From your reading of poetry, show how two or three of the poems may have given you a new different sense of poetry or of human experience, and comment on how these effects were achieved in the poetry. Refer to poems of at least two different poets.
Poets often describe a scene for us to absorb or understand. Occasionally they feed us ideas to make us wonder, question and think.
I have chosen the poems “Hitler’s first photograph” and “The Captain of the1964 Top of the Form team” because they show us how time changes situations.
The poem “The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form team” is written in the first person and is therefore is a more personal poem; the persona is a man yearning to capture the glories of his lost youth. It has a very nostalgic tone that makes it more intense and meaningful. It makes us think that as we get older things do change, and not always for the better: “I want it back. The captain. The one with all the answers”.
The persona in this poem was a very successful teenager: he was intelligent, confident, had an intense social life, he “lived in a kind of fizzing hope”, he had great expectations for the future.
However, when he enters into adulthood nothing is as good, he is not as successful as he hoped to be: “I say to my boss”, he has a boss; “I say to my stale wife”, his sexual life wasn’t as he thought it would be by looking at his teenage years where he was confident and successful with girls. The persona has a frustrated adult life where he is disappointed in what he has turned to be, his life as an adult is not connected to his life as an adolescent.
This poem shows me how, even if you are very popular and successful in your adolescent years, it can all turn around against you and have a very unhappy adult life where you spend a lot of your time looking back at the past with rose-tinted glasses and thinking he could have done so much better with his life.
It is a lesson on how we can’t take for granted anything as our future is what we build throughout the years. The persona in this poem was a very intelligent teenager: “And the photograph. I look so brainy you’d think I’d just had a bath” and had a great future predicted for him: “I ran to the Spinney in my prize shoes, up Churchill Way, up Nelson Drive”, the names of the streets show expectation for adulthood because they have been very successful people; however he either made a mistake or there was a change in his life (the poem doesn’t say what happened) that destroyed his future and made him feel unhappy and frustrated. To show how it all changed Duffy writes a very sinister sentence that evocates the last image of childhood: “I smiled as wide as a child who went missing on the way home from school”. His journey of life has been interrupted by a tragedy and is now gone on a different direction, one which he doesn’t enjoy and which he never wanted.
The poet uses simple and familiar language to make us all related to this poem, as we can very easily have a similar experience to the one the persona has had.
Carol Ann Duffy uses very sensual related memories because it is a great aid to nostalgia: “Gargling with Vimto”, “the clever smell of my satchel”; she also uses colloquial language to show that the persona as an adult still hasn’t forgotten his background, when he was a well liked adolescent: “no snags”, “my lips numb as a two-hour snog”; in addition Duffy recalls extracts of songs or pop singers, who became very popular in the sixties: “Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Baby Love, Oh Pretty Woman”, “the Beatles were everywhere else”, ” I pulled my hair forward with a steel comb that I blew like Mick”, “The first cord of A Hard Day’s Night loud in my head”
The most important aspect that the persona recalls is all the knowledge that he had in his young years, this shows us how as times change we usually end up being strangers of the world that we live in because we no longer understand it, the poet expresses this by comparing all his knowledge in the first three stanzas (adolescence period): “The Nile rises in April”, “I knew the capitals, the Kings and Queens, the dates”, “the white sleeve of my shirt saluted again and again. Sir!…Correct.”, “Dominus domine dominum” “The blazer. The badge. The tie.” ; and his ignorance in the fourth and last stanza (adulthood): “Name the Prime Minister of Rhodesia”, “How many florins in a pound?”. All the questions he asks his children are not valid anymore because neither Rhodesia nor florins exist anymore, however he is not capable of understanding this and he instead calls them “thick kids”. He is stuck in the past, and this is something that can happen to all of us and condition the rest of our life. This poem has showed me that we can’t keep thinking about what we used to be, but we have to think of the day to day, Carpe Diem.
In the second poem “Hitler’s first photograph”, Szymborska is mulling over the infinite opportunities with which a child is presented. She, and we, know the outcome for this particular child, but the persona in the poem is unaware; this is why we call this type of poem a dramatic irony: “Will he grow up to be an L.L.D.?”, “Where will those tootsy-wootsies finally wander?”. She uses this to make us think that had he developed differently, the world might have been a very different place.
The poet uses an innocent, naï¿½ve and ironic tone in this poem to reflect that the persona is unknowing of what is going to happen: “Spring sun, geraniums in windows”; it is, however, sinister in some way: “No one hears howling dogs, or fate’s footsteps” and it therefore makes us feel a bit uncomfortable, even though we already know the outcome.
Another way of expressing the unconsciousness of the future is by using simple and clear language, very maternal and innocent vocabulary: “whose teensy hand is this, whose little ear and eye and nose”, “precious little angel, mommy’s sunshine, honey bun”. As Szymborska does very often, simple language is used to describe more complex ideas such as this situation where she is trying to explain, despite her Polish roots, that Hitler was not evil when he was born, but he transformed along the years. She also uses Hitler because it is a famous example which everyone can understand, but it can be attributed on anybody: we all start being normal little babies, but with the years can turn to be anything just depending on chance and on being in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong moment.
The structure of this poem shows the different aspects of life when Hitler was being born. The first stanza is asking questions about “little Adolf’s” future, talking about “normal” jobs: “printer’s, doctor’s, merchant’s, priest’s?”; in this stanza all the lines are question except for one: “Whose tummy full of milk, we just don’t know”, this emphasizes the uncertainty of his future, how in his early childhood he wasn’t evil. The second stanza is about how was Germany when Hitler was being born: “While he was being born, a year ago”, “a lucky fortune wrapped in rosy paper” again shows uncertainty of the future, the poet is showing how there were no signs in the world that he was going to be the person who killed so many innocent people, it was just a normal spring day. The third stanza talks about a photograph that was being taken in the moment the persona is describing: “the camera will click from under the black hood”. The final stanza shows once again the unawareness of what was going to happen: “Braunen is a small but worthy town- honest businesses, obliging neighbours”, “no one hears howling dogs”, “a history teacher loosens his collar and yawns over homework.”, this last sentence is trying to express that Hitler has changed History radically, but no one knew at the moment he was being born.
Another way Szymborska is showing us that he was a normal child is by comparing him to other boys, using metaphors: “looks just like his folks, like a kitten in a basket”. By doing this she is demonstrating that he was, in fact, just normal, and that his parents had the same worries than any other parent.
With all these aspects in the poem Szymborska is basically trying to say that we are not born evil, but we might get to be evil with time and experience. It is a way of explaining that what happens to everybody during childhood and adolescence might change what we become.
In these poems, both poets are looking at the inevitable. One is saying that youth will fade and people become old, and that people will look nostalgically at their lost youth; the other makes us think that choices made in childhood and throughout our youth affect not only the person we become, but also the way we influence others, in this particular case the whole world.
Two thought-provoking poems which have made me feel uneasy.