Contemporary Poetry

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this poem is about the power of a national flag. it's a conversation between a naive questioner and a sceptical responder. one is asking about a flag which is they see as a piece of cloth, and the responder talk about its power to make people fight and die.

FORM - the second lines in each stanza are the shortest, creating a blunt and cynical tone. The first and third lines rhyme in all but the last stanza. this links the answer and question and makes the rhyming word significant

STRUCTURE - In each stanza the questioner is asking about a flag, which is a national symbol of patriotism. the answers explain the powers a flag can have, apart from the last answer which is more cynical

LANGUAGE - the question in the first line of each stanza have the same sentence structure, this repetition shows all the different ways a flag can be used/seen, and also describe it in different ways. rhetorical question make the reader think about the power of a flag.

the poem criticised blind patriotism and using the flag as an excuse. the poet mocks people respect for a flag which is only cloth. they also warn us about being manipulated by a flag 

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(Extract From) Out of the Blue

the poem is narrated by a victim of of the 9/11 attacks. the victim is describing one of the burning buildings. he addresses someone watching the events on TV - he pleads for help but his death is inevitable. 

FORM - The form is similar to an elegy (Mournful Poem). no regular rhythm but fairly frequent rhyme and internal rhyme. this creates a gentle feeling of sadness and helplessness. first 3 stanzas use enjambment and questions to create a casual conversation

STRUCTURE - in the final four stanzas the voice becomes urgent and desperate as danger gets closer and hope of living begins to vanish. his tone also become more frantic and desperate.

LANGUAGE - Verbs in the present continuous (...Ing) gives us that we are watching it exactly as its happening - and creates movement. this makes us feel helpless. questions make the speaker seem desperate

despair increases as they become tired of asking for help that isn't coming. Horror of the event is shown and insignificance is demonstrated by comparing them to the large scale.

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Flag - Quotes

"Fluttering...Flying...Rising" simple and peaceful words are used to contrast with how they are innocent but we make them powerful on our own

"A breeze" the use of 'A' shows how it could be anywhere, showing how patriotic feelings of a flag are worldwide. also could emphasise how one country will fight to death for their own flag, but will feel nothing about another countries -  are they that important?

"Cloth" Repetition of cloth used to emphasise the dull connotations of a cloth and how meaningless it is, to contrast with how people see their own flag and how it's portrayed.

"blind your conscious" Shows how people ignore all moral values just because they are fighting for their flag - and also shows how now and also in the past, people must ignore moral values in order to be patriotic

"Outlive the blood you bleed" Possibly saying how patriotic feelings are infinite. and also saying the flag will always be there even if you die. so fighting for it is pointless?

"Just a piece of cloth" using 'just' is ironic, it is made of cloth but it means so much more to lots of people all around the world

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Out of the Blue - Quotes

"A distant Shot" shows how the events as if they are being watched on a TV. makes us feel more helpless and makes speaker seem insignificant (Compared to large buildings)

"White cotton shirt" using shirt as a surrender flag? showing how he's given up and makes it seem more realistic with normal objects

"Pegging out washing?" using everyday things to show how distant people are from his situation and how insignificant he could be. question marks shows desperation and confusion

"Here in the gills" using gills breathing in air, to compare to lungs breathing in smoke? also using underwater links to "Depth" which was used to show the building and how he's looking down.

"my love" emotive - could be referring to a wife. or reminding the reader that everyone who died had someone to love

"Flailing, flagging" flailing shows desperation and show how he's giving up as flailing is a hopeless and random action

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Mametz Wood

This poem is about Farmers in France in the present finding bones from WW1 which they find when they plough the land. The poem switches between describing their death in the past and finding the bones in the present

FORM - The poem is written in Tercets (3 Lined stanzas). it's written in third person giving a feeling of distance and detachment. Long sentences and enjambment gives a feeling of sadness

STRUCTURE - The poem builds up chronologically to the present in stanza 5 when the most recent find is described (Twenty Skeletons). the thoughtful tone and pace don't change and images of the past are there all the way through

LANGUAGE - the earth is personified as something in need of healing and someone that protects the memories of soldiers. poem contains similes of metaphors creating vivid images of rural farmland and skeletons. images of archaeology mixed with nature showing how bodies have been absorbed into the earth

Sadness of death is shown with imagery, as well as using nature to mourn the memory. a gentle tone is used to understate horror of discovering a skeleton

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The Yellow Palm

the poem describes what the narrator sees as he walk along a main street in Baghdad. some of the scenes are violent and distressing, whereas other are calm and peaceful

FORM - The poem is a first person ballad. the 2nd, 4th and 6th lined in each stanza rhyme. the extended rhyme adds detail and could possibly contradict the images and descriptions created in the previous 4 lines.

