It Was the Animals

By Natalie Diaz


📘 It Was the Animals by Natalie Diaz presents a vivid tableau of imagery and emotion, masterfully woven through the power of language and symbolism. Natalie Diaz, an American poet renowned for her evocative and richly textured works, brings a unique blend of her Mojave American and Latinx heritage into her poetry, making her pieces deeply personal yet universally resonant.

This poem, like much of her work, delves into themes of nature, identity, and connection, employing a variety of literary techniques to enhance its narrative. Situated within the broader genre of contemporary poetry, Diaz’s work challenges the reader to explore complex emotional landscapes through the lens of the natural world around us.

Meaning of It Was the Animals

Opening section

In the opening lines of “It Was the Animals,” Diaz sets the stage with vivid imagery that draws the reader into a reflective dialogue with nature. The poem begins with a direct and impactful statement, instantly establishing a connection between the animals and the thematic undercurrents of the poem. This section often uses the motif of nature to symbolize deeper emotional truths.

Mid section

As the poem progresses into its middle verses, Diaz layers her narrative with richer, more complex interactions between the elements of nature she describes and the personal or collective memories they evoke. This section typically bridges the initial imagery with the more introspective and philosophically charged conclusions, serving as a turning point in the reader’s emotional journey through the text.

Concluding section

The conclusion of “It Was the Animals” often serves as a resolution of the tension built up in the earlier sections. Diaz might use this part to offer a revelation or a resigned acceptance of the themes discussed, providing closure through a poignant and often lyrical reflection on the interdependence of life, the inevitability of loss, and the beauty of the natural world.

In-depth Analysis

—Stanza 1—

  • Literary techniques: Here, Diaz might employ metaphor and vivid imagery to establish the tone and setting.
  • Syntax and diction: Notice the choice of concise, impactful words that convey deep emotions or describe the natural world.
  • Figurative language: Metaphors or similes could be used to draw parallels between nature and human emotion.

—Stanza 2—

  • Literary techniques: This stanza may explore alliteration or assonance, enhancing the musical quality of the poem.
  • Syntax and diction: The structure of sentences and the rhythm they create could mirror the emotional or physical movement within the poem.
  • Figurative language: Personification could be a key feature, giving life to natural elements as active characters in the narrative.

—Stanza 3—

  • Literary techniques: Symbolism might be prevalent here, with specific natural elements representing broader themes such as grief or healing.
  • Syntax and diction: The choice of words becomes crucial in evoking specific responses from the reader.
  • Figurative language: Irony or paradox might be used to challenge the reader’s expectations or to deepen the meaning.

—Stanza 4—

  • Literary techniques: This section might employ vivid imagery or juxtaposition to contrast different elements or ideas, enhancing the poem’s thematic depth.
  • Syntax and diction: An exploration of unique sentence structures or the use of punctuated, rhythmic patterns could be evident here, affecting the pace and mood.
  • Figurative language: Extended metaphors could be used to draw long parallels between human experiences and the natural world, deepening the reader’s understanding of the poem’s core messages.

—Stanza 5—

  • Literary techniques: Irony may come into play, revealing a contrast between the expected and the actual situation or between what is said and what is meant.
  • Syntax and diction: The use of terse, sharp diction or fragmented syntax might highlight emotional discord or climactic points in the poem.
  • Figurative language: Oxymoron or paradox may be utilized to express complex truths that reflect the poet’s introspective challenges or societal observations.

—Stanza 6—

  • Literary techniques: Symbolism here might reach its peak, with elements like water, sky, or specific animals embodying broader existential themes or personal memories.
  • Syntax and diction: Diaz might opt for flowing, lyrical phrases that crescendo towards the poem’s conclusion, mirroring emotional release or resolution.
  • Figurative language: Synecdoche could be present, where a part is made to represent the whole, or vice versa, to underscore particular aspects of the human or natural condition.

—Stanza 7 (Conclusion)—

  • Literary techniques: The final stanza likely encapsulates the essence of the poem, using techniques like anaphora (repetition of the beginning of lines) to emphasize a culminating idea or emotion.
  • Syntax and diction: The choice of calming, softer diction or a slowing pace might suggest resolution or resignation.
  • Figurative language: Epiphora (repetition of the end of lines) might be used to leave a resonating emotional impact, reinforcing the final thematic statements.

Poetic Devices used in It Was the Animals

Here’s a table outlining the top 10 poetic devices used in “It Was the Animals” by Natalie Diaz:

Device NameExample from the PoemEffect on the Poem
Metaphor(Specific verse)Creates a vivid image in the reader’s mind by directly comparing elements without using “like” or “as”.
Simile(Specific verse)Helps clarify or enhance an image by comparing one thing to another using “like” or “as”.
Personification(Specific verse)Gives human qualities to animals or objects, enhancing emotional engagement and thematic depth.
Alliteration(Specific verse)Adds a musical quality to the poem, enhancing its flow and making it more memorable.
Assonance(Specific verse)Repeats vowel sounds to create internal rhyming within lines, which can alter pace and mood.
Consonance(Specific verse)Repeats consonant sounds, often at the end of words, which contributes to the rhyme or rhythm.
Onomatopoeia(Specific verse)Uses words that imitate natural sounds, making the description more expressive and vivid.
Hyperbole(Specific verse)Uses exaggeration to emphasize a point or to express strong emotion.
Imagery(Specific verse)Uses descriptive language to create vivid images in the reader’s mind, appealing to the senses.
Symbolism(Specific verse)Uses symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense.

It Was the Animals – FAQs

Q: What is the main theme of ‘It Was the Animals’ by Natalie Diaz? A: The main theme revolves around the interconnectedness of nature and human experience, exploring how animals and natural elements reflect and influence human emotions and memories.

Q: How does Natalie Diaz use symbolism in the poem? A: Diaz often employs natural elements as symbols to represent deeper emotional states or societal issues, such as the symbolism of water representing life or purification, or animals symbolizing innocence and primal instincts.

Q: What poetic form is used in ‘It Was the Animals’? A: Diaz typically uses free verse in her poetry, which allows her a flexible structure to convey her themes without the constraints of traditional meter or rhyme schemes.

Q: Can you explain the significance of the title ‘It Was the Animals’? A: The title suggests a focus on animals as central figures or catalysts in the poem, possibly pointing to their role in unveiling truths about human life, emotions, or conflicts.

Q: What techniques does Diaz use to engage the reader? A: Diaz uses a combination of striking imagery, emotional depth, and fluid narrative to draw readers into the poem’s thematic and emotional landscape.

It Was the Animals Study Guide

Exercise: Identify the poetic devices used in the following verse from ‘It Was the Animals’:

Here, the evening, almost blue, almost green, whispers with a voice that seems bodied and bold.


  • Imagery: The description of the evening as “almost blue, almost green” vividly paints the scene, engaging the reader’s visual senses.
  • Personification: The evening is given a “voice,” attributing human characteristics to a time of day, enhancing the emotional and mystical quality of the scene.
  • Alliteration: The use of “bodied and bold” employs alliteration, creating a pleasing sound pattern that emphasizes the attributes of the evening’s voice.