Recognition – Carol Ann Duffy – Analysis

Recognition

Things get away from one.
I’ve let myself go, I know.
Children? I’ve had three
and don’t even know them.

I strain to remember a time
when my body felt lighter.
Years. My face is swollen
with regrets. I put powder on,

but it flakes off. I love him,
through habit., but the proof
has evaporated. He gets upset.
I tried to do all the essentials

on one trip. Foolish, yes,
but I was weepy all morning.
Quiche. A blond boy swung me up
in his arms and promised the earth.

You see this came back to me
as I stood on the scales.
I wept. Shallots. In the window
creamy ladies held a pose

which left me clogged and old.
The waste. I forgotten my purse,
fumbled; the shopgirl gaped at me
compassionless. Claret. I blushed.

Cheese. Kleenex. It did happen.
I lay in my slip on wet grass,
laughing. Years. I had to rush out,
blind in a hot flush and bumped

into an anxious, dowdy matron
who touched the cold mirror
and stared at me. Stared
and said I’m sorry sorry sorry.

Carol Ann Duffy (1955 –
from her Selected Poems book

S1, S2 – This is a lady talking, seemingly a lady of that age where her children have left home and leading their own lives and a lady that unfortunately has let things go a little regarding her body and weight. She reflects back to the time when she was lighter and this appears painful for the word strain is used. Her weight problem may have affected her face or it is just painful to accept what has happened to her over time. She is in the process of coming to terms with the situation and hence the title recognition.

S3 – She can’t change of hide the situation with powder on the face. This is merely a superficial way of dealing with the change. She still loves her partner out of duty and it appears that sex is no longer happening – the proof has evaporated.

S4 – This is the start of a shopping sequence. Shopping is a dominant female duty in providing for the household and getting all the essentials can be regarded as a metaphor for life’s journey for she realises that she hasn’t got everything right on her journey and she is crying. Quiche is chosen against the thought of her partner’s unrealistic promise at the start of their relationship – a foreign word.

S5 – She may have weighed herself early in the morning before going shopping and this has caused her thoughts to go back to her slim figure of her younger years and generate tears. Shallots are chosen; well she could have chosen onions. She may have seen mannequins in a shop window (creamy ladies) and this has accentuated the difference when comparing the ideal with that of her own figure.

S6 – And then her predicament at the check-out when she can’t find her purse and the shopgirl shows no sympathy. Claret is such an appropriate item considering her blushing state.

S7 – Cheese for a smile and Kleenex for a tear. And that strong statement to herself that ‘it did happen’ (italics to give emphasis)– yes, she was happy once remembering a certain sexual instance Nice balance with the lack of sex in stanza three..

S8 – She rushes out of the shop. It is also menopause time. But she can’t escape who she is now and gives recognition to this fact in terms of – an anxious, dowdy matron – and she is so regretful saying sorry sorry sorry.

It is change of life time. The big question is – will she change her way of life and recover in some way and be more disciplined in the way she looks after her body. And having recognised the reality of where she is now will she forgive the past and look to a happier future. Is this going to be a turn around point in her life?

Carol Ann Duffy is the current Poet Laureate (since 2009 replacing Andrew Motion)

A Wikipedia link

Footnote … I participate in Parkrun and it is encouraging to see a number of over weight women starting to get back into exercise … walking is quite permisable … a free weekly event on a Saturday morning.

Journey into the interior – Theodore Roethke

Journey into the interior

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
— Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birch trees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.

Theodore Roethke (1908 -1963)

Arroyo = a small stream of running water
Butte = flat-topped hill

About not being you
About all the wayside pitfalls in life’s journey
About being in the uncomfortable zone
About the frightening feelings when in the wrong place
About the danger when you veer from your own journey
About being a round peg in a square hole
About being beside yourself in fear
About nature giving a clear message
About the internal battle of self-discovery

This is a list poem with many images on the danger of losing yourself when trying to do the reverse. And reading this poem it is not surprising that Theodore Roethke suffered from depression. There is no easy solution – the ravines ugly.

My only thought on the long journey out of self is to do just that get out of self, out of the interior nightmare, and share and talk with another soul. We all need a ‘life-line’ at some stage to steer us into calmer waters. And if you are in such circumstances my thoughts go with you as you read these words.

Theodore Roethke on Wikipedia

Felix Randal – Gerard Manley Hopkins

Felix Randal

Felix Randal the farrier, O is he dead then? my duty all ended,
Who have watched his mould of man, big-boned and hardy-handsome
Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled in it, and some
Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?

