Analysis of poem 'Material' by Ros Barber

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Ros Barber - about the author

  • Born in 1964 , grew up in Essex 
  • an academic , poet and novelist 
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Title 'Material' and First Verse

  • Poem , Hanky - brings back vivid detail / description of poet's memories 
  • written in past tense
  • set when poet was growing up -1960's 

                                           Verse 1 

  • 'My mother was the hanky queen' - centres around hankerchief 
  • the hanky is symbolic of motherhood
  • 'when hanky meant a thing of cloth,( next line) , not paper tissues bought in packs '
  • modern day alternative ( tissues ) 
  • 'from late-night garages and shops .'- line contrasts hankies to ordinary everyday tissues
  • it comments on our 24 hr disposiable culture 
  • 'but things for waving out of trains ' - romantic nostalgic notion
  • 'and mopping the cornerrs of your grief: ' - mopping away is a metaphor ( can comment of effect of this ) 
  • 'when hankies were material ( next line) 'she'd have one , always up her sleeve.'
  • 'always'- prepared , 'up her sleeve' - can be take literally or metaphoricially 
  • having these hankies was part of her mother's characteristic 
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Verse 2 ' Tucked in the wrist of every cardi,'

  • 'a mum's embarrassment of lace' - eupheimism 
  • 'embroidered with a V for Viv' - personalised - Viv is her mother's name 
  • 'spittled and scrubbed against my face' - alliteration 
  • 'as if she had a farm up there ( next line) where dried -up hankies fell in love' -metaphor 
  • 'where dried -up hankies fell in love ( next line ) and mated ,raising little squares.'
  • idea = humourous /amusing 
  • 'rasing little squares.' - protective / nurturing -goes back to the idea of motherhood ,which is a running theme throughout the poem 
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Verse 4 and Verse 5

Verse 4

  • 'She bought her own; I never did.'- poet's direct comparision between herself and her motehr
  • 'and script initials spelling ponce,' - joke ( ponce - derogatory term :idea of being 'gay'/ stuck up , hankies were not considered cool when she was growing up ) 
  • 'the naffest Christmas gift you'd get- ( hankies) - embarrassment 
  • 'my brother too, more often than not ( next line ) 'got male one: serious and grey, ( next line ) and larger ,like they had more snot.' 
  • gender positions at time 
  • old fashioned idea  that women and as an extension of that , their noses/snot were somehow more delicate /smaller                 Verse 5
  • poet lists old fashioned iteams that along with hankies are no longer commonly found in big stores e.g girdles
  • changing envrionment - shifting towards moderninity - 'you'd never find today in malls.'
  • comparision with today's disposable culture - work was involved 'Hankies ,which demanded irons, ( next line ) and boiling to be purified.' 
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End of Verse 5 and Verse 6

  • 'shuttered the doors of family stores ' - internal rhyme of doors and stores
  • idea  of finality 
  • individual shops out of buisness - hanky no longer sold / used
  • 'when those who used to buy them died.' -come full circle

Verse 6

  • 'And somehow with the hanky's loss,'- ties together
  • 'greengrocer Geroge with his  dodgy foot'- informality -everyone knew each other
  • nostalgia -good things are gone 
  • and parcelled rows of local crab' - note the use of the word 'local'
  • verse ends in enjambment - a continous flow 
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Verse 7 and Verse 8

Verse 7

  • 'lay opposite the dancing school' - back into her memories of youth
  • 'taught us When You're smiling' - well known song 
  • 'a stumbling ,out of tune piano:' - personification
  • 'step-togther ,step-together, step-togther.' - world without individuality -dance moves are atmospherical - conformity 
  • no expression- they are all doing the same thing
  • 'when every mother, fencing tears,.....and smudge the rough from little dears.'- rhyming is comforting 

Verse 8

  • 'Nostalgia only makes me old.' 
  • 'The innocence i want my brood' - her own children - she wants the best for them
  • 'to cling on to like ten-bob notes'- old money pre 1971 
  • 'was killed in TV's lassitude.' ,weariness ( they are sitting in front of telly)
  • 'And it was me that turned it on.' -sense of guilt - her own role as mother 
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End of Verse 8 and Verse 9

  • 'to buy some time to write this poem
  • 'and eat the biscuits I would bake ( next line) if i'd commit to being home.'- regrets /differences -she has fallen short of her idea of a mother which she got from her own mother

Verse 9

  • 'There's never a hanky up my sleeve.'- vastly different to her own mother
  • 'the kind ( of children she has ) whoose noses strangers clean.' -again a sense of guilt
  • 'What awkardness in me forbids ( next line) me to keep tissues in my bag 
  • when handy packs are 50p?') 
  • relectance to accept times have changed
  • she is ralling agasint acting like her mother
  • again there is commentary on disposable culture 
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End of Verse 9 and Verse 10

  • Shifted to present day ( from Verse 7/8)
  • 'I miss material hankerchiefs ( next line ) 'their shoft and hidden history.' - she misses them , like she misses her mother , although the hankerchief is different because it is only a small thing 
  • Verse 10
  • 'But it isn't mine'- she cannot be possessive
  • 'My mother too, eventually ( next line) 'who died not leaving handkerchiefs' - an end to hankerchief 
  • her mother wanted to give up hankies - and as 'queen of hankies ' is now dead- there seems  no point/ need  for  them
  • 'but tissues and uncertainty : 
  • 'of the scratcy and disposable , 
  • last two lines: - mother's voice takes over
  • that this is your material to do with, daughter what you will. ' - if mother heard her complaining , metaphorical meaning that the mother says it is up to the daughter to become what she wants e.g make her own story     
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Structure/ summary of poem's ending

  • New materials -how mothers shape us and how we in turn shape our children
  • theme of inheritance /continuity 
  • strucuture : regular , prehaps reflective of dated time , relating to a  more formal time or era of hankerchief 
  • rhyming sequence : a,b,c ,d ,d ,e ,f ,e 
  • also poem contains : internal rhyming , metaphors, personification , alliteration ,enjambement  and vivid description of the poets memories - as mentioned throughout cards 2-8 
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