GCSE AQA English Lit - CONFLICT - Yellow Palm, CoCB, Hawk Roosting.Watch
First of all, what you need to think for poetry:
-What is the message?
-What do I think/feel?
-Why do I think this?
-What techniques are used?
This is the most general formula I can give, and it applies for both seen and unseen poetry.
Yellow Palm:The Yellow Palm is an exploratory poem set in the streets of Baghdad, Iraq. Since the 80s, Iraqi citizens have been suffering, especially after 2003, when allied forces invaded with the intention of deposing the dictator, Saddam Hussein. This poem is a ballad, meaning it uses strong emotions and is a narrative of events, much like a song. This is a rather audenesque poem, meaning it has strong political and social undertones and questions the relationship between people and nature. Firstly, the dominant colour throughout, yellow, is used to represent death and decay, with yellow being a 'sickly' colour. The audenesque views on nature can be seen throughout, with much of the poem using natural imagery such as 'lilac stems', 'wild Tigris' and 'yellow palms'. Indeed, Yellow 'palms' is a double entendre, with the palms representing both the palms of beggars, showing the poor living conditions, and the palm leaves of trees, again, showing a link between nature and humanity. Then comes the second largest focus of the poem: war. Notions of ongoing warfare are dotted throughout the poem, such as 'poison gas', 'blood on the walls', 'cruise missile' and 'blood on the walls'. The latter is particularly important due to its contrast with the peaceful, calm idea of a call to prayer, the job of a Muezzin in islam, although his eyes here are described as 'wild with despair' showing the damage caused. Indeed, the idea of the street being called 'Palestine' street could be reflective of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. 'Salaam' is a greeting in Islam, and the use of this in the final stanza suggests a link between religion and society (and possibly between religion and war). There is also war lingo here, such as the 'Mother of All wars', which is the nickname given to the First Gulf War, and 'armistice', which is a term for a peace-time in war. Finally, the idea of the death of nature is particularly prevalent in the final stanza, with the line 'branches hung with yellow dates' having multiple connotations of death. The word 'hung' suggests death (due to hanging) and 'yellow dates' suggests the tree is sickly and dying. The final line 'the fruit fell in his arms', suggests the death of nature.
Come On, Come Back - This is by far the hardest poem in the whole Anthology, and if we get this in the exam, we are screwed. It is a massive poem, and as such, there is a lot to say about it, so you will have to pick and choose the points you include in your answer. Simply, this is the haunting tale of a female soldier who goes swimming and drowns. Contextually, the field of 'Austerlitz' is in reference to the site of one of the largest battles in the Napoleonic Wars, and the Memel Conference is in reference to the Treaty of Versailles, with the poet suggesting that the decisions of massive organisations can affect everyone including a solitary soldier. Even before the reader is introduced to the lake/river, there is imagery of water, such as 'the ebbing tide of battle'. The use of the phrase 'girl soldier' as opposed to 'female soldier' is important as it suggests a fragility and sense of youth in the soldier, with a contrast between a child and a warrior. The poet repeats the phrase 'round, flat stone', possibly using it as a reference to a gravestone. One thing to note is the question on the humanity of warfare, particularly chemical warfare. This is seen when the chemical weapon, M.L.5, is said to be 'graded first' meaning it is the most effective. That throws up the question of why the girl soldier Vaudevue has been left alive by this weapon, as it is supposed to be extremely effective. One thing I haven't understood the significance of in this poem is when the poet says the 'margin of the lake' as opposed to 'edge'. It may be significant of her insanity, as she conceptually muddles up words, but I am not sure. In the third stanza, the phrase 'waves beat' is used, and this could be suggestive of the marching music listened to by soldiers when going to war. Then there is a rather arthurian piece of imagery (arthurian = King Arthur), as Vaudevue enters the lake it brings to mind the legend of the Lady in the Lake. Also, there is a contrast between the traumatic, horrific battlefield she had left and the calm, tranquil lake she had now arrived at. Again, a confusing word is used when the poet describes the lake as 'adorable', again possibly referring to the insanity of Vaudevue? It is here that you could mention that the name Vaudevue is derived from 'Eau de Vie', meaning 'water of life', and this is tragically ironic considering the person bearing this name drowns. There is a repeated image of the moon, which is both gothic imagery and rather romantic, again contrasting with the brutality of war, possibly suggesting that Vaudevue has forgotten where and who she is. There is an oxymoron present in this stanza, namely the 'icy amorous embrace', with amorous meaning sexual desire, compared to icy. When the waters 'close' above her head, this is in reference to her death, with the 'close' signifying the end of her life. In the next stanza you could make a point comparing this poem to Mametz Wood, with the phrase 'sentinel' being used, although in this case the sentinel is referring to an enemy soldier as opposed to nature. There is a reference to her 'abandoned clothes', which could be a reference to her desertion, but a deeper point could be made that the clothes define who she is, a soldier, and by removing the clothes, she leaves her past and her identity behind. Again, there is constant imagery of water and nature throughout. In this stanza it is the first time the title of the poem is mentioned, 'Come On, Come Back', and it is used by the enemy sentinel to bring back Vaudevue, although it could actually be seen that the song is in reference to the soldiers returning home from war, a depressing image when we have seen the battlefield at the start of the poem. The close of the stanza has a pastoral image in the form of a 'shepherd's pipe', suggesting that this enemy soldier was a shepherd before the war. The next stanza is extremely short and blunt, with reference to the 'cold light of dawn', which suggests a new life or, most likely, false hope. The tune, Come On Come Back, is described as a favourite of 'all the troops of all the armies', suggesting we are all similar to each other, possibly making a point against conflict. Then it says 'marching to Austerlitz', which loops back to before the start of the poem, before this all happened, even though we know the future for those involved, which is a tragic end to the poem.
