Walking the Bear Poem Analysis Example
Every journey, it seems, has purpose and reason. Star Couldbrooke expresses the feelings of her trek following the path of the Bear River in her poem, “Walking the Bear.” This river begins in the Uinta’s of Utah, travels through the edge of Wyoming, loops up into southeastern Idaho, curves down back into Utah and then empties into The Great Salt Lake. Couldbrooke uses enjambment and hyperbole to help her readers experience this journey with her, and metaphor and allegory to relate the voyage of the Bear to the purpose of the great trek of life.
The enjambment of the poem takes us along the journey of the river. The first three stanzas tell us where the river visits, each line, for the most part, describing one area or land type that the river passes. As the poem is read the reader is taken on a journey, around each curve, through each town. “To Soda’s hair-pin curve / where thirty-thousand years ago / lava turned the Bear / away from Blackfoot’s Snake / and sent it down to Grace” (6-10). These lines specifically talk about the sharp turn that the river takes between Soda Springs and Blackfoot, Idaho. The rhythm outlined by the abnormal breaks of lines and even stanzas, allows the reader to feel the journey of joining Coulbrooke, walking along the snake.
Coulbrooke’s use of hyperbole adds to the feel of the journey. She exclaims how she “travels miles with each step” (23), which makes the journey seem extremely meaningful and quick, faster than any river could travel. Miles flying by could resemble a trip that finishes far too fast to soak in all that could be sensed. This seems apparent by the following line which describes the journey as “a dreamlike passage” (24). This journey puts her in a daze, which seems to distort time and reality, a feeling that is delivered through the words of the poem. The reader can feel that the walk along the river seems to pass way too quickly.
“Walking the Bear” ends, like the river itself at The Great Salt Lake, and Coulbrooke compares the Salt Lake’s dependence on the Bear River to “milk and honey” (37) by metaphor. Milk and honey represent a great blessing, something necessary to survive, but surviving in a wonderful way. For The Great Salt Lake, this river must be a source of replenishment, something the Lake needs to continue its growth, it “would surely die / if not for this river” (35-36). If all the Bear did though was give the lake enough to live, it would not have been described as “milk and honey,” so the Bear River must not just keep it from dying, but allow it to thrive, or live without worry.
There is a hidden allegory in this poem. The author walks “the Bear all Summer” (30). The journey for Coulbrooke seems to tell a story about so much more than just a river following the easiest route downstream, but almost seems to resemble life itself taking twists and turns, going through mountains and meadows (3-5), feeling sluggish (28) and at times gliding (22). Like the Bear, however, one can “[build] strength again” (31). Lives have a way of not taking a straight route through sunlit meadows and downhill slopes, rather, like the Bear River, they resemble an adventure and reactions to forces outside of one’s control. Consequently, like the river, there may be a bigger purpose to each life, a way to allow someone or something else to truly thrive, a way to be a part of something bigger.
The poem, “Walking the Bear” is a poem of a journey which can both empower and inspire its readers. By the use of enjambment, hyperbole, metaphor, and allegory Coulbrooke takes her readers along the journey of the Bear River from its origins in Utah’s Cascades until it empties in The Great Salt Lake. Each step of the journey is filled with purpose and hidden meanings, especially the end when the river delivers all it has to help enrich and replenish the waters of The Great Salt Lake.