Compare and contrast two poems, one by each poet, taking account of the methods (situation, form and structure, and language, including imagery and tones) which each poet uses to write about her mother.
The poems ‘Originally’ by Carol-Ann Duffy and ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ by Liz Lochhead both deal with the theme of journeys. The former poem is about a situation in which the speaker and her family moved cities. It describes the speaker’s uncertainty with regards to her identity. The second poem, ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ recalls the first time the speaker as a fourteen year old took the bus into the city of Glasgow with her friends.
For both the speakers, the journey and experience are new to them. They both share similar environments in which they travel, with the speaker in ‘Originally’ riding in a ‘red room’ and the speaker in ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ travelling in a ‘red bus’. In exploiting the colour red, the poets may be conveying a sense of anxiety that accompanies the speakers on their unfamiliar journeys.
However, any sense of anxiety felt by the speaker in ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ is short lived and replaced with excitement as with, ‘money burning a hole’ in the girls’ pockets, they began ‘dreaming’ themselves up. On the other hand, the anxiety felt by the speaker in ‘Originally’ doesn’t deteriorate but worsens and affects not only the speaker, but her entire family too, ‘My parents’ anxiety stirred like a loose tooth.’ This speaks to the permanency and consequences of each journey. For the speaker in Duffy’s poem, the consequences of the journey are large and the relocation is permanent as although she wants to return to her ‘own country’ desperately, she cannot. In contrast, the journey taken by the speaker in ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ is temporary and the consequences, little. Once the speaker has explored her destination of Glasgow city, she and her friends will return to their rural homes.
‘Originally’ is arranged in three stanzas, each with eight lines, this ridged structure allows the reader to consider fully, the impact of the journey. In addition, each stanza takes a different viewpoint; therefore by taking a separate stanza for each one the reader can follow each perspective more easily. The first stanza describes the journey through the eyes of the speaker as a child, the second takes a generic view of childhood overall and considers it metaphorically, and the third is from the speaker’s perspective again, this time as an adult who is still struggling with her identity.
Similarly, ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ is arranged into three stanzas, however, each with a different number of lines, the poem is in free verse. This is to accommodate the anecdotal style of the poem. The poet arranges this poem into three stanzas to represent the three different stages of the journey, the first as the speaker is leaving the rural country-side, the second deals with the approach to the city, and the third describes the city of Glasgow itself.
Both poets use enjambment in their work however; the technique is employed to give different effects. In ‘Originally’ it is used to represent the flow of the journey as they, ‘fell through the fields’. On the other hand, enjambment is used in ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ to represent the speaker’s awe as she tries to take in everything she sees.
The poem ‘Originally’ uses a variety or sentence length to symbolise different stages of childhood. Duffy uses long sentences, ‘Some are slow,/ leaving you standing, resigned, up an avenue where no one you know stays,’ to represent the long, drawn out stages of growing up. Short sentences are used also, ‘Others are sudden’ to follow the words and symbolise the sudden changes that occur in childhood.
The language used in ‘Originally’ suggests that the journey the speaker took with her family was easy and had no physical barriers. This is shown through the presentation of speed as their train, ‘fell through the fields’ and ‘the miles rushed back’. Apart from the speaker’s emotional unease, the journey from their old home to their new one is easy. However, in ‘Lanarkshire Girls’, the journey seems the opposite, the language suggests that the countryside and nature are trying to stop the girls from leaving to go into the city, ‘We bent whole treetops/ squeezing through and they rained down twigs, broken bits of foliage, old blossom on the roof,/chucked hard wee balls’. It is possible that the poet is describing the fight between nature and industrialisation here.
Both poets use colloquial language in their poems which makes the reader feel more connected with the speaker. In ‘Originally’, the speaker uses the word, ‘skelf’ in place of ‘splinter’, this shows us that although she is uncertain of her identity, her Scottish roots still show through even though she has adapted saying, ‘my voice/ in the classroom sounding just like the rest.’ Lochhead uses the phrase, ‘chucked hard wee balls’ which shows the speaker’s rural accent.
The poems have two very different tones. The tone throughout ‘Originally’ is sad, ‘My brothers cried, one bawling home’, melancholy, ‘I want our own country’, and uncertain, ‘Where do you come from?/ strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate’. To counter this, the tone in ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ begins impatient and ‘annoyed’, before succumbing to adoration, shown through the use of plosive verbs, ‘glamorous Gallowgate’ and ‘proud pubs’, before finishing with excitement, ‘it/ spilled us out… dreaming ourselves up,/ with money burning a hole in our pockets.’
Each poet speaks about a journey, however, the journey in ‘Originally’ is painful and permanent with the journey in ‘Lanarkshire Girls’ exciting and temporary.