Whew, glad that one is out of the way
Hawk Roosting: I would just like to mention that in an interview the poet who wrote Hawk Roosting specifically said it had nothing to do with war, so if this comes up blame AQA The Hawk could be seen as a reference to soldiers, as not only is it a bird of prey, killing others (like soldiers), but the US advisors in Iraq who were pro-military intervention were nicknamed 'the hawks'. The poem opens boldly, with the personal pronoun 'I', this sets the tone throughout the poem, showing the hawk to be self-centered and arrogant. Again, the view of the hawk is explained at the start of the poem with 'sit in the top of the woods', showing the hawk's perception that it is at the top, and that it is the best. The phrase 'falsifying dream', shows that the hawk has no illusions, that it is living in reality and will therefore do what it must to stay on top. This inherent brutality is continued through the physical description of the hawk, with the recurrence of the word 'hooked', which is a violent, cruel word (like pirate hooks :P). The cruelty of the hawk is continued through it's sophistication. Think back to Abigail in 'The Crucible', where her adult and mature vocabulary set her apart from others. This is seen here as well, with the poet using words such as 'convenience', 'sophistry', and 'allotment'. The poet personifies the earth to show the transcendence of the hawk, with its 'inspection' of the earth revealing its power and strength. In the next stanza the arrogance of the Hawk is highlighted, showing it to believe it is perfection ('it took the whole of Creation'), and even believes it is now above God ('now I hold Creation'). There is a cruel, jingoistic feel in the next stanza, with the hawk stating it 'kills as it pleases', showing how it believes that killing is it's right as it is above all others. It should be noted that comparisons can be drawn between this and Out of the Blue, as there are connotations of fate in this stanza, with the Hawk stating 'the allotment of death' means that it chooses who lives and who dies, much like the opening of Out of the Blue: 'you have picked me out'. 'No arguments assert my right' is arguably the most important line of the poem, as it shows the Hawk's belief in natural order, that it is the right of the Hawk to have dominance over everything. Parallels can be drawn here between the hawk and humanity, with our belief that we have dominion over nature and over all other animals. In the final stanza, the Hawk reaches the final stages of dominance, stating that the 'sun is behind' it, and that it has now taken control of time itself, stating 'I am going to keep things like this'. Finally, there is a question on fate and whether we really do have control, with the phrase 'nothing has changed' begging the question: does history repeat itself?
The yellow palm uses refrain in the poem, at the beginning of each stanza he writes ‘as I made my way down Palestine Street’. This not only anchors the poem in a real place but the line makes the images that follow seem like they are a normal sight in Palestine Street and although they are incredibly shocking and saddening, unfortunately they’re nothing out of the ordinary for the Iraqi people. The poem is in the form of a ballad meaning it uses strong emotions and is a narrative of events, much like a song. There is strong rhythm and rhyme throughout the poem “funeral pass… made of glass… poison gas”. The triple rhyme scheme creates an almost upbeat feel to the poem and could reflect the energy of the streets, this contrast with the shocking images that are being depicted in the poem and it shows how conflict has changed society for the worse. Mametz wood has a very different structure to the yellow palm. Mametz wood is written in three line stanzas, there is very different line lengths within the poem and this could be representative of the uneven field as chits of bone rise from the soil. The poem does follow a set structure though, the commas and full stops show it is a single stanza followed by a pair of stanzas. The structure reflects the changing focus of the poem, from the land in stanza one to the bones and people in stanza two and three, and so on.
