Skirrid Hill - Owen Sheers

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  • Created on: 31-03-19 10:35

Mametz Wood

Battle of Mametz Wood-largest wood in Somme Battlefield. Mainly the Welsh division (38th) fighting here. Red Dragon memorial for them. "Note they had sung" - Welsh culture of song/choir.

Celebration of Welsh Identity, Loss, Grief, How the Past informs the Present, Flawed decisions/authority

"Chit" "China" - like a gun, intrusive sound, body parts have been reduced to inanimate fragments of a whole. "breaking blue in white" - mix of stone & human remains. "They were told to walk not run" - naieve, poorly trained & inequipped, easy targets in the broad daylight. "Nesting machine guns" - fertility, concealed and coocooned, safety. "Sentinel" - in hommage to the great loss that has occured, refers to soldiers keeping watch, now the earth watches as they are no longer there. "Linked arm in arm" - unity, signified they were from the same army corps. 

Tercets - typical Welsh. Coexistence of the Past and the Present. Sombre pace/tone. "they" "their" - unity of the soldiers. Enjambment - reflection of time passing/solidarity. 2nd Stanza - commas, breaking sentence, reflecting the gradual discovery of the items. 

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Links to 'Gift' by R.S. Thomas, about inheritance and whether it comes from God or Nature. 

Family, Love, Relationships, Nostalgia, Respect, Love for Nature

"Stick in the spokes of my speech" - sounds like a stammer, broken s's. "bones" & "stone" - rhyming, innate connection between his father and the natural world. Juxtapostition - "order of maps" vs "chaos of bad weather" - "pain in the pleasure" - the mother can never fully enjoy herself? "fact into fable" - storyteller. Semantic field of forgery - binding together "hammer" "red hot" "core" "cooled" - metaphor for how life has shaped him.

"A tired blink" - short sentence reflects the gentle blink. 2 separate stanzas = 2 separate beings, the mother and the father. Structure reflects the binding of the two in the final stanza. Reflective/affectionate/respectful tone. Last 2 lines = monosyllabic, relflects the consistent hammering of the metal e.g. shaping of his life. 

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Homphone - father & farther (why choose this one? Ambiguity) Religious Holy Father and Son relationship, biblical. Metaphorical journey of a father and son. "split they say by a father's grief" - Skirrid Hill split when God lost his son. Climbing a mountain to solve a problem. 

Family, Division, Father/Son relationship, Nature, Religion, Wales, Generations, Revelation

"the long way around" - how life can get overcomplicate. "simplified by snow" - nature's presence is soothing. "solved by moss" - answers lie with Mother nature? SF of Religion "altar" "father's grief." "Slope steeper than expected" - metaphor, relationship trickier than thought at times. "Broken stone" - instability. Breathing = "short and sharp and solitary" - sibilance, harshness, the son is now the stronger of the two, his father is ageing "tipping in the scales of us." "a country unrolled before us" - metaphorical map/scroll = revelation, clarity. "Every step apart" - the child growing up, moving away? "closer to you" - he become's more like his father with understanding, closer emotionally. 

Volta "Half way up" - focus on the father after this rather than the relationship as a unit. "I" & "you" instead of "we." 1 stanza!! Continous journey. In media res - reader dropped into their lives. 

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On Going

i.m. Jean Sheers - grandmother. Elegy, in honour of her. Contrasts with The Wake (Grandfather) 

Persistence, Continuity, Family, Love, Respect, Cyclical - Life/Death

"Instruments" - clincal tone. "soul's temperature" juxtapostion as it's emotional rather than a physcial "measure, record." Oxymoron/Antithesis "ancient child." Repetition of harsh 'k' constanants, "working" "skin" "cheek" - it's a struggle. Similie/Plosive B's - "like a blustery wind at a blind" - aural sounds, shaking, unsteady. "Paper temple" - thin, fraglity, wrinkly skin, religious connotations of temple = place of worship for the dead, on death's door?  Sibilance "slipped" "sleep" "slow" - no struggle, she was ready to go. Tone = dignified and elegant, also sorrowful but reflective. Weak verbs describing movement and sound. 

Quatrain - regularity, expected, no suprises, her death was inevitable? Enjambment between last two stanzas = she's slipping away. Free Verse - line lengths differ like her breathing, no rhyme scheme or regular beat, natural process, longer lines = emotional relflection. Speaker - visiting her at the hospital. 

