In Crossing the Swamp, poet Mary Oliver illustrates her effective work of poetry. A vibrant relationship with a swamp changes from argumentative to victorious. By creating a scene that every reader can relate to, Oliver develops a connection between a deep swamp and life. Through diction, imagery and metaphor, Oliver forms a spectacular idea of life and the difficulties of making it through the swamp. The darker literal diction at the start of the poem reveals the struggle between the speaker and the swamp. In lines 9-12, Oliver uses the words “closure” and “pathless” to focus on the struggle the speaker is going through. Oliver’s diction in this case, shows a shift in tone in the poem when she uses the words “painted” , “glittered” (Oliver .24) and “rich”(Oliver .26). This changes the tone of the poem to a more lighthearted, positive feel. She goes on to progress the speaker’s struggling connection with the swamp with the phrase “sprout, branch out, bud” (Oliver .34), showing hope, potential and a delighted air of progress made after the hardship. Oliver’s dark literal style of diction inspires huge samples of imagery.
Oliver’s use of imagery enhances the sense of struggle and developing accomplishment between the speaker and the swamp. The bits and pieces of the description serve as the parts of life, as if alongside crossing your own swamp. At the same time, it speaks closely of hardships and worries in journeying across the swamp. It also represents life and the world. Oliver uses the swamp as a symbol for a hardship in a time of life. Every detail, every description of the swamp, and every “earth”(Oliver. 28) adjective is used to demonstrate this symbol through imagery. Struggling further through the swamp, hope begins to shine with pleasant pictures of “fat grassy mires” (Oliver .25-26) and thoughts that life is “not wet so much” (Oliver .23) having plus sides in the end. The imagery behind her words throughout the poem portrays a sense of sorrow which later converts to a feeling of hopefulness. Oliver compares life to a “stick” that emerges from this swamp with the potential of new life. This new life is a metaphor:
-a poor dry stick given one more chance by the whims of swamp water (Oliver .28-31)
and “make[s] of its life a breathing / palace of leaves.”(Oliver .35-36). Having “one more chance by the whims” (Oliver .30) displays faith in fate, by reaching out for an extra chance to succeed. A “stick” is literally unable to reproduce or grow into a tree. It is a part of a tree that broke off and is left to decompose. Henceforth, the rebirth of the stick, as shown in this poem, is metaphorical for the emotional rebirth of an individual that goes from being in a state of depression or stress to blooming with life and joy. Through her work of diction, imagery, and metaphors, Oliver reveals the relationship between the speaker and the swamp is one of struggle. They both are fighting with each other to depreciate the other and consume victory, but finally they give in to each other’s needs. The dark diction filled with imagery expresses that being in the depths of the swamp, hope can still shine. The swamp is represented as endless and difficult to cross, having the same idea transmit into the life of a person. This person needs to give everything he or she has to make the “endless”(Oliver .1) path finally reachable.
Courtney from Study Moose