Flag - John Agard
- National symbols bind nations together but also force people apart - dangerous illusion that they mean something when they don't represent anything at all.
- Form: Compact and regular w/5 stanzas - last stanza has a rhyming couplet (the conclusion)
- Structure: Poem build around a conversation between two voices
- Sound: Contrast between the soft sounds of the flag and the short, sharp sounds "nation/knees" "guts/grow"
- Imagery: Positive, poetic language and down to earth, dull repeated "cloth". Anger and defeat represented in one blunt final stanza.
- It's all about the idea of nationalism and how it's purely abstract. Countries have "imagined communities" - groups of people bound by myths, stories and flags. It's also about the power of symbolism - but the flag is seen to be a dangerous symbol.
Compared to: At The Border and Poppies
Out of the Blue - Simon Armitage
- The story of 9/11. The narrator is desperately singalling for help, when he realized that he's been spotted, he begins to talk to one of the people who has spotted him. This creates a delicate, intimate, human connection which might seem full of hope. It's a tragic connection too as it's only over television and so the help he needs can't reach him. Both the narrator and reader are helpless.
- Form: Short 4-lined stanzas.
- Structure: Begins with a note of hope and by the end, death is inevitable.
- Language: There's a sense of powerlessness by the use of repetition.
- Imagery: It's unclear and can be misinterpreted why he was waving (could be that he was surrendering to inveitable death) The event is so unreal, that our interpretation of images becomes unreal.
- The main focus is about how difficult it is to understand an event like this. The emotional power of the poem lies in the understatement. It's used because we have no way of adequately understanding something so senseless and strange.
Compared to: Mametz Wood and The Charge of the Light Brigade
Mametz Wood - Owen Sheers
- The scene of fierce fighting during the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War.
- Form: Length of the lines changes and the longer lines break up the neat form of the poem - these suggest the uneven ploughed field or the chits of bone rising out of the ground. The use of full-stops shows a clear, regular structure within the poem.
- Structure: The structure shows the changing focus of the poem - from the land then bones and people while the final stanza combines all three elements into a single image of the unearthed skulls singing in celebration.
- Sound: No rhyme scheme, but alliteration and assonance mean the stanzas are linked by sound.
- Imagery: Right from the start, the poet mixes his imagery to show there's no simple division between manking on one side and 'mother nature' on the other.
- It's all about the events of that week have been burried and forgoten. The bits of bone that are turned up seem ust the same as old bits of china - curious relics of hisotry. The poet approached the topic in a strange way to highlight the injustice of history. It's about offering some sort of justice or redemption for the dead.
Compared to: Futility and Poppies
The Yellow Palm - Robert Minhinnick
- Set in a busy street in Baghdad where the country has descended into conflict and chaos. It's all about the ordinary people of Iraq and how they've suffered.
- Form: Ballad - tranditional form and could be sung or recited. Strong rhythm and rhyme-scheme to tell stories about everyday people. Lively rhymes contrast with the context.
- Structure: Each verse begins with the same line, anchoring the poem in a real place. Bound by three rhymes in each verse. Each verse also begins with the an interesting image that is then linked to a specific tragic moment of the war.
- Sound: Triple rhyme scheme gives the poem energy - reflects the energy of the street.
- Imagery: Contrast to show the tensions that exist in the country. The first contrast is with the title and the repeated opening line - Yellow Palm suggests exotic, colorful and delicious however the street itself is a scene of decay and destruction.
- It's all about the poet's concern with the links between local and global events. Beneath the exotic surface, there are modern forces shaping Palestine Street and its people. The poet sees a symbol of the old Middle East, a self-governing land with natural beauty, resources and traditions re-emerging once again.
Compared to: Mametz Wood and The Falling Leaves
The Right Word - Imtiaz Dharker
- All about language and identity: how we see and label other people + how those people may see and label themselves.
- Form: Mirrors the intention of the poem - it aims to describe a single event accurately therefore it's built around a single image broken into three lines to give it clarity
- Structure: Structured around a conversation the poet is having with herself. The aim to describe the event clearly fails, so the form begins to change. Poet then stops using words and uses her eyes - she "saw his face" and the description now loses ambiguity - the truth is out and the poem can return to its clear confident three-line form for the final two stanzas.
- Sound: All about political and emotional connotations words like terrorist and freedom fighter.
- Imagery: Shadows arent just literal, they're metaphorical, the image of the lurking terrorist is banished by a simple act of human kindness.
- It's essentially about the role of poetry itself. She's questioning her own power as a poet. Words seem to confirm people's different points of view (for example, if you call a person a terrorist I know what side you are on) the solution is then to just look at the poerson. She sees he's a child and invites him to eat with her.