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Stitch in Time

"A stitch in time saves nine" ie act now to secure your future. "Fiji" - where Sheers was born, "just 15" - perhaps an arranged marriage? Land is on the antimeridian, the land is both East & West like on SH you can see Eng & Wales. Antimeridian runs through his land and businesses, symbol of his success, he traces it to it's roots in Greenwich. 

Industry, Work/Skilled Proffesion, Family, Generations, Independence, Self-Sufficient, Split (home and away, rich and poor, east and west)

SF connected to tailors - "dummy" "cutter" "stitch" used METAPHORICALLY & LITERALLY! Repetition - "his wife, his wife" - rhythmic, sounds like a mantra, she is his motivation, family orientated. Similie "like a muscian round his double bass" - it is an artform that must be learnt, his dummy is his instrument that he can create beauty out of. Rhyming "land" "hand" "stitch" "pitch." Metaphor "as stiff as his oldest scissors" - inextricably linked, his profession has become him. Third person - humble, not boastful, never learn his name. 

20 couplets reflect his gradual stitching, unbroken structure reflects his continuos hard work across decades. 

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The Wake

Sheers' Grandfather who was a chest physician in the Navy. Contrasts with gentle slipping away of grandmother - oblivion vs awareness. 

Family, Loss, Life and Death, Profession, 

Irony - he is dying of lung disease, which he's spent his life curing in others. Alitteration "folded" "favourite" slotted in, comfort/discomfort? Ambiguos. "Scarred lungs" - remanats of previous operations, potentially more to come? SF of nautical imagery, reflecting profession - "hull" "driftwood" "wave" "water." Extended metaphor "two pale oceans" = his two lungs. "driftwood" - symbolic of the various experiences/knowlege he's gained of the disease. "Water" = the people around him, family and friends. "great ship" - majestic. Tone - strength, sadness, evident he doesn't want to die!!

Tercets until the final single line stanza, unsettled, couldn't finish but he knows what is on the horizon? Paniful awareness, he knows the structure/stages of the disease. 

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The Farrier

Sheers and his mother often went riding. Traditional skills of Welsh. A Farrier is someone who shoes horses.

Job/Profession, Masculinty, Admiration, Sexual, Gender roles

Skilled tone, gentle but overtly sexual at times. Similie "like a man putting his shouldered to a knackered car" - rude, abrupt. Alliteration "lips of his lover" - "a romantic lead" - sense that the horse can't escape from him. Metaphor "a seamstress pinning the dress of the bride" - beauty/artform. Onomatopoeia "slap" - harsh. Pronoun "his steel" - idea that he has branded her, she was unwillingly and uncomfortable. 

Tercets - traditional Welsh culture, enjambment shows the natural progression of his work. 

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Marking Time

Brand Burn - prisoners and cattle marked this way. Split in the poem reflects the idea of "Skirrid." Modern Sonnet, 14 lines, draws on tradition of love poems.

Passion, Longevity, Relationships, Natural, Time, Division, Nostalgia

"Two tattered flags" - connotations of war. Sinister "brand burn" juxtaposed by soft "secret." "volte" - turning point, alerts you to the fact it's a modern sonnet. Matured natural imagery. "Buckles" - damaged but still remains. "Loving scar" - oxymoronic, longeivity. "Brand Burn" - plosive B's.

2 stanzas. Separated into the past and the present, the gap between them represents the time in which the scar has faded. S1 = artificial, man made imagery, about the physical sexual relationship, looking back upon a memory. S2 = natural, caring, loving, "under the bark" signifying a deeper connection.

14 lines, no rhyme scheme - modern sonnet. Split into 7 & 7 - theme of division and equality - past as important as the present?? 

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Paris has connotations as the city of love. Water torture - water dripped on your head or made to listen to water dripping. 

Toxic relationship,

Clicking of her heels driving him insane, like "water torture" - asonance (repeating of vowel sounds.) She walks in front of him, as though she is leaving him? "Evacuated" - anything that once was there has gone. Romantic Imagery emblematic of love - "heart" "pair" "valentine." Water imagery. Reduced to impressionistic parts, he's observing her. Swinging hips, unattainable, seduction. Clearly the END of a relationship. "Wrecked voyages" - symbolic of their relationship, thought they were over, the storm has passed, the water was destroying them, they've now landed on dry land. 

