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CONTINUUM

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by

Alfred Wu

on 9 October 2014

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Transcript of CONTINUUM

NZ REP!
Brief Biography on the Author
Born on the 17th of June, 1911 in Timaru, New Zealand
SUMMARY OF 'PLOT'
The poet can't get to sleep, much to his frustration
Sorry, who's speaking, may I ask?
"The moon rolls over the roof and falls behind my house"
- starts off 3rd person, objective point of view
WHAT'S THE POINT?
These different aspects to Curnow and their interaction with eachother symbolises the internal struggle that Curnow faces in his quest for inspiration
The Satire Cont.
Think back for a second to "The Cockroach", where the poet Kevin Halligan narrates a whole cockroach's journey only to personify it as himself at the end.
CONTINUUM
what the bloody hell does that mean?
Allen Curnow
Grew up in a religious family
As well as a poet, Curnow was also a prominent
satirist
, working for, among other newspapers, The NZ Herald
This fact is
essential
to understanding the poem!!!
He proceeds then, in his state of insomnia, to go outside and stare into the midnight sky
Soon he gets cold and goes back inside
Suddenly changes to a first person, subjective point of view with the poet saying
"I am talking about myself"
The stanzas thereafter don't have any mention of pronouns or subjects - they are a narration of the poet's exact thoughts and reveal his
thought patterns
e.g
"Better barefoot it out the front door"
However, at the end, a second person is introduced,
"who paces [Curnow] back to bed"
OR IS THERE?
There are potentially three different people mentioned in the last stanza - "the author, cringing demiurge"; the one who "picks up his litter" and finally "me" - Curnow himself
Oooorrrr they could all just be the
one
dude, i.e Allen Curnow, but the different sides to him
The cringing demiurge is the poetic Curnow, the tortured, frustrated artist who can't express what he feels
The person who picks up this cringing demiurge's "litter and tools" is the man Curnow, who is cold and wants to get back to bed and back to sleep
The objective pronoun "me" is Allen Curnow, the poet
and
the man, the actual physical body that holds these distinct personalities
He struggles to control the continuum of thoughts that floods his mind, and the enjambment present throughout the poem reflects his constant, babbling train of thought
He's trying to find inspiration for a poem, and when he can't create it himself, he looks to nature to do it for him
Increasingly frustrated by his own poetic ineptitude, Curnow engages in playful self-deprecation, making the poem seem almost like a first-time draft copy
a continuous series of which no part can be distinguished from the other, apart from the beginning and end
"washed-out creation" - sky
"for its part, the night sky empties the whole of its contents down" - rain
"bright clouds dusted by the moon"
"may depend on the wind"
ALLEN CURNOW THE SATIRIST
Curnow's satirical brilliance is on full display in all its glory
He undermines not only his own poetic language, but the whole concept of poetic expression
Curnow seems to begin a similar poem, personifying the moon as himself, only to cut it off abruptly and confessing he's not actually talking about the moon, but himself - as if he's like "ehh, this is stupid, I'm not going anywhere with this"
Curnow seems to begin a similar poem, personifying the moon as himself, only to cut it off abruptly and confessing he's not actually talking about the moon, but himself - as if he's like "ehh, this is stupid, I'm not going anywhere with this"
Curnow seems to begin a similar poem with the moon, only to cut it off abruptly and confess he's not actually talking about the moon, but himself - as if he's like "ehh, this is stupid, I'm not going anywhere with this"
However, from stanza 2 to stanza 4, Curnow attempts to use poetic expression, rich with language devices, but this ultimately ends in frustration again
"The moon rolls over the roof and falls behind my house, and the moon does neither of these things, I am talking about myself"
Examples
c
-consonance of hard, robust "t" sound reflection of poet's frustration?
"...and lean from the
p
orch across the
p
rivets and the
p
alms..."
- alliteration
c
-metaphorical idea, but another example of satirical self-deprecation
"washed-out creation"
-strong metaphor, metonymy for God's creations?
Examples of Poetic Expression
"Be
tt
er barefoo
t
i
t
ou
t
the fron
t
"
-consonance of hard, robust "t" sound reflection of poet's frustration?
