Most of the students in the class collaborated to make this analytical guide to the poetry in the conflict cluster. Here is your digital copy (hard copies were published and distributed to each of the contributors)
The poem ‘The Yellow Palm’ is a poem portraying the problems which are present in Bagdad, Iraq; the problems the author experienced. I personally think that the poem shows the experiences which are experienced when walking down ‘Palestine Street’. What can be seen, what happens and how it happens.
In the poem, there is a lot of references which seem to relay the message that there was a lot of heartache in Palestine and that in just one street, all of these tragedies could occur. However, what is Palestine, and why is there a war there? Palestine is an area and Palestinians are the people which live in it. The current conflict is between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The Israelis do not want the Palestinians in Palestine as they believe it is their territory.
So, the heartache quotes. In the first verse, the person narrating the poem (most probably the author) begins to speak of the things which he was seeing ‘I watched a funeral pass’, ‘blood on the walls’ (of a mosque), ‘met two blind beggars’. These quotes seem to suggest that Palestine at the time was a very broken area if you like. There was a lot of struggle.
‘I met two blind beggars // and into their hands I pressed my hands // with a hundred black dinars’’. This quote is an act of support in the sense that, the person saw people who are less well off than he is and therefore decided to give them money, even considering the circumstances that the area is in. The author has used this to show that there is a glimmer of hope and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
The theme of the poem seems to revolve around the colour yellow, even in the title of the poem yellow is included. Yellow can mean many things, happy – a sunny day. We associate yellow with negative things also as well, such as the yellow of a dead white person; decaying skin. This association is what I think the author has decided to include in this poem. The effect of ‘dead’ is what is pictured when I read this poem.
Also, yellow can resemble a desert; wasteland. A territory which has being run down by the negative conflict which ‘lingers in the air’. The author has made the theme of the poem yellow to create an uninhabited, an inhospitable place to be in.
The following is a quick glossary of language terms often used in the analysis of poetry. Please never use a term you are unsure of in an examination. It is always better to explain what you understand is happening in the language in your own words rather than attempt to use fancy technical terms and use them incorrectly.
Your homework – preferably online if possible – is to answer the following question (derived from a previous examination) and check it against the official examiner’s marking rubric published below.
Compare how poets present the effects of conflict in “Belfast Confetti” and one other poem from Conflict
Compare how poets present the experience of soldiers in ‘Bayonet Charge’ and one other poem from Conflict
What grade would it have been given?
Link to Edutronic.net for all new materials for 2012 related to GCSE English Language and Literature
The poem ‘Belfast Confetti’ depicts the aftermath of a bomb during the troubles that people in Belfast experienced. The title ‘Belfast Confetti’ is a title that has a dual meaning. On one hand the homemade bombs that the IRA used are referred to as Belfast confetti due to the nuts and bolts they put in for shrapnel. The second is more complex. Confetti is usually used in times of celebration such as weddings, which is strange as the poem is about something completely opposite to a celebration. It is usually thrown over the head of the bride and groom, so it rains down on them. Carson may be using that title to create a metaphor, the nuts and bolts flew over the head of people just as confetti does.
Carson presents the poem with extensive references to punctuation marks using words such as ‘Exclamation marks’ and ‘Sentence’. “It was raining exclamation marks” this is trying to depict the noises made by the falling shrapnel. Exclamation marks are used generally when someone is shouting or when a word needs to be emphasised. As you can imagine the noise of the bomb and the chaos it caused must have had a huge affect on the noises that were heard, people were screaming, sirens were going off and fires were blazing. So like the title you have to delve deeper into the meaning of these words which really give you an understanding of the poem. There is a chaos to the poem that matches this experience.
Ciaran Carson also does not present any type of metre or rhythm, this is because he wanted the poem to be seen and read with confusion like the people felt after the bomb was detonated. This gives the poem more reality than it would do if there was a clear structure to it.
Looking at most lines in the poem, we see a trend of paradoxes and dual meanings. For example “All the alleyways and side streets blocked with stops and colons” on the outside this line tells us that escape was blocked and there was no way out of the chaos. Although looking at the line with more depth we can discover that what is trying to be said is that there is no way to escape the violence in general. Using the word “stops” and “colons” could refer to the writers own beliefs. Carson may be trying to get a message across that all is being done to stop these attacks is through the Governments use of meetings and laws. Ironically, I believe the author is trying to say we need to tackle this violence with actions rather than letters and talks, hence the quote “Alleyways and side streets blocked by stops and colons” meaning escape is blocked by lack of action.
Another example of these paradoxes is the line “I know this labyrinth so well – Balaklava, Raglan, Inkerman, Odessa street” This quote tells us that the author has a connection to those streets and he knows his way around. Carson also compares the streets to a labyrinth. the word labyrinth is derived from Greek mythology, it was a place where a Man eating Minotaur lived and was said to be built like a maze. This tells us that the streets were like a maze ,probably due to the chaos, and that there were dead people around. We could associate the Minotaur with the bomb as it is the cause of the deaths and the streets to be its home as it is the place he kills.
To conclude I would like to explain to you what my view is on the overall message of the poem. The poems message is to educate the readers of what it was like to be involved in a bombing. I also believe that the poem is trying to get across a message of invasion. His hometown was getting destroyed in front of him and the only way he believed he could teach people about this was through poetry. The fact that he chose to express his emotions through poetry is a really great way of getting your point across, as not many people read a poem and look at what is on the surface they want to peel of the obvious and explore the unknown.