‘The Net’ by Julie O’Callaghan is a poem about a school reunion. The poetic persona or the poet herself is in a dilemma. The poet wants to ignore the reunion somehow. However, the tone of the poet appears as hiding something of her past. There is no longing for old school memories. She doesn’t mention those even throughout the poem. Her only wish is to pass through the metaphorical net of friendship, social bonding, and most importantly from the old school memories.
Summary of The Net
‘The Net’ by Julie O’Callaghan talks about the poet’s school reunion party. The class committee of the school is finding the students of the old batch for inviting them to the reunion at a “hotel ballroom/ festooned with 70s paraphernalia”. The poet somehow wants to avoid such things. She removes her virtual profile from the “cyber-space” and wants to slip through the net of social bonding with her old school friends. One of her school friends, her locker partner, has a desire to go there. But, the poet is detached from it. She tries to stay away from the reunion anyhow as she had always done in her school days.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure of The Net
‘The Net’ by Julie O’Callaghan has an evenness in its structure. The poem consists of five five-lined stanzas. Being a poem of modern literature, there isn’t a rhyme scheme in the poem. However, the poet maintains the flow of the poem by using an internal rhyming pattern between the lines. There isn’t also any specific metrical pattern in the poem. Only the trochaic meter appears in the poem along with some variations of spondee and pyrrhics. The falling rhythm of the lines is significant concerning the mood of the poet. The irregular syllable count in each line creates a monotonous mood in the poem. The poet uses this irregularity in her favor to reflect her actual state of mind with the school reunion party.
‘The Net’ by Julie O’Callaghan makes use of enjambment as a major literary device in the poem. The poet uses it for a coherent presentation of her thoughts. However, there are some other literary devices in the poem. One of them is in the first line of the poem, in “Lost Classmate”. It is a metaphor and it represents the virtually lost identity of the poet. The poet compares the social media platforms and other platforms giving a person a virtual existence with the “superhighways and byways” of cyberspace. The poet uses the verb “hunting down” metaphorically in the poem. It is meant for comparing the old school committee to the hunters. Here, the metaphorical hunters are relentlessly finding the old batch of students.
In the third stanza, “bombarded with atmospheric/ hit tunes” presents an irony. It is also a metaphorical reference to the rock music of modern times. The use of “freedom” in this stanza is paradoxical. By using the word the poet refers to the freedom from bullying and teasing at school. In the last stanza, there is an important metaphor in the usage of the word “net”. As it is the title of the poem, there is some importance of the word concerning the subject matter of the poem. This metaphor can be interpreted in different ways. It can be a reference to the internet or the net of showy social relationships. The poet somehow wants to avoid both of them.
Analysis of The Net
Stanzas One and Two
I am the Lost Classmate
festooned with 70s paraphernalia,
‘The Net’ by Julie O’Callaghan introduces the speaker of the poem as the “Lost Classmate” who wants to evade the school reunion anyhow. There isn’t any urge in her heart to go there and indulge in such an apparent get-together. The speaker or the poet herself wants to avoid such fake smiles and meaningless hours with the so-called old-school friends. That’s why the poet is lost. Lost from the “madding crowd’s ignoble strife”.
The persona removes herself from cyberspace to avoid the virtual clutch of the class committee. She can visualize the list of “Found Classmates” growing gradually and fears that one day her name will appear in it too. The image of the “hotel ballroom/ festooned with 70s paraphernalia” where the reunion will happen, comes into the poet’s mind. The objective tone of this line refers that the poet really wants to stay away from the reunion.
Stanzas Three and Four
bombarded with atmospheric
her old school chums.
In the following stanzas, the poet humorously refers to the invitees of the reunion party as “Captured Classmates”. They read in Sullivan High School. Thirty years have passed since the poet and her classmates left school. Now, they will be again reunited to celebrate freedom ironically. The poet uses the imagery of bombardment here to create a funny caricature of the reunion party.
In the next stanza, the poet expresses her anxiety by checking any of her close ones are going there or not. One of her classmates from California is interested in going there. The poet refers to her as “my locker partner” and in the last lines the poet says, “to being reunited with/ her old school chums.” These lines make it clear that the poet actually doesn’t have any close-to-heart relationships in her old school.
Wearing a disguise, I calculate
slip through the net.
In the last stanza, the poet calculates the number of months left before the reunion. She has avoided such things before. In the present situation, she will also try to act the same “Lost Classmate” as she successfully did before. The phrase “Wearing a disguise” is a disguise to keep oneself peaceful from the modern version of social gathering. Only people meet in such parties, and the real self suffers at a little corner of the big ballroom.
In the end, the poet makes a humorous remark about slipping through the net. This net of social gathering can’t capture the poet. She is mentally detached from such things and will avoid it somehow. The poet is sure about it.
About Julie O’Callaghan
‘The Net’ is written by Julie O’Callaghan, an American poet. She was born in 1954. Julie O’Callaghan is a poet based in Ireland. For her innovative poetic works, she received the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award in 2001. She is one of the members of the Irish association of artists, Aosdána. Some of her recently published works are, “Magnum Mysterium” (2020), “Tell me this is normal” (2008), “The book of whispers” (2006), and “Problem” (2005). Like the voice of the poet in ‘The Net’, she seems to be a person preferring solitude over frequent social engagements. However, the poem successfully captures the modern sentiment and reflects on the poet’s old-school reunion.
Like ‘The Net’ by Julie O’Callaghan, there are several poems that reflect on the writer’s old-school interestingly. Here is a list of such poems that are relevant to the subject matter of O’Callaghan’s poem.
- Among School Children By William Butler Yeats – In this poem, William Butler Yeats reflects on his visit to the old school.
- The Laughter of Stafford Girls’ High by Carol Ann Duffy – There is an interesting reference to the laughter of the girls reading in Stafford’s Girls’ school in this poem by Carol Ann Duffy.
- The Schoolboy by William Blake – Here the poet William Blake presents a situation that is similar to O’Callaghan’s poem.
- Glyn Dwr Sonnets, X. (10) by Andrew McNeillie – In this poem by Andrew McNeillie talks about a young man who is coming to terms with his Welsh education.