The yellow palm is trying to show that modern forces are shaping Palestine Street and its people, the funerals and even the beggars may all be timeless, typical Iraqi sights but the ‘poison gas’ represents the modern forces that are provoking death, destruction and despair. The ‘mother of all wars’ is a reference to what Suddam Hussein said about the first gulf war in 19990 and it reminds the reader of the great hardships that the people Iraq have had to go through. The reader is reminded of this again when the sun is described as ‘barbarian’ creating the idea that even the sun is also attacking Iraq and it never relents. The sun could also be seen as America as they are a real super power within the world and also a constant presence within Iraq and have caused or been a part of much of the conflict in the country. This makes the reader think about whether Iraq will ever be a free and peaceful country. Mametz wood is also showing the consequences of war, the dead being described as the “wasted young” shows how harsh war is by taking away a life so soon; ‘wasted’ also connotes the pointlessness of war. However, in mametz wood there is a sense the poet is trying to teach us a lesson by describing the earth as “reaching back into itself for reminders”, the earth is showing us the consequences of war through the unveiling of these bodies and trying to show us that war is the wrong way to solve problem because of the death that comes with it.
There a lots of really powerful images in ‘the yellow palm’, for example the ‘blood on the walls and the muezzin’s eyes were wild with despair’ whilst inside the ‘golden mosque’. The contrast between the bright colour of gold, which can be seen as a colour of wealth and success, and the blood and misery that is inside shows how people’s lives are being torn apart by conflict and there is no real joy anymore. This image could also be reflective of Iraq, how it was once such a great, ‘golden’ nation but is now crumbling under conflict. Although there is a lot of depressing imagery throughout the yellow palm, Minhinnick concludes the poem with a note for hope. The image of a child who ‘reached up to touch, the fruit fell in his arms’, the positive image of ‘yellow dates’ can be seen as a symbol of the old middle east, a self-governing land with natural beauty and resources and great traditions. As they fall into the child’s arms it could be representative of this remerging once more. In mametz wood there is also negative imagery as well as slightly more positive ones. The opening image of the land being “tended… back into itself” gives the idea that the land is hurt by war and needs to be nursed back to health, the poet is trying to teach us that war is wrong. The image of the ‘wood and it’s nesting machine guns’ shows how ill thought out the attack was, even though it was successful, there were still so many casualties. ‘Nesting’ shows that the guns were at home in the woods and give them a sense of confidence in their actions because of this, therefore showing the soldiers’ fates were inescapable. I think the most powerful image in the poem is that of the “one long grave, a broken mosaic of bone linked arm in arm” as it shows respect of the soldiers, someone took the time to bury them correctly, showing an act of human kindness in the midst of such cruelty. ‘mosaic’ conveys how delicately the bodies were buried, giving it a sense of beauty, and the fact that they are linked ‘arm in arm’ shows the soldiers unity, that they are one because they fought together as brothers in war.
Minhinnick uses a metaphor to represent the times in which Iraq now lives. “I saw a cruise missile, a slow and silver caravan”, stereotypically we would relate caravans to the Middle East and how they are used for trade in the markets, by showing a missile as a caravan it shows the reader how weapons are now the trade in Baghdad and it shows the missile as a regular site on Palestine Street. The poet also uses alliteration “blind beggars”, the alliteration emphasises the point of their dire situation, arousing sympathy from the reader. Mametz wood also uses alliteration, yet I feel it is used more effectively in this poem. “A chit of bone, the china plate of a soldier blade” not only does this phrase convey the fragility of the bones but the ‘ch’ sound also echo’s the sound of gunfire and battlefield destruction. Sheers uses repetition in his poem, the repetition of ‘now’ throughout the poem makes the reader think about what have we learnt from previous wars, how should we remember the dead and what effect has war had on the people of today. Both poems use personification, in the yellow palm the sun is personified as a ‘barbarian’, making it seem cruel and violent. But in mametz wood the earth is personified as being kind, caring and gentle by “reaching back into itself… like a wound working a foreign body to the surface of the skin”.
The yellow palm makes the reader think about the effects of conflict, how are people affected, how the land is affected and how it affects peoples mind sets. Mametz wood also makes us think about the consequences of conflict but also the effect it has on later generations.
could someone please give me an idea of what grade/band this respons would be