Near death of the relationship but they've SURVIVED - is this good!?? Isolated lines, interjecting, summarising memories. 4 x 3 line stanzas (tercets.) 15 lines, almost a sonnet especially as last two lines rhyme - deliberate close resemblance to love. Enjambment between ship stanzas symobolises the birth of the new phase and reconnection. 

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Winter Swans

Swans = symbols of constance as they mate for life. 

Relationships, Weather/Nature

Pathetic Fallacy. "Waterlogged earth" - the ground is supposed to be a stable, supportive base, at the moment it is unstable, suffocation of the earth - SETTING reflects the status of the RELATIONSHIP. "Skirted" - avoided. Contrasted by physical harmony and unison of the swans. "Halved themselves" - two halves make a whole, 1/2 underwater. "Boats righting" - symbol of stability, return to equilibrium. Her speech = monosyllabic, clarity. "Slow-stepping" - tentative, care and hope. "Swum the distance" - involuntary, instictive reunion, seamless. Lexical field of birds - hope. 

Caesura - shift or pause "lake; silent and apart." Ending couplet - signifing the gentle reuniting of the couple.

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Night Windows

Edward Hopper picture referenced by this Title, in which you can see the female through the window.Voyeurism - gaining sexual pleasure from watching others engaged in sexual activity/naked. "Siren" - beautiful women who seduced sailors, lured them to their death. 

Performance, Sexual relations, Nature = Female 

Initimate language. Motif of nature - used to describe the female body. "Thin white drapes" - forming a clear silhouette of them. Multi-sensory language "curves" "body" "back." Simile - "like a bow" - ship/weaponary - danger. DETACHES HER BODY. Monosyllabic language, STRENGTH

Narrator looking back - past tense. Quatrains, ends on a tercet - idea of unfinished, inconclusive, it has been abandoned but AMBIVALENT. 

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Time, Failed relationships, Loss 

Lexical Field - references to locks and keys. Extended metaphor of the key and the lock. Lock = male, Key = female. Pronouns in S1 reinforce the fact the relationship is over. Present tense verbs - reflecting the STATIC passing of time. Metaphor of an "uncut key" - optimism, hopefullness - he is then shaped by her.  "Fit" - click/harmony. "Chapel" - ambigous - marriage?? "Bow of your hip" - ship, violin/cello reflecting the shape of the hip. "Master key fit" - possibility that anyone could fit?? Or everything is unlocked to each other?? Plosive B's "bolt" "blade" "break" - monosyllabic finality. "Unpick" - like a code/lock metaphor for their problems. Colloquial "click" - get on with someone. 

In Medias Res - in the middle of things, reader launched into the situation. S3/4 = pinnacle of harmony, centre of poem. Enjambment between them, smooth passing of time unlike S1 & S2. Rhetorical Questions - he doesn't know the answer, confusion. 

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Border Country

The boy's father shot himself in a corn field. Raymond Williams novel about this - father returning to Wales. "Border" - idea of Skirrid but also life/death & young/old. Death of car manufacturing industry in Wales. Symbolism of the poppy - rememberance, taken too young. 

Separation, Loss, Grief, Father/Son, Youth, War, Nostaligia, 

Violence/War imagery "kick" "dying" "shooting" "shotgun" "poppy" "dawn." "Gap toothed roof" - childlike innocence, naievity."Buzzards" - scavengers."Flint" - grey, used to start fires - idea of rallying youth. Strong verbs reflect timeless youth - on first page!! Personification of life "put on the brakes." Language reflects father's passing "rag" - tattered remanant. Meaninglessness "meandered" vs "striking" and "smashed."

IDEA: He wasn't ready for his father to die > loss of childhood innocence & sense of belonging. 

Rhyme "dead" "red" "dawn "corn." Adulthood brings a change of perspective, father's death is a volta, majestic descripition in first half, now "just cars in a quarry" - singular buzzard compared to buzzards. Use of the Buzzard's view - insignificance of life "spittle sheep." Regular 9 line stanzas. Reflection. 

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Trees - NOT DONE

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Joseph Jones

Popular Welsh surname, biblical inferences of Joseph - ironic as he behaves in a non-biblical way. Potentially a real person, or representing a type. "Red Wings" - loss of virginity. "XR2" - typical boy racer car.

