Intense Personal Memories and Reflections

Intense personal memories and reflections have always been an inspiration to poets. Explore this concept with regards to the poems that you have studied referring to three poems in detail and at least three poems from your wider reading. The theme of reflections is something frequently explored in literature. It is truly a powerful force. It can bestow courage, feelings of warmth, and even overwhelm you and this is exactly what the below six poets did by manipulating their personal and emotional reflections to generate an emotive impact on us by using a variety of literary devices to present to us a ‘window’ into their pasts.
Alice Walker (Poem at Thirty-Nine), U. A. Fanthorpe (Half past Two) and D. H. Lawrence (Piano) have all portrayed powerful emotional memories and reflections in their poems. “Poem At Thirty-Nine” was concerning a woman who learnt everything from her father and desired to do the simple things he did during his life although she was very privileged to acquire an education hence she could better herself in life. “Follower” by Seamus Heaney was a poem that related to the admiration of their parent. Half-Past Two” evaluated the predicament of a young boy in an after school punishment for “Something Very Wrong” but he was instructed to remain in the schoolroom until “half- past two” but he did not understand the concept of time. “My Parents Kept Me from Children Who Were Rough” by Stephen Spender evaluated a childhood problem similarly to “Half-Past Two” where in this case, the title is self-explanatory. Piano” was a well-defined example of the author of the poem ruminating on his past life, but in particular, music of his childhood making him return to certain events forcefully but he realised how much he has transformed and the memories made him crave to return to the past. “Once Upon A Time” by Gabriel Okara also was a poem where the adult wanted to return to the past but in this poem, it was not for a childhood memory but a quality that was expelled from his mind during adulthood. D. H.
Lawrence’s “Piano” was written in quatrains with 3 stanzas. The structure of 3 stanzas divided the poem into 3 different parts which made it organised and stanzas created a clear space in time. Through the usage of stanzas, the emotional contrasts between his dwelling in his childhood memories and the aftermath are much more distinct and easier to apprehend. With the change from the second to the third stanza, the persona’s memories of delight were juxtaposed with reality settling in where Lawrence’s language now was in the present.

The poet used several poetic devices but one that triumphs was his distinct word placement and perfectly placed words and syllables. This portrayed the intensity of emotion in the poem since he knew the exact phrases and words to maximise the effect of presenting emotions in a sophisticated manner. A perfect example of this would be where instead of just saying “going back” or “train of thought” he used “vista of years. ” Another example of this specific word usage was when Lawrence used the phrase “Till I see” which communicated the message in a more powerful manner than “I remember. The poet chose a particular phrase because he wanted to communicate exact images and not leave a lot of room for assumption since just using “I remember” or “going back” could be a range of memories. He also used phrases such as “A child” to refer to himself and he referred to his mother as “A mother” which made the poem impersonal but it was an attempt to make him detached from the memories and as if he almost didn’t distinguish his past self, seeing that he has changed so much. Lawrence utilised a variety of poetic devices such as sibilance, onomatopoeia and what I think to be his most effective and successful, his selective diction.
The poet has effectively established an enthralling atmosphere for the poem by using sibilance. He used sibilance not just for an atmosphere creation but to add a sinister and harsh tone to a line: “In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song. ” That was also another precisely chosen phrase. There were many examples of sibilance such as “Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;” and “…smiles as she sings,” where the “s” sounds similar to that of a whisper which portrayed. Now the intensity of his memory but now it’s beginning to emotionally hurt him.
Also when the poet asserted “In spite of myself,” he was forced to reckon these moments, he referred to his masculinity. The “insidious mastery of song… Betrays me back,” tricked him into the nostalgia of childhood, it forced him to “weep to belong,” since he didn’t want to revisit the past. He pulled himself out of recalling about the child he was with the phrase “In spite of myself” The poet used the words “Sunday” and “at home” which gave a sense of resting and peace but he used a contradictory metaphor, “winter outside” which meant the harsh world outside his safe home.
