The poem is only two stanzas long, but the lines don’t waste any time, ensuring the reader is introduced to this new way of envisioning a fork. Simic takes what should be a mundane subject and makes it interesting and compelling. So much so that readers might find themselves wishing ‘Fork’ was longer.
‘Fork’ by Charles Simic is an imaginative poem about how a speaker views and handles forks.
The poem starts with a surprising comparison between a fork and a strange thing that’s crawled “right out of hell.” It’s creature-like, specifically like the foot of a bird. The fork-creature also looks like something that might be worn as a trophy around a cannibal’s neck. As the poem continues, the speaker crafts an even stronger image of “you” using the work and one’s fist becoming the beakless, blind head of a bird.
You can read the full poem here.
This strange thing must have crept
Worn around the cannibal’s neck.
In the first stanza of ‘Fork,’ the speaker begins by describing a fork without using the word. This is a clever way of composing a poem, and it’s a technique that continues throughout all of the lines.
First, the speaker creates a metaphor, comparing the fork to something that must have “crept / Right out of hell.” This is a dark and compelling image, one that’s furthered in the next lines. The fork is creature-like, resembling a bird’s foot a cannibal might wear around its neck. This is a gruesome picture, one that should surprise and interest the reader. It’s unlikely one was going to be expecting this kind of description when they started the poem.
As you hold it in your hand,
Its head which like your fist
Is large, bald, beakless, and blind.
In the second stanza, the poet transitions into speaking in the second person, using pronouns like “you” and “your.” When you use it, hold it in your hand, and “stab with it into a piece of meat,” it’s easy to imagine the “rest of the bird.” The use of the word “easy” here is subjective. For the speaker, it’s easy. But, it’s likely that most readers have never had this same thought. Perhaps, after reading the lines, it does become easy to envision the fork as a foot and as the bird’s head as “your fist.”
The poem concludes that this disturbingly shaped bird is “large, bald, beakless, and blind,” the poem concludes. It’s suggestive of the actions the hands make. It’s clumsy, doesn’t pay attention to what it’s doing, and is “blind” to the truth of what’s around it. The word “beakless” also suggests that without the implement, this bird’s head/fist would be useless when it comes to stabbing the piece of meat.
Structure and Form
‘Fork’ by Charles Simic is a two-stanza poem that is separated into sets of lines. The first is known as a quatrain. This means that it contains four lines. The second is a quintain. It contains five lines. These stanzas are written in free verse. This means that they do not conform to a specific metrical pattern or rhyme scheme. Despite the lack of a specific pattern, the poem does utilize some examples of rhyme and half-rhyme. For example, the half-rhyme between “crept” and “meat” between the two stanzas.
Throughout ‘Fork,’ Simic makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Alliteration: can be seen when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of word. For example, “bald, beakless, and blind” in the final line of the poem.
- Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two as well as lines four and five.
- Anaphora: can be seen when the poet repeats the same word or phrase at the beginning of lines. For example, “It” and “It’s” at the beginning of three lines and “As you” at the beginning of lines one and two of the second stanza.
The tone is descriptive and direct. The speaker knows exactly what he’s going to say and is confident in his statements. It’s clear he’s interested in the fork as an object and shows his curiosity through the interesting metaphors and images he uses.
The purpose is to trigger the reader’s imagination when it comes to this common tool used in almost every home. After reading the poem, the reader may find themselves looking at forks in a new light.
The speaker is someone very creative with an active imagination. He sees something like a fork and imagines it into something else with enough clarity to make it convincing.
The mood of this poem is curious and surprised. Readers are likely to find themselves surprised by the poet’s choice of language and metaphor. It’s not what one would expect when they imagined a poem about a fork.
Readers who enjoyed ‘Fork’ should also consider reading some related poems. For example:
- ‘Crow Song’ by Margaret Atwood – speaks on the poor and degraded state of human society through a larger satirical metaphor with crows.
- ‘The Lightning is a Yellow Fork’ by Emily Dickinson – a highly original poem. It focuses on the sublime power of lightening and God.
- ‘How to Eat a Poem’ by Eve Merriam – uses eating fruit as a metaphor for reading poetry to encourage readers to enjoy poetry.