Compared to: At The Border and Belfast Confetti
At the Border, 1979 - Choman Hardi
- All about the idea of national borders is the focus.
- Form: The poem follows no set poetic form - it reflects that national borders are arbitrary, do not mark out divisions that are in any other way 'real' - they are wherever a person or government has decided to put them.
- Structure: It's organized around four different perspectives: the guards, adult refugees and the two children.
- Language: Doesnt use a lot of poetic language but the language has many connotations - border could mean border between life and death, youth and age, innocence and experience. The use of anticlimax of a dream being replaced by relatity creates bathos: switch that often produces humor from the contrast.
- It's essentially about the growing distance between the adults' idea of home and the reality. The child is cold and distant because the lands they're coming from and going to are meaningless to her.
Compared to: Flag and Poppies
Belfast Confetti - Ciaran Carson
- The subject is about the conflict in Northern Ireland. Violent clashes between protestors and security forces were common
- Form: The form is immediately striking - by presenting the poem like this the poet expresses confusion caused by the riot and bomb.
- Structure: Narrative structure present - a demonstration has got out of hand and riot police moved in to control it. There's an organized story.
- Language: the focus is how the confusion of the riot causes psychological confusion in the mind of the poet.
- Sound: The feeling of the poem is too unstable for the poet to carefully craft rhymes - but the 'k' sound of the cracking social order and the 'f' of the title are present. All but four lines contain one or more examples of the sound.
- It's essentially about how under these conditions, language is impossible. When the poet finally succeeds, though, it's in expressing this confusion.
Compared to: The Right Word and next to of course god america i
Poppies - Jane Weir
- It's set in present day but reaches back to the beginning of the Poppy Day tradition.
- Form: Strong, regular sense of form - 4 clear stanzas. There's great deal of movement though with caesuras in the middle of the lines. The careful variation suggests the inner emotion of a narrator who's trying to remain calm and composed but is breaking inside.
- Structure: Narrative structure. The time sequence keeps changing - between present and the past.
- Sound: Sounds are restrained. Rhyme would seem inappropriately lively.
- Imagery: It's a very rich poem filled with touch and feel throughout. There's a sense of her blocking out the memory of his violent death with a sweeter, purer memory.
- It's essentially about the nature of grief - it's as if all the different versions of the narrator's son are co-existing. The present holds too much pain and her memories can only be expressed if distanced in imagery held safely in the past.
Compared to: Futility and The Falling Leaves
Futility - Wilfred Owen
- It's about the sudden change from patriotic hope to despair.
- Form: Written like a sonnet - but not structured like one.
- Structure: The two stanza structure reflects the poem's change in tone from hope and confidence to despair. The sun in the first stanza's positive but the second stanza starts differenlty. The sun eventually becomes the object of the poet's anger when he realizes it has made no difference.
- Imagery: There's an oxymoron when the sun, which is hot, is described as cold. This shows that the sun may be literally warm but it has no feelings. It reminds us that people, when dead, go cold.
- Sound: Half-rhymes bring the poem together - while the full-rhymes end the stanzas. This pattern expresses a sense of broken harmony beneath a seemingly strong surface.
- The poem's essentially an elegy (something written to remember someone who has died) The message is very pessimistic - no reason to celebrate a life and no hope anywhere as life is futile. The anger comes through personal knowledge of the dead man's peaceful past. It doesn't reach a conclusion, just many rhetorical questions.
Compared to: The Falling Leaves and Bayonet Charge
The Charge of the Light Brigade - Alfred, Lord Ten
- All about the Crimean War where for the first time in history, newspapers carried eye-witness reports as well as detailing not just the triumphs of war but the mistakes and horrors as well.
- Form: Strong rhythm with heavy beat expresses the sound of the horses galloping.
- Structure: There are six numbered stanzas as if each stanza is a memorial stone to a 100 of the 600 cavalrymen. Strong structure suggests the strong formation in which the cavalry charge.
- Sound: Strong rhythm and alliteration is used to ecpress the sounds of battle.
- Imagery: Strong central image of the "valley of Death" refers to the well-known poem in the bible. Biblical allusion implies how important the event is.
- The feelings of the poem could appear to be ambiguous. The poem seems more concerned with creating national heroes for a nation than mourning the dead soldiers or arguing against the war.
Compared to: Mametz Wood and Bayonet Charge
Bayonet Charge - Ted Hughes
- Focuses on a nameless soldier in WWI. Describes the experience of going over the top. The aim was to capture the enemy trench and the poem describes how this process transforms a soldier from a living thinking person into a dangerous weapon of war.
