AQA Poetry Anthology Cards

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Summary of content

A traveller tells the poet that two huge stone legs stand in the desert. Near them on the sand lies a damaged stone head. The face is distinguished by a frown and a sneer which the sculptor carved on the features. On the pedestal are inscribed the words "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Around the huge fragments stretches the empty desert.

Key ideas

Ozymandias was once very powerful but now is just a remnant of the past (ancient history). Negative vocabulary paints a negative impression of Ozymandias who considered himself to be very mighty. Not a well liked king. The statue is destroyed and none of the pharaoh’s works have lasted.

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My Last Duchess

Summary of content

This poem is loosely based on Alfonso, the Duke of Ferrara, who lived in the 16th century. The Duke is entertaining an emissary who has come to negotiate the Duke’s marriage (he has recently been widowed) to the daughter of another powerful family. As he shows the visitor through his palace, he stops before a portrait of the late Duchess. The Duke begins reminiscing about the portrait sessions, then about the Duchess herself. The Duke claims she flirted with everyone and did not appreciate his “gift of a nine-hundred-years- old name.” The reader realizes that the Duke in fact caused the Duchess’s ‘disappearance.’ At the end of his speech, the Duke returns to the business at hand: his new marriage. As the Duke and the emissary walk leave the painting behind, the Duke points out other notable artworks in his collection.

Key ideas

This is a monologue – only one speaker. Reader has to piece together what 

happened from the clues given – engages us psychologically. The speaker 

has both social and political power. He exercises control of his wife by getting 

rid of her and keeping her painting behind the curtain, only to be shown with 

his permission.

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Summary of content

Wilfred Owen’s poem focuses on the misery felt by World War One soldiers waiting overnight in the trenches. Although nothing is happening and there is no fighting, there is still danger because they are exposed to the extreme cold and their wait through the night is terrifying. The eight stanzas are gripping because the speaker describes the trauma of living and struggling in such poor conditions. There is a sense of despair and of lost hope.

Key ideas

Weather: the freezing conditions are seen as being dangerous as the enemy. The soldiers are fighting two battles at once and at one point, bullets are seen as less deadly than the cold. The weather is likened to an army that gathers and assaults the soldiers in the trenches.

Despair: one of the casualties of war is the men’s loss of faith in what they are doing and why they are there. Death is seen as inevitable.

Personification: implies the weather is causing suffering on purpose. E.g. ‘merciless winds that knive us’.

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Summary of content

The poem describes a journey around London, showing the terrible conditions faced by the inhabitants of the city. Child labour, restrictive laws of property and prostitution are all explored. The 'charter'd Thames' is a bitter reference to the way in which every aspect of life in London is owned, even the river. Blake's poem also criticises religion and draws attention to the cry of the chimney sweeper and the blackening of church walls, implying that the church as an institution is unwilling to help those in need. He also criticises the monarchy, showing a soldier who has been forgotten. It ends with a vision of the terrible consequences to be faced as a result of sexually transmitted disease.

Key ideas

Dangerous industrial conditions, child labour, prostitution and poverty are just some of the topics Blake explores. Blake hints at the revolution in France, suggesting the experiences of the French could encourage a similar revolution on the streets of London. In 1789, the French people revolted against the monarchy and aristocracy, using violence and murder to overthrow those in power. Many saw the French Revolution as inspirational - a model for how ordinary, disadvantaged people could seize power.

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Storm on the Island

Summary of content

The poem describes the experience of being in a cliff-top cottage on an island off the coast of Ireland during a storm. Heaney describes the bare ground, the sea and the wind. The people in the cottage are extremely isolated and can do nothing against the powerful and violent weather.

Key ideas

It is written in the present tense which makes it more dramatic; it is happening now. Enjambment creates the effect of an ongoing storm.

The power of nature; no one knows what the storm will bring. The wind and the waves are the characters in the poem. Use of sound, simile and metaphor to show the power of the storm.

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Checking Out Me History

Summary of Content

This poem draws on Agard's experience to make us look at the way history is taught, and at how we conceive our identity as we learn about cultural traditions and narratives. It becomes clear that Agard had to follow a history curriculum biased towards whites, especially British whites, so that he learned about mythical, nursery rhyme characters instead of living black people from the past.Hechallenges this view of history and cites some major black figures to balance the bias and create a basis for his own identity.

Key Ideas

Variations in spelling suggest Caribbean dialect, e.g. using ‘d’ for ‘the’. Nature metaphors emphasise the importance of black historical figures. Repetition creates a sense of rhythm and enables us to imagine the poem being spoken out loud.

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Summary of Content

This poem conveys the grief and suffering of a mother left at home. Poppies takes place “three days before Armistice Sunday,” (Remembrance Day). The narrator is mainly speaking to the memory of someone we presume to be her son; she wants to take her son in her arms, run her hands through his hair, and rub noses together like they did when he was younger. There is no moment of goodbye and he is gone. Time passes and the narrator finds herself following a dove through town, to a war memorial. She traces her finger on the inscription and tries to remember when her son was little. It is suggested that her son has died. This is a poem about grief and loss; about a mother’s love and longing for that time gone by.

Key Ideas

Poppies are symbolic of those who have died in the war.

Doves are a symbol of peace.

The song bird that she releases (presumably metaphorically) is symbolic of her letting her son go.