As that stanza continued, you saw the theme of safety and comfort continues where he said “hymns in the cozy parlour. ” The hymns show that the family was a God-fearing family and a parlour was where the best things in the house were and where guests usually were so that also shows a close knitted family and the sense of security between the family members. The poet also used onomatopoeia in “boom of the tingling strings” and “tinkling “ since “boom” and “tinkling” described their own sound.
Lawrence used a musical term in the final stanza “With the great black piano appassionato” which enhanced the impression on the reader. As the reader, “appassionato” was more impacting than loud since it was associated to music and it was more expressive. “Appassionato” added to the fact that to the character’s music didn’t matter anymore and that he’d rather be with his mother. The singer, his mother, was trying “in vain” which and continued where the mother singing was “clamour” so she comprehended that he was beginning to lose attention but her attempts to retrieve his focus we futile.
He then used the pejorative term, “childish days” which tended to suggests immaturity but the “glamor” of those days makes him long for it. Also this extract “… my manhood is cast/Down in the flood of remembrance…” shows that he wept like a child for the past therefore by his weeping; the gap between child and man, sentiment and masculinity, and past and present is abridged. Personally, I think anyone can relate to this poem because no matter who you are there’s that one moment in childhood everyone longs to return to and just like Lawrence, everyone sees it as a “glamor. “Once Upon A Time” by Gabriel Okara is related to “Piano” because within the poem, there was the desire to return to the past but in this poem, it was a conversation between a father and a son where the father was relating how actions of people were executed when he was young compared to the present and now the father (narrator) wished he could return to his original innocent state. Unlike “Piano,” “Once Upon A Time” was a free verse poem.
The first three stanzas have the same general pattern where Okara starts by narrating the past and explaining how things used to be, but then he tells the negative reality, making the tone of the poem very sinister and bitter by using phrases such as “ice – block cold eyes” and “shake hands without hearts,” whereas in “Piano” there was a sinister undertone with the “insidious” sibilance. The mood of this poem for the majority of it was seriousness but at the ending, the mood changes to regret and you see how heartfelt the father’s desire to become like what he used to be. So show me, son, how to laugh; show me how… I used to laugh and smile… once upon a time when I was like you. ” The repetition in that extract emphasised the genuineness of his regret. A simile that Okara used to express his regret was “…my teeth like a snake’s bare fangs! ” which shows who remorseful he feels by using a poisonous snake to represent his teeth. So we see that just as how Lawrence wants to return to his childhood for the memories, Okara wants to learn from his past by letting his son teach him how to show his true feelings again. Poem at Thirty-Nine” by Alice Walker differs from Piano and Half-Past Two because it is a free verse poem. In free verse poems, you tend to get the memories that was most impacted on you so the reflection becomes more fascinating. Although this poem was written in free verse, there was still a distinct separation between the two sections of the poem. That was presented in the repetition of the phrase “How I miss my father” where the first time, it seemed like she was sighing of deliberation and remorse.
This remorse can also be linked in with the phrase “though many of my truths must have grieved him before the end. ” She now recognised that what she disclosed might have upset him but the second time was with an exclamation mark, instead of a sigh, it appeared to be more like a wail. At this point she recalled and missed her father and the fun things about him. Finally there was the stanza that concludes poem which told us that she has become the woman that her father wanted her to be.
Walker used simple language that was never overstated or simulated in any way so without the use of the extravagant words; you can clearly perceive that this poem is coming from her heart. She used simple, short phrases and sentences such as “Writing slips and deposit checks” or “cooking, writing, chopping wood” which also gives you an impression of Walker attempting to communicate with the reader and not narrating a story. This is a significant contrast from the poem “Piano” because in piano, the entire poem was based on the perfect layout of words and syllables using complex vocabulary.
