Bird Shooting Season


As the poem’s title suggests the poem “Birdshooting Season”  shows the rituals surround bird shooting season and the happenings in a house when both men and women prepare for the season. The poem is narrated by what seems to be a child member of the household as he/she tells the happenings in preparation for the hunt, thus the poem is told as he/she reflects on the activities in his/her household, men getting ready to go shooting while the women are inside preparing to make the food and children watching.

Stanza by Stanza Analysis

Stanza 1

The poem starts by saying “ men make marriages with their guns” men use their guns to hunt and shoot birds this line shows the relationship the men have with their guns, almost as if the guns are replacing the women. As more and more men gather at the house the narrator describes the house as getting more “macho” manlier emphasizing the definition of the poem of men as the strong primal hunters in contrast to its portrayal of women.

 Stanza 2

Transitions to what the women of the house are doing in contrast to the men, who are going out shooting the women are inside doing more domestic tasks to show the stark difference between the roles of men and women. “All night contentless women stir there brews…” the word contentless here could mean that these women here are docile and obedient doing the cooking as the strong men go out to kill, or contentless as in women are dissatisfied with the role of having to cook for tomorrow’s “sport” while the men drink hard white rum and enjoy themselves. Women in the poem are shown doing the traditional domestic tasks in short women in the kitchen.

 Stanza 3

The briefness of this stanza gives a sense of quickness, suspense and emphasizes the movement and motions “in darkness shouldering their packs, their guns, they leave” this leaves the reader to wonder what comes next.

 Stanza 4

This stanza continues with the feeling of suspense and again shows the contrast between male and females and the role expected of them “little boys longing to grow up bird shooters too” this represents the role that the boys are expected to take up while the lines “little girls whispering: Fly Birds Fly” show the emotions that are associated with the females, empathy, and softness. The last line “Fly Bird Fly” with each letter in each word capitalized emphasizing the words, this leaves the reader wondering and left in suspense and speculation on what is to happen in the hunt.

Figurative Devices

  •     Metaphor –

Examples: “Men make marriages to their guns” not literal marriage but shows the close, needed, and the relation the men had with their guns now that it is bird shooting season, you need your gun to shoot so the gun was held in high importance.


  •      Imagery-

Examples: “in darkness shouldering their packs, their guns they leave” we can imagine the scene of the men cloaked in darkness with guns in had and there sacks on their back leaving in the night to go hunt.

 “We stand quietly on the doorstep shivering” again another image where we can picture the young children standing feeling the cold air, shivering as they watch the men leave.


   Possible Themes 

  •     Gender roles
  •     Children’s curiosity
  •     Childhood experiences
  •     Nature







Guidelines for Analyzing a Poem

  1. Analyze the title of the poem.
  2. Read the poem all the way through at least twice. Read it aloud.
  3. Then, analyze the poem line by line, stanza by stanza
  4. Find the literal meaning of the poem.
  5. Identify the figurative devices in the poem
  6. Examine the figurative meaning of the poem.
  7. Review the structure of the poem
  8. Determine the rhyme scheme of the poem.

Once Upon A Time-Gabriel Okara

A Reading of the Poem



A parent is talking to his/her’s son and telling him how things used to be. The parent tells the son that people used to be sincere, but are now superficial and seek only to take from others. The persona tells the child that he/she has learnt to be just like these people, but does not want to be like that anymore. The parent  wants to be as sincere as the son.





The people’s eyes are as cold as ice. This means that there is no warmth or real feeling in the words that they say, or how they behave. This metaphor literally allows you to visualize a block of ice, cold and unwelcoming.


Stanza 4, lines 20-21 emphasizes the constant changes in the persona’s face. If you think of how often a woman changes her dress, then that is how often the persona adjusts his/her’s personality to suit an audience. The list of faces that follow this line emphasizes this point.

Stanza 4, lines 23-24 compares people’s faces to smiles in a portrait. If you think about a portrait, it is usually very formal and stiff, even uncomfortable. Therefore, the implication is that the smiles are actually fake and stiff. They are conforming, or trying to fit, to a preconceived mold that is set up by societal expectations.

Stanza 6, lines 38-40 compares the persona’s laugh to a snakes. When you think of a snake, words such as sneaky and deceitful come to mind. Therefore, the implication is that the persona is fake, just like the people he/she despises.


This phrase is repeated at the beginning and the end of the poem. This usually signals the beginning of a fairy tale. Therefore, it is implied that the persona is nostalgic about the past.



4.’they only laugh with their teeth’

This emphasizes the insincerity of the people around the persona. To laugh with your teeth means that only the bottom half of your face is engaged, the laugh does not reach the eyes.

  1. ‘shake hands with their heart’

To shake hands with your heart implies a strong handshake that is sincere, this is the opposite of what now occurs between people.

  1. ‘search behind my shadow’

This implies that the person cannot look the persona in the eye, they are looking everywhere but there. Looking someone in the eye during a conversation implies that one is sincerely interested in what you have to say. Not being able to do so implies shiftiness.

  1. ‘hands search my empty pockets’

People are only ‘seemingly’ nice to get something from you. So, they smile with you, but it is not sincere, they are seeking to get something from you.

  1. ‘unlearn all these muting things’

The word mute means silence, think of what happens when you press the mute button on the TV remote. Therefore, there is an implication that the insincere actions that the persona describes are muting, they block, or silence, good intentions. Hence, the persona wants to ‘unlearn’ these habits.


The mood of the poem is nostalgic. The persona is remembering how things used to be when he was young and innocent, like his son.



The tone of the poem is sad. The poet’s response to his nostalgia is sadness.



  • Childhood experiences,
  • Hypocrisy,
  • Loss of innocence, 
  • Appearance vs reality

* It is IRONIC that the persona is behaving in the exact way that he/she despises. There is an implication that things cannot go back to what he remembers, due to the influence of societal expectations.