Interpretations

Word cloud of keywords and phrases from the poem Climbing my Grandfather

Interpreting and analysing a poem is not necessarily a matter of finding the right answer.

Poems are complex creations and are open to many different interpretations. Your interpretation is as valid as anyone else's - as long as you can back it up with suitable evidence from the text.

Remember to avoid simply identifying what techniques or approaches poets use. Aim to show an understanding of how form, language and structure create meanings and effects.

Below are some differing interpretations of the poem. How would you interpret the poem?

Examples

Interpretation of: the whole poem

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The poem’s speaker sees his grandfather as an impressive and heroic figure.Waterhouse compares the grandfather to an epic feature in the landscape. Perhaps the poet is making the point that when we are very young, our older relatives can seem permanent and never-changing. Like mountains, they loom large in our lives as familiar features in the landscape.
The poem’s speaker sees his grandfather as a remote and unknowable figure.Most of the details look at the external details of how the grandfather appears: ‘dusty and cracked’, ‘splintered’, ‘the loose skin of his neck’, ‘the screed cheek’ (rough like gravel). There are very few details about the old man’s personality. This suggests the speaker did not know his grandfather well.

Interpretation of the line: ‘pushing into the weave, trying to get a grip’

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The speaker emphasises the intimacy of his relationship with his grandfather.The texture of the trousers is suggested by the word ‘weave’. Throughout the poem, the vocabulary explores how it felt to have contact with his grandfather - ‘firm shoulder’, ‘screed (rough, like gravel) cheek’, ‘soft and white’ hair, feeling ‘his heat' and 'slow pulse of his good heart.’
The speaker explores how elusive and hard to pin down memories can be.The verbs ‘pushing’ and ‘trying’ suggest it is not easy to get to grips with the details and therefore the memories.