Project 3, Exercise 1. Poetry-Theme of Place.

The Hertfordshire Landscape by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Hills, vales, woods, netted in a silver mist, farm, granges, doubled up among the hills, And cattle grazing in the watered vales, And cottage-chimneys smoking from the woods, And cottage-gardens smelling everywhere, Confused with smell of orchards.

Slough by John Betjeman

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough! It isn’t fit for humans now, There isn’t grass to graze a cow. Swarm over, Death! Come, bombs and blow to smithereens those air-conditioned bright canteens. Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans, Tinned minds, tinned breath.

The Lost Land by Eavan Boland

I can see the shore of Dublin Bay. Its rocky sweep and its granite pier. Is this, I say how they must have seen it, backing out on the mail boat at twilight, shadows falling on everything they had to leave? And would love forever? And then I imagine myself at the landward rail of that boat searching for the last sight of a hand. I see myself on the underworld side of that water, the darkness coming in fast, saying all the names I know for a lost land: Ireland. Absence. Daughter.

Which poem speaks about place in relation to identity and exile?

I feel The Lost Land by Eavan Boland talks about leaving a place that the people in the poem and also the writer loves. He says ‘shadows falling on everything they had to leave? And would love forever?’. It gives the idea of a hasty exit, they are leaving and never coming back again. They have left at nighttime, the words conjure up colours of sadness, a rocky sweep and granite pier grey, desolate and black.

You don’t really know why this boat is leaving but we know it is a mail boat. Is it to do with a war? Is it an illness? prisoners?  Was the mail boat used for other business other than post? It is written from a feeling point of view. My guess would be that the writer has visited Dublin and is looking at the harbour and imagining an event that has happened and relaying these feeling to the reader. Is it about a boat sinking? Is this the writers interpretation? What happened?

Which poem purely evokes a sense of place?

The Hereford Landscape by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is poem that is based around place. It is very evocative of what the writer sees and feels and she relays to the reader the sense and sights. ‘netted in a silver mist’ as the reader of the poem I can see that mist and I know what the writer means and where I have seen it myself, usually in September.

By the writer just giving you words that conjure up a place, then adding colour and smells and then insights into what is happening; cattle grazing, walking around and smelling the flowers and the wood smoke. Walking in the orchard and seeing wasps on apples. I want to be there!

Which poem makes a social comment about progress and place?

 John Betjeman makes a social comment about progress and place in his poem simply called ‘Slough’.  He paints a very dismal picture of it, all grey and depressing. A bit like after a war. It has been changed and broken so there is no point in carrying on with it anymore. Progress only goes so far and you must have the minds of the people who live there with you, if not then places start to evolve into something they were never meant for.  ‘Isn’t fit for humans now, there isn’t grass to graze a cow’.’tinned minds, tinned breath’ is this to do with rationing or the drudgery of everyday life? people shuffling around, making the best of it?  ‘bright canteens’ Does he mean office blocks? new buildings being built with no character? everybody couped up in one place doing the same thing, eating the same thing and all leaving together into this grey desolate place?

I don’t fancy going to Slough after reading this especially as Betjeman wants it bombed. Bombed to make it better and how it used to be? Has he picked the place-name as it rhymes with certain words? slough, now, cow?

(Taken from P84-85 Creative Arts Course materials– accessed 15th July 2016)

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