Sickness broke him. Impatient, he cursed at first, but mended
Being anointed and all; though a heavenlier heart began some
Months earlier, since I had our sweet reprieve and ransom
Tendered to him. Ah well, God rest him all road ever he offended!

This seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears.
My tongue had taught thee comfort, touch had quenched thy tears,
Thy tears that touched my heart, child, Felix, poor Felix Randal;

How far from then forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,
When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers,
Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889)

S1 … Felix Randal was a member of Hopkins’ congregation when a minister (priest) in Liverpool, England. So Hopkins gets the news that Randal is dead and therefore his duty as a priest is over. GMH obviously watched the decline of the big-boned handsome farrier as four disorders took control of his body.

S2 … Randal was impatient at the onset of the sickness wanting to get rid of it as it naturally hindered his normal life. But a heavenlier heart helped mend the situation implying a spiritual dimension developed by church involvement under the guidance of GMH – ‘I had our sweet reprieve and ransom / Tendered to him’ – communion.

S3 … Touch and talk helped in his ministration and GMH was very touched himself with the sorry state of the farrier. Sickness endears us to both the individual concerned and the sickness itself. Sickness creates a very personal intimacy between people.

S4 … And there is such a contrast GMH remembering back to the boisterous years when the farrier was well.

We are all touched by similar circumstances in life.

Gerard Manley Hopkins on Wikipedia 

Drowning is not so pitiful – Emily Dickinson

Drowning is not so pitiful

Drowning is not so pitiful
As the attempt to rise.
Three times, ‘t is said, a sinking man
Comes up to face the skies,
And then declines forever
To that abhorred abode

Where hope and he part company,—
For he is grasped of God.
The Maker’s cordial visage,
However good to see,
Is shunned, we must admit it,
Like an adversity.

Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

This is all about accepting death when death is inevitable. It is part of human nature to fight for survival. So is our attempt to maintain life to the very end pitiful.

Dylan Thomas has a villanelle in the opposition direction as portrayed by the first lines of his well-known poem – ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’. He commands us to rage against impending death – ‘Old age should burn and rave at close of day’.

The question is when to be accepting of approaching death and view death not as an adversity but as a welcome friend. There is a time to be submissive and a time to burn and rave to squeeze the most out of life. Only at the very last is the former more appropriate – a matter of judgement.

The ED poem implies that death will be the meeting of the cordial visage of our creator. We are inclined to be negative despite the great goodness in God. But didn’t the bible say something along the lines that each hair on your head is of concern and not to be afraid. So do do not worry if you are having a bad hair!

I have taken a view in line with Emily Dickinson in my reply below to the Dylan villanelle, however I have taken a more gentle approach, rather than the pitiful reproach of Emily Dickinson –

Go Gentle and Enjoy Your Last Day

go gentle and enjoy your last day
focus not on the loss of your sight
give a smile as you pass quietly away

a wise man knows how to play
knows exactly what is indeed right
go gentle and enjoy your last day

a good man accepts the pathway
as he enters the door of the night
give a smile as you pass quietly away

a brave man shows strong display
knows it useless in giving a fight
go gentle and enjoy your last day

a grave man will rise up to say
‘the end is turning quite bright’
give a smile as you pass quietly away

so to all I earnestly pray
savour the disappearing light
go gentle and enjoy your last day
give a smile as you pass quietly away

Richard Scutter

… A link to Emily Dickinson on Wikipedia.

 

My Home – Clive James – Analysis

My Home

Grasping at straws, I bless another day
Of having felt not much less than alright.
I wrote a paragraph and put some more
Books in a box for books to throw away.
Such were my deeds. Now, short of breath and sore
For all that effort, I prepare for night,
Which occupies the window, as I climb
The stairs. A step up and I stand, each time,

Posed like the statue of a man in pain,
Although I’m really not: just weak and slow.
This is the measure of my dying years:
The sad skirl of a piper in the rain
Who plays “My Home” If I seem close to tears
It’s for my sins not sickness. Soon the snow
Will finish readying the ground for spring.
The cold, if not the warmth that it will bring,

Is made, each day, to clearly manifest
I thank my lucky stars for second sight.
The children of our street head off for school
Most mornings, stronger for their hours of rest.
Plump in their coloured coats they prove a rule
By moving brilliantly through white light:
We fade away, but vivid in our eyes
A world is born again that never dies.

