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A treatment of Liz Lochhead's poem - Revelation

David Miller

on 1 October 2018

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Transcript of Revelation

Firstly, consider
what is a revelation?
Think about the connotations of the word.

When might someone experience a revelation?
religious ...
Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse of John ...
... a visionary experience
involving vivid symbolism?
Achievements of life are momentary, but realizations are longer lasting
The experience when something is revealed dramatically that was not previously known ...!
a dawning
I remember once being shown the black bull

when a child at the farm for eggs and milk.
I remember once
They called him Bob – as though perhaps

you could reduce a monster

with the charm of a friendly name.
A symbol of male sexuality? Of violence?
Of aggression ...?
Symbols of what? Nurture? Femininity?
Innocence ...?
Consider Lochhead's use of contrast ...
At the threshold of his outhouse, someone

held my hand and let me peer inside.
But consider the metaphorical sense of threshold ...
literally: a doorway
And in the yard outside,

oblivious hens picked their way about.
contrast in place
contrast in subject
Consider too the contrast
between 'picked' here and
'trampling', 'clanking' in the previous stanza ...
What does a word like 'oblivious' suggest? Lack of awareness ... ? Of what ... ?
The faint and rather festive tinkling

behind the mellow stone hasp was all they knew

of that Black Mass, straining at his chains.
I ran, my pigtails thumping on my back with fear,

past the big boys in the farm lane

who pulled the wings from butterflies and

blew up frogs with straws.
Pigtails are a symbol of childhood
innocence. Yet here they become
animated with fear and violence...
link to the 'black bull'
through alliteration ...
destruction ...
wanton cruelty
Past thorned hedge and harried nest,

scared of the eggs shattering –

only my small and shaking hand on the jug’s rim

in case the milk should spill.
Think about the 'thorned hedge' and 'harried nest'. What might they be symbols of ...?
Why has Lochhead used the word 'shattered' rather than simply broken?
How would you read he final lines of
the poem? A picture of childhood
A treatment of
Liz Lochhead's poem
of the mind ...
only my small and shaking hand on the jug’s rim
in case the milk should spill.
or, innocence touched
by experience ...?
female sexuality ...
Consider words such as 'faint', 'festive', tinkling' ... feminine connotations? Contrast the manly, aggressive 'jerking' and 'clanking' ...
consider the connotations
of Black Mass - evil, satanic
ritual ...
Black Mass - a play on words ...?
I had always half-known he existed –

this antidote and Anti-Christ, his anarchy

threatening the eggs, well-rounded, self-contained –

and the placidity of milk.
© David Miller 2010
At first, only black

and the hot reek of him. Then he was immense,

his edges merging with the darkness, just

a big bulk and a roar to be really scared of,

a trampling, and a clanking tense with the chain’s jerk.
look at the syntax -
no verb
What is the impact of the synaesthesia ...? 'hot reek' captures both bull's powerful smell and the heat from his body ...
The caesura here creates a dramatic pause! What is the poet's intention?
Lochhead's imagery - 'darkness' and 'roar' - has powerful connotations of dread and panic, emphasising what ...?
The alliteration on 'b' adds extra force!
The verbs 'trampling' and 'clanking' focus attention on the bull's powerful hooves and the chains restraining him.

What else does the use of present participles (-ing) add to the evocation of the girl's experience ... Movement ...? Immediacy ...?
'tense' is a play on words ... The chain is tense with the bull's strength, but also the little girl is tense with fear ...
Why is the word 'jerk' more effective than the more ordinary 'pull' ...? What impact does the word choice have here ...? How effective is it?
His eyes swivelled in the great wedge of his tossed head.

He roared his rage. His nostrils gaped.
Why has Lochhead used
a word like 'reek' rather than 'smell' ...?
Consider how effective these words are.
Imagine the effect of less emotive words ...
Or, it might be a more personal
revelation ...
and so, to the poem ...
Consider Lochhead's use of contrast ...
the transition from ...
to experience ...
A religious experience ...?
'... peer...' - what is the effect of the poet's word choice?
Again, consider the contrast ...
'Thorned hedge' ... 'harried nest' ... think about Lochhead's imagery here. Is the symbolism significant?
What now do you see as the revelation of the title ...?
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