Owen sheers The wake analysisWatch
Thanks in advance.
Because a ‘wake’ is a viewing of a dead body, the title adds to the tragedy of the poem by treating the old man dieing of lung cancer as if he is already deceased. If we are to take this principal further though, is every encounter with a person not a ‘wake’ of sorts, if we are all going to die eventually? Remember that we are dealing with a collection of poems in which everything is wearing away, or breaking apart in one way or another, just like Skirrid Hill itself.
Sheers indicates to us that we are back on familiar ground (in terms of subject and location) by the fact that we are back in tercets after our brief structural foray into the experimental United States.
The ‘two pale oceans’ used to describe the lungs are resonant with the ‘shore of the other chair’ in intermission. The sea here works as a recurring image for forces of nature which cannot be defeated and something which keeps things separate.
Whilst death is a recurring theme in the collection, this poem offers an insight from a slightly different angle. How do doctors emotionally deal with their own terminal illness? Sheers refers to this as ‘the old curse / of too much knowledge’, another reference back to the book of Genesis where humankind’s curse is self-awareness. We are certainly arriving here at Sheers’ fleshed out conclusion that the negative areas of the human condition stem from the way that we stop ourselves from engaging with the natural world with our own inventiveness and inquisitive nature.
The line ‘we both know there has already been a passing’ is a sign that Sheers has matured a great deal since the day he failed to recognise his father’s illness in ‘Trees’. The subtle indication here is that the collection has followed the structure of a bildungsroman and that the world has made the poet more perceptive to the lives of others.
I have more detailed notes of like linguistic features as well if you'd like xx