Comparison exercises on the poets

Stealing‘ by Carol Ann Duffy

  • In what circumstances might the character here be telling us all this?
  • What kinds of things have they done and how do they feel about their actions?
  • Why do you think they do them?
  • Do you feel any sympathy? How do you feel about their actions? Give examples for specific actions. Might other people feel differently to you? If so who and why?
  • How do we get involved here or do we? Might it be a specific ‘you’?

 

Compare this poem with Simon Armitage’s poem ‘Hitcher

  • Who is telling the story?
  • Is it more effective hearing it from their point of view?
  • What reasons does he give for his actions?
  • How does the character feel about himself?
  • What acts of violence does he actually do in the poem?
  • Who / what does he blame?
  • What references are there to the modern era?
  • How do you think he felt about his actions?
  • What kind of English is this written in?
  • In what situation might the narrator be telling his story?
  • What is the effect of many of the lines running into each other in stanzas 3 and 4?

 

About them both:

Which character do you feel more sympathy with?

Why?

  • Do you think either of them are justified in their behaviour?
  • Are their actions different?
  • What similarities are there in the way the poems are set out? (FORM/ STRUCTURE)

 

Now look at the poem ‘The Man He Killed’ by Thomas Hardy

  • Who is telling the story?
  • Is it more effective hearing it from their point of view?
  • What reasons does he give for his actions?
  • How does the character feel about himself?
  • How does he really feel about his ‘foe’?
  • What acts of violence does he actually do in the poem?
  • Who / what does he blame?
  • What clues are there in the poem that he is unsure of whether what he did was right or wrong?
  • What evidence is there that this is not a modern poem?
  • Does he have a message for us in our time?

 

Compare this with the other two poems:

  • How is his act of violence different?
  • Where do we come into the story?
  • How is the structure of this poem similar and different to the others

 

Now read ‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning
This is based on the real story of the Duke of Ferrera and his 14 year old bride Lucrezia di Medici.

  • Who is telling the story?
  • Is it more effective hearing it from their point of view?
  • What reasons does he give for his actions?
  • How would you describe the way he discusses his dead wife?
  • How does the character feel about himself?
  • What acts of violence does he actually do in the poem?
  • Who / what does he blame?
  • What are the circumstances of the narration of this poem? (I.e. what is going on?)
  • What evidence is there that this is not a modern poem?
  • How is this poem almost like a dance? (look at STRUCTURE and FORM)
  • What might the Duke be dancing around the issue of? Or in what respect is the Duke dancing?
  • How do you feel about the Duke’s actions?

 

Comparing this with the other poems:

  • Whose acts are the worst in your opinion and why?
  • What is different about both the events and the character in this poem?

 

Now read ‘The Laboratory’ by Robert Browning
This is based on the real story of Marie Madeleine de Brinvilliers who poisoned her father, brother and husband.

  • Who is telling the story?
  • Is it more effective hearing it from their point of view?
  • Where is she and why there in this poem?
  • What reasons does she give for her actions?
  • How does the character feel about herself?
  • How does she feel about the other characters in the poem?
  • What acts of violence does she actually do in the poem?
  • Who / what does she blame?
  • How does the structure and form reveal what she feels and her state of mind?
  • Is she mad?

 

Compare with the other poems:

  • What similarities and differences are there between this lady’s behaviour and that of the Duke?
  • Which of the other characters is she most like and why?
  • In what respect is this poem like MLD in structure and form?
  • Are random acts of violence more or less acceptable than pre-meditated murder?

 

Now look at ‘Havisham’ by Duffy

  • Although a modern poem it is written from the point of view of a Dickens character.
  • Why is she called Miss Havisham?
  • How does it make her feel?
  • Why is she so angry?
  • How are colours used to show us her mood?
  • What would she do with her lover if she had the opportunity?
  • Why do stanzas 2,3 and 4 run into each other?
  • Do you feel sympathy with her at all?
  • Is there any evidence that she might be a little mad?
  • There are two examples of oxymorons or juxtaposition of images to show the conflict of her feelings – what are they?