STRUCTURE - Each stanza is linked to the next one through small associations. this emphasised the idea of a long street full of various things all connected in some way.

LANGUAGE - Repeating the first line in every stanza emphasised the movement through the street. there is a lot of strong imagery and description in the poem. the range of colours makes the description vivid and suggests natural beauty as a background for human violence and distress. a range of senses makes the street seem vibrant and real.

the narrator is just observing and leaves the reader to make the connections between the views and morals/politics. the poem contrasts violence with nature. the poet contrasts innocence and beauty with violence. and finally the narrator seems detached. allowing us to reach our own conclusions about the poem's meaning.

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Mametz Wood - Quotes

"China Plate" Metaphor used to demonstrate how delicate the life and the human bodies can be. and to compare to calmness of nature

"Mimicked in flint" Used to show how it's hard to distinguish between bone and stone - showing how skeletons have become a part of the earth

"nesting machine guns" Contrast between nature and violence shows how the war disrupted a peaceful field, and nesting could show how the mourning and bodies remain for a while

"Foreign Body" Shows how the soldiers were from another country, also foreign shows how they are a distant object that doesn't belong in a farm (A place of nature)

"tilted back at an angle" the odd distorted angle shows fear and desperation, and also creates imagery of a gruesome and horrific death.

"boots that outlast them" also shows a sad death, normally life would last longer than a pair of boots but because they outlasted it shows an early and un-natural death. contrasts with peace of the earth. but is still at rest in soil. 

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The Yellow Palm - Quotes

"As i made my way down Palestine street" Repetition of this line shows movement and shows how the speaker is separate from everything Else going on in the street.

"breathed a poison gas" creates a horrific image - glass coffin making it visible to everyone. contrasts with peaceful images of "Lilac stems" and "Glass coffin" which sounds like a fairytale of some sort

"Blood on the walls" contrasts with the beauty of the mosque and introduces the link between horror and violence - which is only implied and lets the reader make connections

"Mother of all wars" an expression used first by Saddam Hussein about the first gulf war. it sounds historic but is actually referring to a modern war with chemical weapons. 

"Barbarian Sun" makes the sun sound ruthless and showing how even nature can be involved in conflict

"fruit fell in his arms" innocent and positive image suggests that human society could be more positive and kind

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The Right Word

the poem is about a suspicious, divided community. where different viewpoints lead to violence. the narrator tries to find an accurate way to describe a young activist who at first seems threatening, but then turn out to be an innocent child

FORM - The poem is written in first person making it seem personal. stanzas have no regular rhythm or rhyme or lengths. this could represent the difficulty of agreeing on a description of the child

STRUCTURE - Each of the first seven stanzas is a separate way of describing the child. stanzas 1-3 are ironic when searching for the right description. stanzas 4-6 suggest it's too complicated to find the right word. and then stanzas 7-9 describe the truth, and the poets tone relaxes when it is realised.

LANGUAGE - Several phrases repeated each time with changes, as if the speaker is going back and re wording. door and shadows suggest uncertainty. poet uses a range of language with violent and peaceful connotations. questions shows speaker is struggling

importance of language is emphasised showing how peoples language creates fear. anxiety shows suspicion of others. and there's a sense of acceptance when we see it's a child

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At the Border, 1979

The poem is about someone crossing the border back to their homeland as a child. the family sound helpless and anxious. the adults become emotional but the child narrator can't understand why it's so important when things look the same on both sides.

FORM - the poem is written in the first person showing it's a personal memory. stanzas are unequal length with suggests fragments of memories occurring as she pieces together her memories - shown through enjambment and caesura 

STRUCTURE - beginning of the poem uses a lot of direct speech. the tone becomes more reflective  in stanzas 6 and 7 as the poet describes the lack of difference between the two sides of the border

LANGUAGE - the poem is written in simple conversational style. short sentences and lack of detail show a child's memory and portray the message that borders are artificial and unneccessary. natural conversation makes it convincing and real. impersonal description shows how families are the power of officials

nationalism is shown through strong emotions when crossing the border. and a child like view is shown through the logic of children contrasting with complex feelings from the adults

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The Right Word - Quotes

"Lurking.... Taking Shelter" two different descriptions of the same action. one sounds sinister the other sounds innocent and vulnerable. shows how things are portrayed differently

"Outside" repetition of this shows fear of outside and also suggesting how outside society can cause conflict, when really other can be innocent but just portrayed negatively

"Shadows" using shadows shows a fear of the unknown, and also suggests a dark and unknown feeling to the unknown child. suggesting conflict and violence

"Wavering flags" shows an attempt to communicate through patriotism -  also shows patriotism can be misleading. wavering shows uncertainty 

"is a terrorist, stands a martyr, is a child" shows how someone can be seen as different things and portrayed as both violent and innocent. society creates false identities for people to portray them as something they're not. can we describe anyone without taking sides?

