Jo Shapcott is considered to be a contemporary British poet with traits of a Desperado poet. I explore the literal and figurative meaning of the cow in some of her Mad Cow poems as well as the issues that have influenced the usage of this persona. The essay begins with a quote from the Sunday Times, which praises Shapcott's work: Shapcott is gifted and original, and it is in the work such as hers that the future health of poetry needs to be sought. The essay goes on to discuss critic's interpretation of Shapcott's writing; it examines three pieces of work with the subject matter being the mad cow; it talks about the techniques, perspectives and style the author uses to make the persona effective; it is 12 pages long and has 13 end notes.
[...] This line also ties into the paradoxical title, Mad Cow in because the cow has raw instincts and yet has the ability to be an angel. Mad Cow Talks Back” As opposed to the previous poem, Mad Cow Talks Back” is unique in that it is written from the cow's point of view. The first couple lines, “I'm not mad. It just seems that way/because I stagger and get a bit irritable” are appropriate, because the cow is explaining that it does not have BSE. [...]
[...] The Mad Cow Talks Back I'm not mad. It just seems that way because I stagger and get a bit irritable. There are wonderful holes in my brain through which ideas from outside can travel at top speed and through which voices, sometimes whole people, speak to me about the universe. Most brains are too compressed. You need this spongy generosity to let the others in. I love the staggers. Suddenly the surface of the world is ice and I'm a magnificent skater turning and spinning across whole hard Pacifics and Atlantics. [...]
[...] Light would echo the/gaps in my brain coils and set off a fizzing reaction/not so much pounding, more an explosion/followed by a flowing moment when the taboo people arrive” suggests that light would free the cow from the painful death. The description of the brain could be referring to BSE and what happens when a cow has this disease. It is uncertain as to who the “taboo people” are. These people could be consumers who eat beef, because they would be forbidden from doing so, but why would they be arriving to see the cow? [...]
[...] Interpretations of the Mad Cow While there is little literature that concludes the official meaning of the Mad Cow, there are a couple of main interpretations of what the Mad Cow represents in Shapcott's poetry. Some say the cow is a tool the poet employs to promote feminism, but others say the cow is a literal symbol for an event that occurred in Britain that affected both man and beast. Many have attributed the Mad Cow to the discrimination against women. [...]
[...] Conclusion Jo Shapcott's poetic voice has been very influential in British poetry, and the Mad Cow persona only brings originality to her work. Finding her own voice through the means of a persona proves her skill to make something her own, and her mad cow poems are proof of this ability. She has found a way to represent herself, women and cows with one persona. Fiona Sampson said it best, “Shapcott remains overwhelmingly a poet of presence, renegotiating the concrete world with as much brio as her own dancing cow . [...]
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