This poem consisted of various literary devices such as similes, metaphors and the dominating symbolism. One simile used in the poem was “He cooked like a person dancing” which contrasts with the proceeding line “in a yoga meditation” but nonetheless the dancing showed that the father enjoyed cooking but he seems concentrated and contented with his actions. An example of a metaphor in the poem was “my brain light” which was an usual combination of words but the light can be ascertained to either be free from care, worry or stress and even meditation.
Then, there was the many examples of symbolism but I think the most obvious would be “…tossing this and that into the pot; seasoning none of my life the same way twice;” this can be understood where she was carefree and she has a lack of concern and attention to details. The “seasoning” would be a symbol of her daily activities. Another symbolic phrase would be “cooking, writing, chopping wood, staring into the fire. ” To me, I see those actions as symbols of independence where she was able to survive without relying on her parents. Chopping wood” shows that she’s not afraid of the gender boundary of the society then since women were looked down upon and they had little to no rights and it was the same for Black-Americans and Alice Walker had the privilege of being from both groups. She later became a racial and women’s activist. You could say that she is a modern woman, being able to be independent and fight for her beliefs. Any father “would have grown to admire” the woman she had become especially hers who had been a freed slave. “Follower” by Seamus Heaney was written in quatrains each of the six stanzas has four lines thus being a structured poem.
This poem relates to “Poem at Thirty-Nine” because it focuses on admiration just like in “Poem at Thirty-Nine” The poem has multiple splits where particular stanzas focus on different people. Stanza one to three focuses on the expertise in the farm by his father. Evidence where this is clearly seen is “The horse strained at his clicking tongue” where you notice that with an effortless human noise and he controls the animals on the farm. A more obvious example was just the two word sentence “An Expert” which just states that he was excellent at what he did.
Then stanzas four to six, Heaney talked about himself being a nuisance on the farm and what made this apparent was that Heaney begins to use the pronoun “I. ” “I stumbled… / I was a nuisance, tripping, falling” where Heaney admits that he was, in fact, a nuisance, but there was a twist at the end of the poem where “But today… It is my father who keeps stumbling… Behind me, and will not go away. ” And this was the ultimate theme of the poem – the relationship of the father and the son and how the role of being a farmer is reversed when you age.
The mood of this poem was actually not one of bitterness but love between the father and son although that word was never mentioned in the poem. There were similes, metaphors, oxymoron and onomatopoeia used in this poem. “His shoulders globed like a full sail strung” This simile stressed how Heaney admired his father’s strength. “The sweating team turned round” This was a metaphor for the father controlling his son’s future. One of the oxymoron examples were: “Polished sod” which highlights that you cannot have smooth mud, so Heaney cannot follow.
Onomatopoeia: “Dipping and rising to his plod” accentuated Heaney as a young boy following his father, and also his father’s farming, the movement of the horse-plough. Reading this poem, people can relate to this poem because in everyone’s life, you eventually move up in life from the nuisance to the one who actually does the work and the same people who thought you we’re the nuisance to them, you now think they hinder you. “Half-Past Two” by U. A. Fanthorpe is a structured poem where each stanza has three lines each.
The poem follows a chronological order where it began him in a classroom in his after school punishment and it follows the events like a time lapse until the teacher dismissed him but then you notice that the poem ends on a philosophical note. In the first stanza, we saw evidence of there being a contrast in age in the lines being spoken by a narrator in third person and in brackets, the narrator in first person narrative. We saw evidence of this throughout the poem. For example, “He did Something Very Wrong… (I forget what it was)” Everything spoken by the first person narrator was written in brackets but when he was relating the past events he writes freely. When Fanthorpe was reflecting upon his younger childhood; he could not tell the time so time existed for him in personal interactions and it was important times such as “Gettinguptime, Timeyouwereofftime, Timetogohometime, TVtime… ” and the concept of the “half – past two” was not understood by him. This poem, just like all the other poems, has a great amount of literary devices such as personification, repetition and oxymoron. One example of personification was where he attempted to comprehend the concept of time as a child and the personified the clock “… he little eyes, the long legs for walking,” but still he could not “click its language” which meant no matter how hard he tried to figure out the clock and how it works, all his attempts were unsuccessful. In stanza seven, he is in a moment of isolation – “Out of reach from all timefors” and away from the impact of time – “He’d escaped time for ever” which is comprehended as his escape from the world of time and in a fairy tale world where time has no existence. The poem from this point begins to slow down and becomes hypnotic where he was realising the routine of his life and how monotonous it was.