"one word for you" drastic change in the tone of the speaker as they realise it's an innocent child. shows how attitudes are affected by how someone is portrayed - we can see them as the violent enemy or just as individuals

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At the Border, 1979 - Quotes

"Last checkpoint" gives a sense of ending of somethings giving reason for strong emotions from adults. direct speech allows poet to portray opinions of others to give diverse opinion.

"Continued // divided by a thick iron chain" use of enjambment shows confused memories and the poet puts the pieces together. use of thick shows a sense of being trapped and gives control to the guards. puts emphasis on how adults see the border.

"Told her off" shows contrast between the playful nature of the child and the serious attitude of the guard. line is un-intimidating making the guard sound silly which is how the child would see him. also contrasts between how they see a border

"Cleaner // Beautiful // Kinder" power of three puts emphasis on how amazing the other side of the border is. almost sounds good to be true. this puts emphasis on how amazing the adults think the border is, and they are more naive than the children, who see it for what it is

"Rained on both sides" the child's observation is the most realistic, they can see how the world is the same on both sides of the chain, they can also possibly see how their lives may not be that different. also shown by "soil continued on the other side" as well as " Mountains encompass all of us"

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Belfast Confetti

The narrator is caught in a bomb incident in Belfast. he describes his attempt to get to saftey away from the bomb. every time he tries to escape, his attempts are thwarted by security forces and confusion

FORM - irregular line lengths, incomplete sentences, ellipsis and enjambment create a fragmented feel to the lines, creating a feeling of interruption or confusion. long lines alternate with short lines demonstrating him reaching dead ends

STRUCTURE - poem starts in the middle of all the action and there is no clear conclusion. the language changes from past to present between the 1st and 2nd stanza to show how the narrator is unable to distinguish between escaping right now and recalling the bomb that just happened.

LANGUAGE - the poem contains imagery and metaphors describing language in terms of each other. suggesting they have similar damaging effects 

there is a feeling of being trapped by physical blockades as well as being trapped by language from the forces controlling who goes where. physical and verbal violence confuse and distress the speaker. also shows the personal reaction a Belfast bomb incident

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a mother describes her son leaving home to fight in the army. she feels sad, lonely and scared. she describes helping him with his uniform, after he leaves she goes to places that remind her of him desperately trying to find traces of him

FORM - no regular rhythm or rhyme, which helps to make it sound like someones thoughts and memories . long sentences and enjambment give the impression of someone absorbed in their own memories. 

STRUCTURE - The poem starts with her son leaving and then goes on to describe what she did afterwards, the time frame however is ambiguous. a lot of the images could describe a child on their first day of school

LANGUAGE - lots of sentences beginning with the first person which gives us a strong impression of the mothers emotions. metaphors and images of war and bereavement are mixed with domestic imagery. birds are used a symbols of freedom to describe the son leaving the security of his home for excitement of the outer world

the mother is sad about leaving her son. she as feelings of anxiety and fear for her sons safety. poem contrasts between sadness of the mother and excited feelings from the son.

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Belfast Confetti - Quotes

"Suddenly" creates the sudden and abrupt feeling of a bomb going off so the reader can empathise with the narrator's experience. also creates panic which leads to the confusion of where to go

"a fount of broken type" imagery of broken metal and shows how he has a failure to describe the scene

"blocked with stops" suggests feelings of hopelessness and panic as he runs out of places to go. creates a feeling of claustrophobia and being trapped in the action and violence

"Odessa street // Crimea street" uses of irony - it's ironic that he knows all the names on the streets int he area so well yet he still feels lost and trapped

"Punctuated" implies violence and hesitation. also could be a metaphor. his life has been literally punctuated by the bomb - interrupted with stops and starts of panic.

"Punctuated" shows how he is is surrounded by security. creates a lonely feeling like he is alone and everyone is against him. also gives communication to show how there is nowhere to go because they're all working against him

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Poppies - Quotes

"Before Sunday //  before you left" shows how the mother is hanging on to the memory of when her son was at home. shows a longing for him to return and her struggling with him moving on from home into the greater world.

"blazer" shows how her motherly instincts a making her protective of him as she is flattening his blazer. being slightly patronising when she resists rubbing noses with him. mother is wanting him to be young again and could compare this to first day of school. 

"bandaged around my hand" very violent language as if the mother is injured - could be a metaphor for how she is emotionally injured or a comparison to her fears of her son being injured at war

"gelled blackthorn" showing the son as more mature because he's doing his own hair. also violent language with blackthorn making him seem more grown up and unapproachable

"Ornamental Stitch" something small and beautiful in a wide vast space could represent how she sees her son. also sewing language shows nervousness and feelings of anxiety, and possibly a metaphor for her 'knotted' feeling from being anxious and feeling fearful for her son

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