The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Wave” by Michael Collier is a nine-stanza narrative poem consisting of unrhymed trochaic hexameters. It describes the ritual of a wave during a baseball game, the way fans stand up, block by block, to demonstrate support for their team. The setting is an unspecified town or city in the United States on a cool summer night.

The poem opens with an overview of the baseball stadium, as vendors of cotton candy, soft drinks, beer, pretzels, and hot dogs parade up and down the stands plying their trade. Panning the crowd like a camera, the poet’s eye sees birds “attracted// and repelled” by the lights on the field, trapped under the overarching dome as they flit back and forth above the stands. Caught by a glimpse of an anomalous “skinny kid sitting between two fat parents,” the poet’s vision finally hones in on the home team’s mascot taunting the visitors with “oversize antics” above the dugout.

About halfway through the game, as the fifth stanza explains, two slightly drunken soldiers walk to the front of the stands, strip to the waist, lift up their arms, and exhort the crowd, section by section, to stand up and raise their arms in a wave of movement. The aim of these leaders of the crowd, says the poet in the last stanza, is to keep the wave going for as long as they can, for their own sake as well as that of the players and “all of us.”

Apart from the final stanza, in which the “us” may include the...

(The entire section is 428 words.)