Not Waving But Drowning ( Stevie Smith ), Auto Wreck ( Karl Shapiro ) and Poem ( Frank O’Hara )
Smith writes in part from the viewpoint of the man who was much further out than you thought (Smith 989). This is a drowning man’s thought, a perspective which sets it apart from the other two poems.
The violence of drowning, and the fact that he is seen as waving rather than signaling desperately for rescue, are metaphors in this poem for his life. Those who hear of the drowning reflect that the water was too cold, that his heart failed. These others see the fact that they mistook the man’s signals as waves as evidence that he always loved larking (Smith 989).