Clive James (1939 –

This poem was the last poem in the anthology “Best Australian Poems – 2014” edited by Geoff Page: appropriately positioned. There are three eight line iambic pentameter stanzas with rhyming scheme ‘abcacbdd’. As usual  CJ is very respectful of form and structure in his work.

CJ is nearing the end of his life and this has been the case for several years now. As indicated in the text he is not in pain but he has breathing problems and consequently his mobility is limited – the first line could easily be ‘G(r)asping at straws, I bless another day’ – and the simple task of walking up the stairs is a great effort as he has to rest after each step – ‘A step up and I stand, each time’.

The ‘sad skirl’ (shrill whirling sound) of the lone piper playing ‘My Home’ – which is a reference to a traditional Scottish or Northumbrian pipe tune. It is used by military bands as a march past, but a slow march contrasting with quick march pasts such as “Highland Laddie” (information from Wikipedia).

For obvious reasons the spring will be cold for CJ as he anticipates the imminent closure of his life. And reflecting on his life there are regrets defined by his ‘sins’ – perhaps chosen for the s alliteration in this line.

The key to his mental outlook is in the line – ‘I thank my lucky stars for second sight.’ For CJ is referring to his new life in his modified state on approaching death. Ironically it is a golden time for him and he is very thankful that he has this second sight or second chance to look at life from quite a different perspective. Another of his poems is illustrative of this fact see ‘The Japanese Maple’ 

And sight and light are seen in the last stanza in double capacity. For CJ light is fading compared to the children who are ‘brilliantly walking in white light’ for they are the on-going metaphor for the eternal life cycle – ‘A world is born again that never dies’ – and this fact (rule) is ‘vivid in our eyes’. A nice way of putting it by using the word ‘rule’ which associates with school and learning.

And ‘My Home’ gives thought to the duality of the physical place that is home and the spiritual connection to the home of eternal life.

 

Would I might find my country – Roland Robinson – Comments

Would I might find my country

Would I might find my country as the blacks
come in and lean their spears up in the scrub,
and crouch and light their flickering fires and spread
their mission blankets on the ground beneath
the dark acacia and bauhinia trees.

Would I might find my people as the blacks
sit with their lubras, children, and tired dogs,
their dilly-bags, their bundles of belongings
tied up in scraps of some old coloured dress,
and pass the long straight smoking pipe around,
and talk in quiet calling voices while
the blood deep crimson flower of sunset burns
to smouldering ash and fume behind the trees,
behind the thin grassed ridges of their land.

Roland Robinson (1912 – 1992)

Lubras – A female Aboriginal Australian (now an offensive term, just as the use of ‘blacks’)
Dilly-bags – is a traditional Australian Aboriginal bag, generally woven from the fibres of plant species of the Pandanus genus.

Roland Robinson was born in Ireland and came to Australia when nine years old. He had many different jobs including a roustabout and boundary rider, railway fettler, cleaner, horse trainer, fencer, and factory worker. He was a conscientious objector in WW2 and was sent to work on the railways in the Northern Territory. It was here that he spent many years working and endorsing the Aborigine life style. And likewise he was highly appreciative of the Australian landscape. He was the first white poet to listen to, and collect, the anecdotes and oral traditions of the Aborigine population.

The poem (a sonnet with a 5/9 split) has nice balance between the start of the evening fire and the closing burn of sunset. It is clearly a statement that the European life style is somewhat wanting compared to that of the Aborigine. Unless one has that heritage it is difficult to comprehend the depth of feeling for the land. Maybe if we had such association we would be far more concerned with environmental issues.

Roland Robinson on Wikipedia

At Shagger’s Funeral – Bruce Dawe – Analysis

At shagger’s funeral

At Shagger’s funeral there wasn’t much to say
That could be said
In front of his old mum – she frightened us, the way
She shook when the Reverend read
About the resurrection and the life, as if
The words meant something to her, shook, recoiled,
And sat there, stony, stiff
As Shagger, while the rest of us, well-oiled,
Tried hard to knuckle down to solemn facts,
Like the polished box in the chapel aisle
And the clasped professional sorrow, but the acts
Were locked inside us like a guilty smile
That caught up with us later, especially when
We went round to pick up his reclaimed Ford,
The old shag-wagon, and beat out the dust
From tetron cushions, poured
Oil in the hungry sump, flicked the forsaken
Kewpie doll on the dash-board,
Kicked the hub-caps tubercular with rust.

