Famous

Famous

by Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

Summary of Famous

  • Popularity of “Famous”: This poem was written by Naomi Shihab Nye, a famous poet, songwriter, and novelist. ‘Famous’ is a renowned poem about name and fame. It was first published in 2015. The poet attempts to give a personal and meaningful definition of fame while comparing it with ordinary things. The poem beautifully illustrates how one can achieve reputation and satisfaction without performing a spectacular act.
  • “Famous”, As a Representative of Fame: The poem presents an amusing and philosophical definition of the nature of fame and transient beauty of life. Fame, according to the speaker, is a matter of perception. The poet brilliantly uses metaphors to explain her idea of fame. Unlike a river that is famous for the fish, a loud voice is famous for silence, the boot is famous for the earth, the photograph is famous for those who carry it, and a sleeping cat is famous for the birds. Similarly, she wants to be recognized by shuffling men who smile while passing by. Also, she wants to be famous like a pulley or a buttonhole, not because they perform a praiseworthy act but they never forget what they can do to others. Thus the poet conveys that everything is famous for something and nothing in this universe is useless.
  • Major Themes in “Famous”: Fame and satisfaction are the major themes of the poem. Throughout the poem, the poet presents the different connections between the ordinary objects and finally speaks of the type of people she would like to be famous around. Her definition of fame is not classified or generalized. Instead, it only pauses to value and acknowledge.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “Famous”

Literary devices are used to equip simple texts with deep meanings and multiple interpretations. Naomi Shihab Nye has also used some literary devices to make this poem appealing to the readers. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been discussed below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /i/ in “watching him from the birdhouse” and “The river is famous to the fish”.
  2. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, the word “famous” in the opening lines is repeated to express her desire.

“The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence.”

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a verse or clause that does not come to an end at a line break instead moves over the next line. For example,

“The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.”

  1. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between different objects or a person. For example, “The idea you carry close to your bosom is famous to your bosom” presents the idea of a treasured possession.
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /l/ in “who smile while crossing streets” and the sound of /t/ in “or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular.
  3. Symbol: Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings different from their literal meanings. The buttonhole symbolizes something insignificant. Shoe, floors, and earth are the symbols of ordinary things.
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “The boot is famous to the earth”; “The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds” and “I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous.”
  5. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /f/ in “The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds”.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “Famous”

Poetic Devices refer to those techniques a poet uses to bring uniqueness in his text. The analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem is given below.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are seven stanzas in this poem. There are two single verses, three couplets, three triplets, and one quadruplet.
  2. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  3. Repetition: There is a repetition of the phrase “I want to be famous” which has created a musical quality in the poem.
  4. Refrain: The lines that are repeated at some distance in the poems are called refrain. The phrase “I want to be famous” is repeated in the last lines of the poem and has become a refrain.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used to express personal desires and how can one be humble and famous.

“I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.”