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Mr Abood

on 7 November 2013

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“Feliks Skrzynecki” explores the relationship between the poet (Peter Skrzynecki) and his father, and their contrasting experiences of belonging in a new land. Information on Feliks is provided by the poet’s memory and reminiscences. Peter recognises in maturity, that his father was a strong, dignified and courageous individual which are specific traits that can be attributed to most migrants of the time.

This poem is a tribute to his father.
My gentle father
Kept pace only with the Joneses
Of his own mind’s making –
Loved his garden like an only child,
Spent years walking its perimeter
From sunrise to sleep.
Alert, brisk and silent,
He swept its paths

Ten times around the world.
Hands darkened
From cement, fingers with cracks
Like the sods he broke,
I often wondered how he existed
On five or six hours’ sleep each night –

Why his
arms didn’t fall off
From the soil he turned
And tobacco he rolled.
His Polish friends

shook hands too violently,
I thought… Feliks Skrzynecki,
That formal address
got used to.
Talking, they reminisced
About farms where
paddocks flowered
With corn and wheat,
Horses they bred
, pigs
They were skilled in slaughtering.
Five years of forced labour in Germany
Did not dull the softness of his blue eyes
once heard
Him complain of work, the weather
Or pain. When twice

They dug cancer out of his foot
His comment was: ‘but I’m alive’.
On the back steps of his

Bordered by golden cypress,
Lawns – geraniums younger
Than both parents,
My father sits out the evening
With his dog, smoking,
Watching stars and street lights come on,
Happy as I have never been.
At thirteen
Stumbling over
tenses in Caesar’s Gallic War
I forgot my first Polish word.
He repeated it so I never forgot.
After that,
like a dumb prophet
Watched me pegging my tents
Further and further south of
Hadrian’s Wall.
Technique - Satire
Effect -
The play on the slang term 'keeping up with the Joneses' connects to the idea of one trying to keep up with another's lifestyle. However the next line allows us to understand that Feliks was a man who simply did not care about social status.

Technique - Hyperbole
- This hyperbole creates a sense of his belonging in this setting, as he chooses to stay within its boundaries. His experience of displacement after the war has led to his chosen state of positive isolation in a secure place that he can control.
The poem opens with the
positive description of Peter Skrzynecki’s father as “gentle” and detached from the consumer competitiveness of his neighbours.
The second stanza further builds on the sense of belonging in the garden established in the first stanza.
Technique - Imagery
Effect -
Evidence of his hard labour in the garden is highlighted in his body: his hands “darkened” by cement; his fingers “with cracks”; his arms overexerted through turning soil and rolling tobacco.
Technique - Hyperbole
Effect -
Suggests constant work and relaxation. Emphasizes this daily ritual/state of being.
The reader comes to see Feliks’s Polish friends as further sources of acceptance and belonging for Feliks.
Technique - Contrasting adverbs
Effect -
' shows cultural difference but also animation of the characters and physicality. '
' suggests the writer cannot understand the way his father belongs and connects to others.
Technque - Imagery
Effect -
Feliks and his friends share memories, reminiscing about fertile farms (“flowered”) and animals (“bred”) in their native Poland. The positive connotations of the verbs in these lines suggest the immigrants’ shared nostalgia springing from their common experiences.
Technique - Adverb
Effect -
'Never' reinforces Feliks' positive attributes
Technique - Irony
Effect -
Using the word 'dug' to describe a horrific operation creates a sense of irony as this act is what keeps Feliks content and physically and emotionally together. The following line shows his inner strength and consistent positive outlook.

Growing older, I
Remember words he taught me,
Remnants of a language
I inherited unknowingly

The curse that damned
A crew-cut, grey-haired
Department clerk
Who asked me in dancing-bear grunts:
‘Did your father ever attempt to learn English?’
The last three stanzas emphasise the contrast between Feliks’s firm sense of identity and Peter’s anxiety about his identity.
Technique - Lamenting tone
Effect -
Memories and legacy – suggestion of loss and lament. Emotive alienation through ‘curse.
Technique - Enjambment
Effect -
Emphasis falls heavily on “unknowingly”, highlighting Peter’s lack of involvement in his cultural inheritance and his consequent lack of belonging in this domain.

Technique - Direct Speech
Effect -
The inclusion of this quote (linked to the unflattering description of the clerk) conveys Peter’s contempt
for this man’s prejudice and vindicates Feliks’s decision to live in an isolated world
where he is comfortable.
Technique - Metaphor
Effect -
A powerful symbol standing for his security, control and sense of identity. A man's home is his castle.
Technique - Imagery
Effect -
An image of peace, security and belonging is presented in the description of Feliks in his garden. reinforces his father's contentment in is life.
Technique - Personal Pronoun (Perspective)
Effect -
THE MOST IMPORTANT LINE OF THE POEM. Feliks’ self-sufficiency and contentment contrast to Peter’s discontent: “Happy as I have never been.” This is ironic, considering that Feliks’s life has been more difficult. Feliks’s capacity to enjoy a sense of belonging has come through his experience of suffering. His mind has been broadened to understanding what really matters in life.
Technique - Point of view
Effect -
Changes from Feliks to Peter's perspective. Adds another layer to this discussion an immigrants understanding of belonging. 1st and 2nd generation perspectives.
Technique - Metaphor
Effect -
Language as symbol for connection and disconnection. Learning Latin at school, Polish at home and English as well. Loss of heritage.
Technique - Simile
Effect -
Belittles his father even though we know he loves him. Cultural barriers exist between them and they have grown apart.
Technique - Metaphor/Geographical Allusion
Effect -
This wall symbolises the barrier between father and son, and the barrier that Peter self-imposes to impede his belonging in Polish culture. Yet, his belonging in his new culture is somewhat ambiguous.
The northern border of Roman Britain. In this instance, the boundary between two nations
Full transcript