The service closed with a prayer, and silence beat
Like a tongue in a closed mouth.
Of all the girls he’d loved or knocked or both,
Only Bev Whiteside showed – out in the street
She gripped her hand-bag, said, ‘This is as far
As I’m going, boys, or any girl will go
From now on.’

Later, standing about
The windy grave, hearing the currawongs shout
In the camphor-laurels, and his old lady cry
As if he’d really been a son and a half,
What could any of us say that wasn’t a lie
Or that didn’t end up in a laugh
At his expense – caught with his britches down
By death, whom he’d imagined out of town?

Bruce Dawe (1930 –

Australian vocabulary
Shagger
One who shags – offensive term for sexual intercourse, a shagger is one known for this as a dominant attribute
Tetron – polyester
Shag-wagon – also referred to in the 1970’s as a sin-bin, typically a panelvan
Currawong – Australian bird
Kewpie – brand of doll

S1 lines 1-8 …
Essential enjambment in lines 7-8 stiff as Shagger
This is all about Shaggers mum and her attendance at the service … on a religious note there was nothing that could be said that was in positive character for the afterlife – so maybe a great disappointment in that regard as his mum visibly shook – showing a little distaste with the behaviour of her son
S1 lines 8-13
His young mates – well-oiled (nice way to say having had a few, considering the shag-wagon  description later – poured oil in the hungry wagon – well they were completely out of place in the church and the service … with no understanding as closed to them as Shagger was in his box
S1 lines 14-20
The mates taking care of the shag-wagon … such an apt description of the panelvan with great representation on the life of Shagger … love the image of ‘hub-caps tubercular with rust’ – the car dying in sympathy with the owner while his mates seem to have some guilt association with that life style, guilt promoted perhaps after being in Church

S2 – the service closure and – ‘silence beat like a tongue in a closed mouth’ – this sums up the whole situation – the locked from speech of all attendees who cannot give expression to their true feelings. But Bev Whitehouse is the only one of his girl friends to turn up and waits outside the church and aptly voices the end to any shagging from Shagger – ‘This is as far / As I’m going, boys, or any girl will go / From now on.’

S3 – Well, it is all about looking at the positives and negating anything that would be completely insensitive at the graveside and perhaps some distortion of the truth might eventuate. Later you can be honest with your mates at the wake and remember with more honesty and with a laugh. Of course Shagger may not have literally been caught with his pants down when he died but appropriate words for his untimely death.

This is such a period piece of poetry defining the Australian scene in the seventies.

More details on this poem

Bruce Dawe is an Australian poet, considered by some as one of the most influential Australian poets of all time.

And Bruce Dawe on Wikipedia 

The Generosity – Luci Shaw – Comments

The Generosity

What well-chosen small presents
arrive almost every day, wrapped
in the newspaper of the ordinary!

No ribbons. No gift cards.
Just the coin of the sun glinting
behind a gray broth of clouds.

A knuckle of dark rock exposed as
a freeze lets go and the snow
settles in its own melting. Trees

showing off their good bones, skeletal,
naked—their fractal structures
echoing the repeating patterns of atoms.

Last week a tender rain came and went,
and our roof gutters gurgled their watery
joy at being useful.

And today, a raven feather on
the sidewalk and wings in the sky,
memos from heaven everywhere.

Luci Shaw (1928 –

From ‘Sea Glass’New and Selected Poems

… stop, say thank you for the beauty in the common place … arrive almost every day, wrapped / in the newspaper of the ordinary! … what a nice way of putting it … I have been known to wrap presents in newspaper … and the arrival of the newspaper is quite an ordininary affair

… and a thank you to the creator … the coin of the sun glinting … perhaps the sun is more than the sun … with Son, religious connotations … a gift of priceless value

… depression dissipates by its own destruction … the snow / settles in its own melting … winter (or depression) … cures itself from the inside … and of course time is needed, well known for anyone suffering from depression

… the basics, the essentials of life shown … echoing the repeating patterns of atoms … nature showing the beauty of its core elements in common structuring

… nature, responding to need … a tender rain came and went ... man made structure respond to the gift of rain in joyous personification … reflecting emotional state of the poet LS

… the light touch of God seen in the drift of … a raven feather … as it … wings in the sky … memos from heaven … spiritual communciation in the simpliest of things … great poetic interpretation

Luci Shaw shows her spiritual appreciation of the beauty around us with the poetic art of expressing this in a very acceptable way … stop, accept, appreciate – perhaps the first step in religious life

Details on Luci Shaw