"...and lean from the
p
orch across the
p
rivets and the
p
alms..."
- alliteration
"...bright clouds
dusted (query)
by the moon..."
-metaphorical idea, but another example of satirical self-deprecation
"washed-out creation"
-strong metaphor, metonymy for God's creations?
Finally, the
indifferent
tone to
"...or something"
is a testament to Curnow's failure to establish a meaningful expression of his feelings through poetry
The Bigger Pictures
IDENTITY
A common theme throughout the anthology, identity is something Curnow explores in this poem as he asks himself, "who am I?", "what am I here for?", "why am I so useless?"
The confusion in finding his identity is clearly conveyed by Curnow's use of several pronouns in the last stanza to refer to himself
Much to his dismay he comes to no conclusion, and the questions are left
excruciatingly
unsolved and Curnow's frustration is embodied in the phrase
"cringing demiurge"
Sharing this theme of identity are poems such as "A Different History", "The Cockroach", "Summer Farm" and "Where I Come From" which make for effective contrasts and comparisons
Sujata Bhatt's "A Different History"
Effective
contrast
However, while Sujata Bhatt conveys identity in terms of culture and language, Allen Curnow investigates identity in terms of his occupation as a poet
This can be used to explore the many dimensions of 'identity'
Both poems deal with the question of identity - who we are, why we are here, and what we are here for
Bhatt finds solace in solemn acceptance of her and her people's identity, Curnow only finds frustration as he fails to attach an identity to himself
The Bigger Picture cont.
PERCEPTION
Perception of nature, of identity, and of oneself is the underlining theme throughout all the poems
Curnow has a
sardonic
take on a poet's perception of things - often when poets look at anything they only see themselves, as demonstrated by the first stanza; a rather
self-indulgent
attitude. Curnow is
disillusioned
with this perception and tries, in vain, to find a clear and simple answer
Curnow also has a
cynical
view of nature, which may be due to his own internal frustrations, with the sky being described as "the washed-out creation", giving a bland and uninspiring perception of nature
This of course means that "Continuum" can then be contrasted with poems that center around the beauty of nature: "Pied Beauty", "Horses", "A Birthday" and "Sonnet: Composed Upon Westminster Bridge"
Likewise, "Continuum" can also be compared with poems that have a darker tone, like "Pike", "Hunting Snake", "The Cockroach" and "The Woodspurge"
Dante Gabriel Rossett's "The Woodspurge"
Effective
comparison
Both poems contain elements of nature, and, more strikingly, a more
deploring
perception of nature than other poems of the anthology
Like "Continuum", "The Woodspurge" features less-than-glorious depictions of nature, such as the wind "shaken out dead" and language devices are used to convey a sense of an overall sadness, for example the dull rhyming in the first stanza
A sense of grief is prevalent in Rossetti's poem while a sense of frustration can be found in Curnow's, both making for a negative tone
It is interesting to note that these unhappy feelings originate
internally
, in the poets themselves, and
do not
come externally from nature
That is, nature is boring because the poets are, for whatever reason, apathetic rather than the poets are apathetic because nature is boring
This all ties in with the matter of perception: if you're feeling good, then things seem good. If you're feeling crap, everything around you seems crap too.
Practice Questions
Explore how Allen Curnow makes the time of day seem vivid in Continuum (IGCSE 2013)
Explore the ways in which Allen Curnow memorably depicts the relationship between man and nature in Continuum.
Explore how the poet vividly captures a moment in time in Continuum
Amazing analysis:
http://englishwithboucher.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/continuum-by-allen-curnow/

Useful Links
Allen Curnow's Obituary:
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=219315
Symbols:
http://www.enotes.com/homework-help/how-does-allen-curnow-convey-his-feelings-poem-303814
Song used: "No Dice" by "Tipper"; discovered thanks to Pandora the internet radio: http://www.pandora.com/
Search up "Mr Brooker IGCSE" on youtube
Query? It might seem like a publishing error, but it is intentionally included by Curnow as he questions his usage of
"dusted"
to describe the moon's effects on the clouds; a satire on the tendency of poets to
obscure
meanings for the sake of poetic expression
Full transcript