10 April 2012
A Little Motivation Goes a Long Way
“To Help the Monkey Cross the River” by Thomas Lux is a poem that follows no traditional structure. The poem is free verse and has only one stanza consisting of twenty-six lines. The poem is allegorical; the literal translation of the poem is a hunter on a stand watches over a monkey crossing a river to get the food on the other side. In the process of the monkey crossing the river he encounters a crocodile and a snake. To protect the monkey from harm the hunter shoots near the monkey to provoke him to move quicker to safety. The choppy lines and incomplete thoughts add to the relationship between the structure of the poem and the meaning behind it. The block form of the poem relates to the steady flow of the river as well as the flow straight from title into the poem. The cut off sentences and line breaks gives the reader a sense of the monkey swimming. The use of good imagery and simple language help the reader relate to the situation presented. These all lend in to bring an underlying symbolism into this seemingly simple poem.
Because of the title “To Help the Monkey Cross the River” it can be determined from the start that the poem will be about some sort of third party helping a monkey cross a river. The poem starts with the line “which he must/ cross” (Lux 1-2) the pronoun “he” is not introduced, but can be assumed that the speaker is talking about the monkey. After the monkey is introduced to the reader the speaker says, “cross, by swimming, for fruits and nuts,” (2). It is not explained in the first two lines of the poem what it is the monkey must cross but it can be assumed that because of the title “To Help the Monkey Cross the River” and the use of the word “swim” that the speaker is talking about a monkey crossing a river. Lux then goes on to say “to help him/ I sit with my rifle on a platform/ high in a tree,” (3-5), this is the first reference to the...