Passing of Time, Types -Young Male, Performance, Female representation,

Colloquial opening "of course." Arrogance and vanity present! "Dead with scent" - so overpowering no O2 remains!! Idea of audience and performer "told us all." Rite of passage - taking a girl's virginity for "his" own. SHE IS REDUCED TO OBJECTS - no description above the waist. "White" - innocence, disturbing "shed." "Stroking his chest" - animalistic! "Small town myth" - concept diminishes him, there's one in every town, he's no big deal. 

4 stanzas, SLOPING to the right - showing his decline as his youth passes, dissapearing. Snapshots of this type. Dimished to brief clauses in a sentence. 

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Late Spring

Welsh farming tradition. Spring as a season of fertility and new life. Sheers' grandfather was a farmer. 

Man vs Nature, Profession/Skill, 'Male' roles, Progression of Boyhood to Manhood

"Feel like a man" "like a man milking" "seeds"- ironic, by castrating lambs he's preventing the lambs from becoming sexually male/fertile. Sexual undertones "tool" "between his legs" "play it." Delicacy and skill evident as well. "Crown them" - birth - babies 'crowned.' 

IDEA: Man's intereference in the natural world

Speaker observing. 

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Literature links - to the work of the author.

Nature, Mankind intereference, Generations, Fertility, Cycle, Beauty

Literary Lexical Field - "italic" "lines" "script" "ink" "sign" "page." Sibilance reflects the fast swooping movements of the birds. 

Unrhymed quatrains

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Y Gaer

Halfway through the collection - forms a diptych with The Hill Fort. Welsh for The Hill Fort. - Incomplete without each other - Sheers' had a childhood friend who died, this may be about him. 

Grief, Father/Son, Nature, Separation, Loss, Wales, Cycle, Weather

"Trench and rampart" - defences. Personfication of the horse "veins mapping." "Land is 360" - idea of clarity, you can see all around, circular. "Against the wind's shoulder" - personifies the wind, the only thing great enough to support a father's grief. Tone = sad and angry, incomprehension. PATHETIC FALLACY. Semantic Field of references to circles. 

Halfway through collection, diptych. Mirrors The Hill Fort. Represents the PRESENT!

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The Hill Fort

Same as Y Gaer. Diptych = set of relating works, 2 pieces, often linked. We learn the relevance of the Fort to the Father & Son.

Tretower-Wales Raglan-Monmouthshire(W) Bredwardine-Hereford(E)

Circle of Life, Grief, Father/Son, Cycle - Beginning & End, Comfort of Nature 

IDEA: Man revisiting the place he took his recently deceased son to as a child. 

The Fort contains/protects the ashes of his son. Juxtaposition of weather - pathetic fallacy, his son is alive hence the "clear day." Similie "as wild as the long maned poines" - freedom of childhood. "Tongue of the wind" - metaphor - nature gently lapping up what's left of his son, spirited away. 

Represents the PAST. Tercets - typically Welsh. 3rd person, direct but imagined speech. Ellipsis ... expressing the vast scale of the landscape and it's continuation, idea of life's insignificance in perspective. 

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Could exist in their own right - 4 poems. 


"Swallows" "Bees" "A spider" "Nests" - images of animals/nature

Haiku poem - 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables. 

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Sheers' traditional farm upbringing. Epigraph - Logue = satirical text - extreme version of how the Welsh flag is perceived. 

Exploration of National Identity, Wales, Belonging

Increasing number of flags as you reach the coast - "throws up." "our" - unitfied national pride. "Wet washing" - lack of dignity in it's appearance in some areas, idea all classes feel a sense of Welsh pride. "Hall of mirrors" - reflect each other. "Swansea gym" - welsh culture. "The beast of it" - the dragon, the heart. "Currency of legend" - tourists providing income. "Blind spot" - criticism of Wales' insular view, it's blinkeredness. "Chinese burn" - pulled in different directions. "Bandage" - hold in the damage and the history. 

Enjambment - smooth transition of the train. Reflection upon the future and the past. 8 tercets. Free verse.

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The Steelworks

Almost a eulogy to an industrial age that has passed. Loss of the Welsh Identity. Ebbw Vale - steelworks that shut down, cause of repression. 

