Storyteller by Liz Lochhead

Liz Lochhead’s poem “Storyteller” talks about a woman who worked on a shelter or orphanage for kids. Her formal work was to wash the dishes, cook and clean, but her really work, what mattered about her, was telling stories. In the first stanza Lochhead describes the situation before the woman started telling the story, when she “sat down at the” table in the already cleaned up room. Stanza number two the audience listening to the stories; none of them “could say the stories were useless”, this is because they were not.

Living in conditions were you have to be with kids that are alone, miss their parents or never had them, and having to deal with them and their possible frequent questions that are not easy to answer, the hunger, the tiredness, is not easy, so when they listen to the stories, they forget about all that stuff and imagine in their head a whole different world. The people listening to the story are presented as a whole, not as individuals, so this gives the reader the idea that there is a lot of people there working.

Also because it says: “five or forty fingers stitched”, this may suggest something uncountable. Stanza three says what people thought about her: they did not care whether “her soup” was “tasty” or not, or how good she “swept” the “kitchen”, that was not important. What was important were the stories she told, and how she told them. Because it is not only the story itself what mattered, it seems that she had a special talent to tell them, because even though workers “knew” “the ending” “by heart” they were still excited when the moment came.

The last stanza describes what happens while she is telling the story and when it finishes. They built “the fire”, “peasant’s feet” were looking for their “clogs”, and finally they went to rest. The poem is full of literary resources most of them alliterations spread all over the text. These alliterations are not only words together starting with the same sound, but in the whole of a stanza the same sound is repeated. For example in the first one, the “s” sound is very present: “she sat”, “scoured”, “swept”.

Also in the third line of the second stanza there is an alliteration beginning with “f”: “five or forty fingers”. All these resources make the reading easier and faster. It may suggest how the story flows. Other devices are used, not only alliteration, also enjambments, onomatopoeic sounds like “tongue clacked”, and a metaphor too. This metaphor compares the workers with bats; bats are wonderful animals that are awake at night and sleep “upside down”.

The metaphor is introduced in the second half of the last stanza that says they “hug themselves upside down” “till they flew” (like bats). The structure of the poem is completely irregular and has no rhyme. It consists of four stanzas, none of them have the same amount of lines, but the first two are shorter than the others. This may be the way the story she is telling is being told. It starts introducing the main ideas and then can not be controlled.

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