It was as if he was falling into a trance of his regular daily life and this hypnotic stanza was achieved by the repetition of “Into” and we also see oxymoron where Fanthorpe says “…silent noise his hangnail made. ” Then we see where he snaps out of the trance, it was as if he was slotted back into time where he was back into “teatime, Nexttime etc. ” When the teacher said “I forgot all about you,” the incident the child saw as being “Something Very Wrong” and “wicked” as of little importance to the teacher. These “time” words increase the tempo of the poem like if it was back into the fast lane of life.
The language of the poem now becomes more adult so it could possibly be when Fanthorpe has just got himself out of his reflections and back to present. Fanthorpe uses phrases such as “Clockless land forever” which refers back to a fairy tale where time does not exist and he not knowing time, allowed him just to live without fear of time being over. He also uses the word “Forever” which links back to “into ever,” a place where time was infinite and does not exist or cannot be measured. The poem ends from instead of being just a reflection; Fanthorpe personified ime “time hides tick-less waiting to be born” which can be comprehended as waiting for tome to be discovered as a concept which controls our life. This poem made me and I can assure anyone who is reading “Half-Past Two” they will realise, just like how I have, the extent of how these time periods control our life and without it, the world will either go into complete peace since it will be peaceful and there will be no need to rush or it would be a catastrophe where to world goes into uproar since people depend and base their lives on this concept of time. My Parents Who Kept Me from Children Who Were Rough” by Stephen Spender was a poem about a child who was protected from the outside world by his parents and the bullying children who roamed the streets. Spender’s poem was divided into three verses of equal length, though the verse division seems more of a visual device than anything else. The lines are roughly the same length and have an irregular rhythm. It was similar to the poem “Half-Past Two” since it also involved a childhood predicament but in this poem, the parents assisted the child to avoid any severe danger to their son.
Spender uses the pronoun “I” which makes the poem personal and you clearly see that Spender was reflecting on his own personal encounters. The poetic devices that I observed in this poem were alliteration, similes and enjambment on the first line of the poem. Alliteration was seen in “climbing cliffs” and the simile was seen “like dogs to bark at our world” which can be understood as people who attacked other peoples’ lives. In those poems, each and every one, reflections are a major part to the poets influence for the masterpieces of work. Poem at Thirty-Nine” and “Follower” we saw pure admiration and love pour out of those poems, even though some might be hampered in the sadness and remorse, the sensation of awe to the poets’ parents was still present. Piano’ shows its power to overwhelm a fully grown man and drive him to the point of tears. “Half-Past Two” was one of those amazing poems where if you begin to imagine what would it be like and your imagination just runs wild. Once Upon A Time” is another fantastic and usual piece of poetry where instead of having a child admire a father; Okara did the opposite and have the parent running to the child for wisdom which is a notable ironic twist that was very uncommon. “My Parents Kept Me from Children Who Were Rough” is one of those stories where there is just nonstop bullying and you think the person being bullied would never recover, in this poem we actually see the poet forgive his enemies which now makes me admire him for that bold move although the street children never paid any attention to him.
Personally I believe in the power of memory. Through recollecting the past and reflecting upon it, I see what I can do to improve myself and be a better person. With it you can become happy but yet be pained by it and I have my regrets but those memories hurt, keep me awake at night and cause fits of depression. It is a normal part of life. Live with it, do not seek to dwell in the past and create more memories worth remembering.

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