Industry, Profession, Loss, Wales 

"Mothership" - reflects the central importance of the industry. "Breathless vents" - cruel irony - normally 'air' vents - sign no life remain there. Rhythmic verbs "pressing" and "dipping." "Kneeling and bowing" - religious connotations, new commitment for them. "Pumping iron" - dual meaning - industry or pumping weights. Pathetic Fallacy - the rain. Semantic field of metal "rusting" "rolling" "pumping iron."

Welsh tercets. Enjambement. 

Idea: At the gym, reflecting their previous work, new purpose in their lives. 

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Magpie song, 1 for sorrow. Salute the Colonel - symbol of good or bad luck. Siren mythology - drew sailors to their deaths.  

Relationships, Nature, Devotion, 

"Bright bait" - shallow, artifical, represents someone else. Alliteration "fan" "feathers" - reflects the sound of the wind. "Oil spill" - irredescent shine, yet dangerous - stops sea birds from flying. "Wing" "wire" "wring" - torturous, brutality - Narrative voice, simply an observer, no emotion. 

"Love is all there is to save" - is this Sheers' belief??

Juxtaposition - ideas of torture and death - following stanza = love and devotion! Unnerving, sinister?? Enjambment - passing of time until the day she can be freed.  Final stanza = quatrain, unity completion. Anaphora - repetition of 'and' at the beginning of clauses. 

IDEA: She is trapped to attract other magpies, which the farmer can then kill. 

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"Landmark" - countryside place of interest? Personal landmarks as well e.g. birth, death. 

Relationships, Passion, Time, Death

"reclaiming" - their individuality after they've have physically shared everything by becoming one being. Pronouns s1 - they .. as soon as they 'awaken' in S2 = "his" "her" - recoginition of reality. Human interference - "telephone wires" "time." "Look back" - rememberance of what had been, preventing a sense of loss, final moment of joy. "Sarcophagus" - metaphor - coffin, the moment of passion is dead.

Narrative voice looks back upon a personal memory. Terects, consistent, rhythmic. 

IDEA: Had sex in a field, the imprint they've made on the grass - the landmark - looks like a coffin. 

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Happy Accidents

Robert Capa = photographer during WW2 for Life magazine, took photos of D-Day landings, many photographs damaged in printing process. 

War, Damage, Carelessness, Importance of the Past

"Lead" - density of bullets. Colloquial language "dropped" - sitting ducks, as though they are dispensable. Oxymoron "frozen fires." "Heat blurred" - blurred moral ground of warfare, no absolutes. "Stepped out" & "fall headlong" - cruel irony, the start of something new/love - it was all over so quickly. "Trapdoor" - leads to certain death. UNCONTROLLABLE PROCESS - like the way the soldiers feel with their lives at war. 

In medias res - dropped in like Capa was. Rhetorical Question. "Just shoot and shoot" - repetition linked to gun fire, like photography process. Reinvented sonnet form - 15 lines, 5 tercets = concise revealing. Three of the stanzas, are ways in which the events have produced something significant. INTERNAL RHYME - "shore" "trapdoor" "war."Opposite Landmark - both 15 line poems with the legacy of the past being an evident theme. 

IDEA: Damage can increase perfection. Hence "happy" accidents. 

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Four Movements in the Scale of Two

Have these in a symphony, separate stages that contribute to a whole, they each have different moods. - relationship presented as a symphony. Smoke signal = cry for help. 

Relationships, Passion, Sex, Destruction, Loss - the relationship deteriorates

"Foetus" - embryonic relationship. "X" - unknown/chromosome. "Still Life" - painting but also the continuation of the relationship. Delicate, gentle lexis in P2. Alliteration "texture" "tongue." Onomatopoeia - cracking close. Semantic field of art. "Steppe" "Siberian" - cold locations. Unsettling similie - ice and water - long term it will melt/become one. Sibilance "slow smoke signal" - reflects the way this damage has crept in, unnoticed by the speaker. 

IDEA: we only exist in the presence of others?? 

P3 = 3rd person. Isolated line "what breaks when this happens?" - RQ! Enjambment - relflects the opening of the book, and the smooth process in which the relationship 'snapped.' Tercets. Separated into 4 stages - like the symphony, each has a different mood hence the titles and their relevance to that stanza. 

