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Poetry Analysis: Poems as social commentary

This Prezi will focus on the analysis of two poems, Raine's 'A Martian Sends a Postcard Home' and Agard's 'Listen Mr Oxford don'.
by

Nick Carozza

on 2 November 2011

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Transcript of Poetry Analysis: Poems as social commentary

Strategy for analysing a poem
Considering the specific topic, what is the overall impression of the poem?
How is this achieved? What figurative techniques help to communicate this message?
What effect do these techniques have?
How do they position the reader?
Explain how these particular lines/techniques contribute to our overall understanding of poetry as "talking back" to society.
Raine's poem, 'A Martian Sends a Postcard Home' (1979) renders us strangers in our own world to stress the facileness of our perceptions, causing a schism for the reader between objective and subjective experience. Here, the ordinary, becomes wondrous, fantastical. Raine stimulates our awareness and sensitivity to life as a comment on conventionality, predictability and the constant struggle for individual expression in a world that prefers conformity and rationality.
Read the poem and write down your overall impression.
How is this achieved?
By the use of figuratve language which creates emotion an images.
Textual example
What image and feeling is created by these lines?
"Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings --
they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.
I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand." (lines 1-6)
Surprisingly, what the speaker is actually describing is this...
Seem logical?

.

To defamiliarise the reader by subverting our perceptions. What we think of as ordinary becomes abstract and unrecognisable.


What is Raine trying to achieve?
By the use of metaphor.
Comparing books with "mechanical birds"
Crying as "eyes to melt"
Laughing as "body to shriek without pain"
Irregular rhythm and metre:
It has more of a prose-like, narrative quality rather than lyrical, creating a relaxed, sympathetic tone akin to the text type alluded to in the title (postcard).
Specific word choice and connotation:
Words such as 'shriek' and 'pain' seem to jar against the delicate imagery of a bird and sympathetic, relaxed tone, to underscore the value of literature and art.
Let's start by having a look at Craig Raine's poem,
"A Martian Sends A Postcard".
A Martian sends a postcard home
Craig Raine

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings --

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand .

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on the ground:

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the properties of making colours darker.

Model T is a room with the lock inside --
a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.
What comment do you think the poem is making about society?
Here is one possible impression.
Notice that the response linked in with the topic, Poetry as Social Comment.
How does he do it?
What effect do such techniques have?
Now link this all back to our topic of study. Why is this important?
Raine seeks to reawaken our engagement with the world, to take pleasure in the complexity and simplicity of things in equal measure. The poem has a randomness and irregularity to its subject matter yet is so tender in its rendering that we are compelled to look equally at things and ourselves anew.
Let's apply the same principles to another poem,
John Agard's "Listen Mr Oxford don"
Read the poem and write down your overall impression.
What comment do you think the poem is making about society?
A possible response.
"Listen Mr. Oxford Don" by John Agard
Me not no Oxford don
me a simple immigrant
from Clapham Common
I didn’t graduate
I immigrate
2
But listen Mr Oxford don
I’m a man on de run
and a man on de run
is a dangerous one
3
I ent have no gun
I ent have no knife
but mugging de Queen’s English
is the story of my life
4
I dont need no axe
to split/ up yu syntax
I dont need no hammer
to mash/ up yu grammar
offence
Agard’s poem is in essence a political statement which displaces the colonised and immigrant as subordinate and inferior. Specifically, his piece challenges British literary convention as the absolute authoritative voice to which all must subscribe. In doing so, he undermines the relevance and perception of the English literary canon as fixed and Anglo-centric.
Notice that the response linked in with the topic, Poetry as Social Comment.
How does Agard achieve this?
Imagine what the persona of the poem looks like.
What is his attitude?
Imagine the addressee of the poem and what he represents.
Now consider the socio-political climate of between these two groups.
By considering the personal, social and political context of the poem we can gain a better idea of what Agard is attempting to convey.
What specific figurative devices does the composer employ to achive this?
Textual example
What imagery and feeling is created by the following words from the poem?
"I slashing"
"I bashing"
"assault"
"dangerous one"
The connotation suggests violence, anger and action.
However, in the context of the poem these
techniques and others, have a paritcular effect.


Let's take one segment as an example
Deep textual analysis
So mek dem send one big word after me
I ent serving no jail sentence
I slashing suffix in self-defence
I bashing future wit present tense
and if necessary

I making de Queen’s English accessory/ to my offence
Play on words
Gives poem a more witty feel, in conflict (juxtaposed) with anger in the language but does not trivialise the subject matter.
Uneven rhythm and sentence structure.
Evokes a particular style, a kind of lyrical Caribbean with a different accent and rhythm.

Creates a sense of unease, validates speaker’s control of language and subject matter by disorienting the reader through language and discordant pace.
Speaker
Recognised as non-native through incorrect use of grammar and syntax. Singular version of English that defines a particular culture and experience.

Form
Linguistically distinct from formal English but no less relevant. Highlights a cultural distinction from a British experience reinforced by the addressee of the poem, an Oxford university academic.
Linking back to Topic Area
Agard accentuates the colonial and immigrant experience through an authentic voice distinct from formal English in an attempt to subvert these socio-cultural power structures. Expressly, he presents us with the colonised returning to stake their claim on the colonial authority through language. Ultimately, Agard's work is a critique on a society and the systems within it that fail to recognise the experience and voice of the Other.
Now it's your turn!
Choose another TWO poems from the anthology.
Discuss how the poems of your choice attempt to "talk back to society".
Write at least TWO paragraphs per poem.
Remember the strategies presented.
Post your responses on the school intranet.
Good luck!
This Prezi will focus on the analysis of two poems, Raine's 'A Martian Sends a Postcard Home', and Agard's 'Listen Mr Oxford don'.
But time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet, they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone's pain has a different smell.

At night, when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves --
in colour, with their eyelids shut.
5
I warning you Mr Oxford don
I’m a wanted man
and a wanted man
is a dangerous one
6
Dem accuse me of assault
on de Oxford dictionary/
imagine a concise peaceful man like me/
dem want me serve time
for inciting rhyme to riot
but I tekking it quiet
down here in Clapham Common
7
I’m not a violent man Mr Oxford don
I only armed wit mih human breath
but human breath
is a dangerous weapon
8
So mek dem send one big word after me
I ent serving no jail sentence
I slashing suffix in self-defence
I bashing future wit present tense
and if necessary
9
I making de Queen’s English accessory/ to my offence
The End
(or just beginning)
Full transcript