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Summary of content

This is about a pilot who returns home and faces rejection. It begins as a kind of report, summarising an overheard conversation. The pilot remembers details of the games he played with his brothers, the colours and patterns of the fish and the taste of the sea salt. These vivid memories suggest what he is about to lose and conveys a powerful sense of home-sickness; the kamikaze pilot abandons his mission and turns back. At the end, it’s suggested that the pilot may have thought he would've been better off if he had died in the suicide mission since his life was lonely and sad. His response is presented as human and natural. The poem reflects the immense social pressure brought to bear on the pilots to carry out kamikaze missions as part of Japan's war effort during World War Two. This relates to suicide missions today too.

Key ideas

The sea – symbol of change as it is unpredictable and changeable.

Vivid use of the senses emphasises that the pilot wants to live.

Change in narrative from third person to words of his daughter – shows how our views change over time from blame to forgiveness.

It has only three sentences and contains only three full-stops, perhaps reflecting the idea of a story being told orally.

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Summary of content

The poet makes the link between paper and human life, exploring its fragility. It reveals the power of paper; paper can ‘alter things’ and she refers to the soft thin paper of religions, particularly the Qur’an. There are also real life references to other lasting uses  we have for paper in our lives, for example; maps, receipts and architect drawings. Each of these items is connected to important aspects of life: journeys, money and home. The poet links the idea of a building being made from paper to human skin, using the words ‘living tissue’ and then ‘your skin.’ This is quite a complex idea, and the meaning is open to interpretation.

Key ideas

Tissue paper = extended metaphor for life.

The fleeting nature of building structures.

Thin paper represents old age.

Human life will outlast the records we make of it on paper.

Free verse = fluttering nature of tissue paper.

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Summary of content

It is a conversational poem in which a soldier remembers a time when

he and other soldiers were sent to deal with a bank robbery while on patrol in a war torn land. The robber, who may or may not have been armed, was shot dead while he was running away. There is graphic description of his guts hanging out on the road and of one of the soldiers kicking them back into his body. His blood leaves a stain on the floor. This experience haunts the soldier. He attempts to forget about it by drowning out the memories with alcohol and drugs but it doesn’t work. He experiences flashbacks of the man bursting through the doors of the bank. He has nightmares about it and he cannot escape the memories.

Key ideas

The tone is conversational; it sounds like the soldier is speaking to the reader or someone else about what happened. It has no rhyme scheme or regular structure, to reflect the idea of someone talking. Enjambment helps make this idea more realistic too. Language choices are graphic to get across the horrific nature of the incident. PTSD is a condition that affects soldiers today.

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War Photographer

Summary of content

A war photographer returns to England, to develop photographs he has taken during conflict in war-torn countries. In his dark room, he is a bit like a priest conducting a funeral as he watches images of victims appear in the solution. His hands tremble now; he is able to show some emotion now he is away from the situation. He feels that the public do not care about these people; their eyes may ‘***** with tears’ but this sympathetic reaction is short-lived and these newspaper readers will soon forget the photos they have seen.

Key ideas

Religious imagery e.g. ‘ordered rows’, ‘as though in church and he a priest intoning a mass’ – make sit sound like a funeral or that it is his duty to educate people about the suffering of the world, much like a priest would.

Use of contrast:  safety of rural England V danger of war

    ordinary pain V death

    professional response V emotion when at home

    suffering of the people in war V the reaction of newspaper readers

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Charge of the Light Brigade

Summary of content

Tennyson wrote this poem to honour the soldiers who served in the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. Due to receiving confusing orders, six hundred soldiers were told to march towards the enemy holding only sabres. The other side had guns and so the British were quickly mown down. Tennyson wants us to celebrate the soldiers’ bravery for following orders, despite knowing they would probably die.

Key ideas

Use of metaphors – ‘mouth of hell, ‘jaws of Death’ – makes it sound like a monster waiting to swallow up the soldiers, ‘the Valley of Death’

Repetition – ‘rode the six hundred’ (emphasises how many lives were lost), ‘canon to the left of them…’(helps make it sound like a battle), ‘into the Valley of Death’ (death surrounds them)

Aggressive verbs to show the violent battle e.g. ‘storm’d at’, ‘shot at’, ‘plunged’ etc.

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Bayonet Charge

Summary of content

It depicts the thoughts and feelings of one soldier as he charges at the

enemy and begins to question his role in the battle. The soldier’s overriding emotion and motivation is fear, which has replaced the more patriotic ideals that he held before the violence began. It describes the experience of 'going over-the-top'. This was when soldiers hiding in trenches were ordered to 'fix bayonets' (attach the long knives to the end of their rifles) and climb out of the trenches to charge an enemy position twenty or thirty metres away. The aim was to capture the enemy trench. The poem describes how this process transforms a solider from a living thinking person into a dangerous weapon of war.

The poem starts in the middle of the action and covers the soldier's movements and thoughts over a short space of time. The middle stanza describes a pause where time seems to briefly stand still and the soldier moves from confusion to terror as the reality of his situation becomes more violent. The final stanza represents a return to panicked movement as he runs to safety.

Key ideas

Enjambment: could show the soldiers urgency and desperation as he stumbles forward

Figurative language emphasises the physical pain and horror of the battle

Shocking imagery to emphasise the sights and sounds of war

Use of the pronoun "he" to represent that this could be any soldier

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