Poetry creates people, place and issues. Discuss how these 3 poems recreate a time or situation and to what effect?
Death affects us all. However we are more often viewers, onlookers. Some people get to voice their last words, but little get to write an actual poem about death approaching. The poems “Remember” by Christina Rossetti, “Crabbit Old Woman” by Phyllis McCormack and “Refugee Mother and Child” by Chinua Achebe from the EDEXCEL English Anthology create and portray different times and issues by using vivid imagery, sounds and senses and some diction. They play on our emotional responses and provoke us to discuss this slightly controversial issue.
“Remember” written by Christina Rossetti tells of a person, in what may be their last moments in our world, informing their loved one not to hold on to her memory and her death forever. Set in the 18th century, mourning and grieving for a period of time was essential. The poem is structured into a sonnet, 14 lines, one stanza. This gives it credibility as sonnets are harder to write.
The poem starts off with “Remember me when I am gone away, Gone far away into the silent land;” repetition is used, “gone away, gone far away” to emphasize that the end is coming for this person. This line also depicts the image of the setting after death has come; the diction “silent land” creates imagery in our heads, a gloomy, grey scene, that’s deathly silent. Having said this, this also affects the reader’s emotion, making them turn serious and sad. Line 5 “Remember me when no more day by day.” Affects the reader’s emotion even more, saddening the reader. The next line “You tell me of our future that you planned”, it paints a picture in your head of her loved one that was once so hopeful and now hangs his head down in misery. The write also uses a direct mode of address “you planned” “you understand”; this creates a sense of closeness, as if she was talking to the reader, making the reader feel a part of this poem.
The most powerful line in this poem was line 11, “For if the darkness and corruption leave”, using diction, the author created this image of an evil darkness and a miserable corruption. The next line “A vestige of the thoughts that once I had” is written in the past tense, as if the person has already passed away, this again creates the mood of this poem.
“Remember” is a sophisticated poem that’s not easy to understand. Some parts rhyme but the rhyming scheme is inconsistent, making the rhythm choppy . Reading this from a teenage point of view is not as effective because it is hard to understand.
“Crabbit Old Woman” on the other hand was wonderfully effective. Its rhyming scheme made it fun to read, once read aloud the rhyming scheme creates a rhythm almost as if to the beat of an old lady swaying in a rocking chair. The poem is written in free verse, in one whole stanza and it uses emotional response and imagery to create effectiveness.
The poem starts off with repetition, “What do you see, nurses, what do you see?” emphasizing the fact that the nurses think she’s just a plain old lady. The author goes to describe her situation using witty rhyming, “Who seems not to notice the things that you do, and forever is losing a stocking or shoe.” This witty rhyming also creates imagery in our heads, picturing the old woman “Uncertain of habit, with far-away eyes,” There are many rhetorical questions as well, “With bathing and feeding the long day to fill?” “Is that what you’re thinking, is that what you see?” these questions provoke thought.
Starting from line 29 to 84, the author takes us on a trip down her memory lane, describing, almost in a timeline, what happened in her life. This creates vivid imagery in the readers’ mind. “I’m a small child of ten with a father and mother, brothers and sisters who love one another,” pictures the old lady as a small child. Line 33″A young girl of sixteen with wings on her feet” here we see a teenager eager to meet the man of her life. Line 41, “At twenty-five now I have young of my own” paints a portrait of her as a young adult with children to care for. Line 46, “At forty my young sons will soon all be gone,” line 53 “At fifty once more babies play round my knee” draws her as a grandmother with grandchildren to care for. The next event is where her husband dies, “Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead” this affects the emotions of the readers, depressing them. “I shudder with dread”, using diction, the author has created an image in our heads of how she felt, how scared and heartbroken she was.
Then, using simple diction to create sympathy from the reader she writes “For my young are all busy with young of their own,” “I’m an old woman now and nature is cruel, ’tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.” She then switches and uses harder diction to describe with metaphors how old age negatively affects her, “The body it crumbles, grace and vigour depart.” Line 71 is a powerful line, “There now is a stone where I once had heart.” To describe the heart, the thing that we depend on to live, as a stone, justifies just how cold, lonely she feels. She however turns positive “But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells”, “my battered heart wells, I remember the joys, I remember the pain” this also lifts the spirit of the reader. This timeline, this trip down the memory lane makes the reader feel as if they were there with the author at the same time; as if they were with her the whole time she was growing.
The last few lines “So open your eyes, nurses, open and see, not a crabbit old woman, look closer- see ME” emphasize to a great extent how exasperated and irritated she is of the nurses not seeing past her appearance. The reader feels this exasperation too. It is a powerful ending and leaves the reader with a kind of satisfaction that the author has made her point effectively.
The poem “Refugee Mother and Child” solely uses sounds and senses to convey the hardships of death and grimness of the environment. The first stanza states that no person can touch a mother’s tenderness for a son that she would soon lose, immediately this affects the reader’s emotional response, toning down the mood of the poem.
The start of the second stanza, “The air was heavy with odours of diarrhoea of unwashed children” this almost makes the reader smell what the setting smells like, the foul odour drifting everywhere. The author then generates sympathy from the audience by writing “steps behind blown empty bellies. Most mothers there had long since ceased to care but not this one”. Another emotional response would be pride, “she held a ghost smile between her teeth and in her eyes the ghost of a mother’s pride”, the reader would be proud that the mother still cares for her child that has passed away. An image is produced, “as she combed the rust-coloured hair left on his skull and then-singing in her eyes – began carefully to part it” making the reader cringe at its grotesqueness.
The hyphen creates a pause, emphasizing the “singing in her eyes” showing that she is trying to desperately make the situation better. The last part of the poem is very strong, “In another life this would have been a little daily act of no consequence before his breakfast and school; now she did it like putting flowers on a tiny grave” this is a metaphor for doing something extremely minor to make a situation that is completely devastating, slightly better. The poem leaves the reader sorrowful and depressed, leaving the impact of the disastrous situation to sink into the reader’s perception.
Overall, I think “Crabbit Old Woman” was the most effective poem. “Remember” was very sophisticated but hard to understand. “Refugee Mother and Child” was realistic, but the impact of it was very hard, leaving the reader very poignant. “Crabbit Old Woman” was fun to read, easy to understand, and also provokes thought. It changes our views of the elderly generation and it makes us wonder if we will be like that ourselves when we progress into our late years.