video footage that city-dwellers will watch

to marvel

at the wonders of the world

once held.

If the cranes and their graceful dances represent the life of the natural world, the mechanical cranes and their less-than-graceful movements represent the death of that world.

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