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Liable to Floods

American troops stationed in Wales before the D Day landings. "Greenhorns" = slang for inexperienced troops. 

Displacement, Lack of Belonging, Isolation, War, Nature's strength - man's inteference

"Major" - authority and status. Condenscending "fatherly" "Don't you worry" - patronising. "Backbone" - resistence, spineless. Biblical undertones "for the next two days" - building up to the inevitable conclusion. Battle imagery - used for the weather - man's inteference in the natural world. "Cartridge" - relation to machine gun. "Ghosts" - foreshadowing of the loss of GIs to come in the D Day landings. "Herself" - femininity of nature. 

IDEA: Nature is flushing out the infestation that is war from the landscape. Symolic of the events the soliders are invloved in - war will sweep them away without a second thought. 

Quatrain, traditional regimented structure, reflects the military setting. NOT A TERCET - distance from Wales, sense they don't belong here!! Calm tone in final stanzas, reflection on inevitability. 

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Myth: Amazonian women had a breast removed to improve their skills with a bow therefore it's a symbol of strength. Jean Sheers - grandmother, had breast cancer. Nov 5th = Bonfire night. 

Sadness, Strength, Celebration, 

"Testing the water" - idea of seeing how bad it is. "Mote" = tiny particle in the air. Plosive Bs show the potential for harm. "Flowering with rubbish" - juxtaposition of life and death - new perspective at the beauty of life and the interwining of life with death? "cork" - he couldn't save her but he could save this. "Wrings its neck" - her proximity to death once. "Bump" = childlike, harmless, ironic as it's lifechanging. "Faceted" = multiple surfaces. 

IDEA: Growing stronger from her ordeal, her perception since cancer has changed. 

4 stanzas reflect the 4 stages of cancer, in chronological order as she moves throughout the year. P1 = tercets, P2 = couplets - breaking down of the diagnosis and her life as it is. P3 - return to tercets - normality. 

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Under the Superstition Mountains

Mountain Range in Arizona, entrance to the underworld. Susans House = music track that cuts between scenes/boy dying- all of what is wrong with society. Sun City West - 82% pop = >60. 91% pop = white. 

Death, Old age, Depression, Isolation?

Semantic Field of death. "Mock" - artificialty, sad. "Oxygen tank" - irony, expect a dog! Reflects LIFELESS society. "Sedated" - sense of inertia (doing nothing.) "Without knowing why" - meaninglessness!!

Tercets from vignettes - mini pictures of life. 

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The Fishmonger

Orginal = Fisherman, one stanza long, focuses on consumerism. Coincided with Hungary joining the Eu in 2004. 

Proffesion, Skill, Brutality, 

"Carp" - oilwater fish. Oxymoron "cruel kindness." "Pare his speech" - military lexis. "Tree hit by lightning" - DEAD inside - no love/passion for his work? But he's good at it, skillfull.


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The Singing Men

Homeless people of the world, drunks, vagrants - those who don't fit in society. "The world's greatest group" - reference to the Beatles. "Balham" - south London, historically a place where nothing happened, now hip. Male's role in society - 'lovers' 'kids' and 'wives.'

Isolation, Displacement, Detachment, Society,

Described like a rare species or universal phenomenon. "Valleys in their stubble" - singing with intensity, survival, the sing is pulling tendons in their neck. "Opera" and "Balham" - juxtapose, humourous. "Gold can" - colour but also connotes value - it's precious to him. "Legs open" - typicall masculine. Closer to primal state than civilisation. 

Repetition of humming - fading into background noise, like they do, off the radars of society. 10 unrhymed couplets - uneven lengths - reflecting mixed bag and dislocation. 

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Skirrid Fawr

Edge of Brecon Beacons, see Wales & Eng. Scoop soil legend - locals took this for good luck, sprinkled it on crops/coffins. "Holy Scar" - split by God's Grief. "Answers" - mountains legend, Mount Olympus - home of Greek Gods - seek answers. 

Nature, Beauty, Meaning, Division 

Female personification of Nature. Semantic field of writing/language. "cleft pallete" - Sheers had one. "East-west flanks" - refer to Eng. "Vernacular" = local language, colloquial. 

Free verse. Couplets. 

IDEA: Brings together ideas that have been presented across the collection. Subtle thematic/language links to various other poems. 


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