- Form: 3 stanzas. Length of the lines varies, uses long and short lines to suggest the quick and slow progress of the soldier.
- Sound: There's lots of repetition of words and sounds right from the beginning. The sound 'h' expresses the soldier's heavy breathing.
- Imagery: Rich descriptions contrast with where the solder is heading. Contrast between imagery of war and the imagery of nature.
- It's essentially trying to step inside the body and mind of a soldier carrying out one of the most terrifying acts of this or any war.
Compared to: Futility and Belfast Confetti
The Falling Leaves - Margaret Postgate Cole
- A woman's response to the huge number of men who died in WWI.
- Form: 12 lines of alternate lengths. Follows a strict rhyme scheme.
- Structure: Poem's built from a series of contrasts - first half has gentle contrasts between the rider and the leaves then the leaves and snowflakes. Second half is more angry with contrasts between the poet and the dying soldiers, then the soldiers and the snowflakes.
- Sound: Careful rhyme scheme expresses a calm control. The 'ing' is repeated throughout and suggests that the soldiers are continuing to die in huge numbers.
- Imagery: Biblical imagery and language used - contrasts violent imagery with the sad reality of what's happening. These men are now rotting like leaves.
- It's essentially about feelings of someone who is not on the battlefield but yet who still feels the loss it brings.
Compared to: Futility and Poppies
Come On, Come Back - Stevie Smith
- About a future war but refers to Battle of Austerlitz and Potsdam Conference - she draws the idea of great nations making decisions that affect the lives of ordinary people in towns and villages across the world.
- Form: Free verse - no clear for. There's a strange uneasy feel. We don't know where we are in time or space. Just like the main character who's left on a battlefield, lost, alone, with no memory.
- Structure: Each stanza ends with a full stop and tells a clear part of the story but lacks punctuation which means the meaning's sometimes unclear.
- Sound: No convential rhyme scheme. There's a comic rhythm which contrasts with the meaning of the poem: the government organizing a "human exterminator"
- Imagery: Most of the imagery's about moonlight and water. Images of memory and secrect give the poem a dream-like quality.
- The meaning is difficult to understand. Vaudevue expresses a positive feeling like the idea of eau du vie - french for water of life - the tragedy of the poem is that having survived the battle, she is drowned in a 'water of death'. Death is friendly though, like a lover, because what she leaves behind is so awful.
Compared to: Mametz Wood and Poppies
next to of course god america i - E. E. Cummings
- It's a satirical poem - which means it makes a joke out of people encouraging patriotism in others. He didnt want the US to make the same mistake as the countries in Europe.
- Form: Mix of avant garde style with traditional themes. It looks unsual at first with little punctuation. Looking closer though, the form is like a sonnet! Rhyme's tightly structured too.
- Structure: Poem's only in two sections, the first 13 lines are spoken by a politician. What he says comes out in one gush and the final line comes as a contrast and acts as a kind of let down.
- Sound: It's a speech given by a politician. Strong rhyme scheme, but this is hidden when it's read aloud. May suggest a sense of deception on the part of the speaker.
- Imagery: Satirical - about patriotism being dangerous and empty. Filled with referenes to great ideas - from God, America, liberty. Form and grammar show we cant take these ideas seriously. It's all a cliché. There are many references which means that the writer took a bunch of other people's concepts and words and put them together making the voice insincere.
- It's about this concept called "hubris which means great pride and arrogance that leads to disaster. Suggests that to preserve liberty, we need to stand up to the politicians like the one in the poem.
Compared to: The Right Word and Belfast Confetti
Hawk Roosting - Ted Hughes
- There are two interpretations. Literally: It would celebrate the hawk and how in medieval times they were used by kings and aristocrats for hunting. Metaphorically: Talk about being hawk-eyed: observant. We also think about politicians being hawkish which means being aggressive towards other countries.
- Form: Strong regular form. Six stanzas. Form is to express strength and control.
- Structure: Different aspects of thought process - it arrives where it began. It ends with 'I' which underlines the key idea that he is a ruler who will continue to rule exactly how pleases for years to come.
- Sound: Key sound is 'ee' this may suggest the sound to be heard throughout the wood is the screeching of the hawk itself. The repetition of words referring to the hawk shows egocentricity and self-importance.
- Imagery: Language is simple - this contrasts the threatening lanuage of violence (as in line 16) - the contrast suggests a leader trying to be a calm sophisticated politician, while really he's just violent. The use of negatives sound like political slogans - shows the hawk is rejecting the political process relying on brute force.
- It was controversial at first - the Nazi symbol was an eagle standing on top of a wreath and the image of the hawk sitting on top of the world reminded people of a fascist leader.
Compared to: next to of course god america i and The Falling Leaves