 

Now read ‘Salome‘ by Duffy
Again based on a supposedly real person but very much in a modern context!

  • What are the biblical references?
  • How is she very much a modern woman?
  • How does she feel about what she might have done last night?
  • What has actually happened and what does she feel about it?
  • What does she blame?
  • The poet has the character use all sorts of half rhymes as if to avoid something – what?
  • Does the poet seem critical of Salome’s behaviour? Why / not?
  • In the bible story Salome is manipulated by her mother and yet John the Baptist’s beheading is told as if it was her fault. Does Duffy present Salome the same way or not? Give reasons for your opinion.

 

Comparison between the poems.

  • What have all the poems got in common so far? (actions)
  • What differences are there between those with a woman as a central character and those with a man?

 

 

Read ‘Hathaway’ also by Duffy
Another modern poem

  • What is the structure of this poem and why do you think the modern poet has chosen this form?
  • What evidence is there that Anne is in love with her husband?
  • How can we tell her love is a writer?
  • Are there any clues that this is partly fantasy?
  • What is the significance of the ‘second best bed’?
  • How is her love better than her guests’?
  • Is he dead? How do you know? (3 or 4 pieces of evidence)

 

Compare this poem with ‘Sonnet 130‘ by William Shakespeare

  • What is the structure of this poem?
  • Can you tell from the poem what habit of his fellow poets he is mocking?
  • Does he love his mistress really? How can you tell?

 

Read ‘The Song of the Old Mother

  • Comment on the structure of the poem.
  • How does the structure and form underline the overall message of the poem?
  • What are the differences between her life now and that of the young people?
  • How does she feel about the young people? Evidence?
  • Why?

 

Now read ‘Before You Were Mine’ by Duffy

  • This poem is about obsessive love. Who loves whom?
  • What is ironic about the title?
  • How did the mother feel about having her daughter?
  • Is the mother alive or dead?
  • What was the mother’s favourite pastime when she was young?
  • Who was her idol?
  • Comment on the structure of the poem – can you find evidence for the rhythms of dance?

 

Simon Armitage’s take on child / parent relationships is quite different in ‘Mother any Distance’.

  • The poet uses an extended metaphor in this poem to describe the bonds between parent and child. What is it and give examples.
  • The son’s feelings for his mother are contradictory – what two single words sum this up .
  • In what respect is he like a baby bird?
  • What is the meaning of the descriptions of the house and its space?
  • Look at the structure and form of this poem. The form has a name – what is it and why is this one of these despite it being too long?!!

 

Now read ‘On My First Sonne‘ by Ben Jonson

  • Who loves whom?
  • Whom does he blame for his loss?
  • How do we learn what his occupation was?
  • What is the evidence that this is an old poem?
  • Comment on the structure of this poem which is very important!
  • In what ways does the title give clues about the topic and the writer’s feelings?

 

Compare these last two poems

  • Which poem do you prefer?
  • Which describes best the feeling of love for a family member and why? (your opinion)

 

Now read ‘Kid‘ by Simon Armitage

  • Look first at the structure of this poem – what do you notice?
  • Now what do you notice about the kind of language used?
  • Where else might you see some of these phrases?
  • Why does the ‘kid’ no longer view his dad as a superhero?
  • How might the rhyming be linked to the character’s feelings about his father now?
  • What do you think is the final feeling of the character in the poem?

 

Now read ‘My Father Thought it Bloody Queer.’

  • This poem is about the next stage of life. Who is speaking and what is his relationship to the other people mentioned in the poem?
  • What about the poem is ironic?
  • The intermittent rhyming of this poem may be a clue to the nature of father son relationships – what might it be telling us?

 

The poem ‘November‘ also by Armitage reveals more about the complex relationships of parents and children.

  • Why has the poet chosen this month to call his poem?
  • Each stanza has a slightly different subject – what?
  • Why is the last stanza only two lines?
  • How do the people in the poem feel about what they have done? Detail here – lots of different feelings can be seen. Evidence.
  • What are their feelings about their own lives?

 

The poem ‘Homecoming‘ is very different and written from a different point of view from the poet.

  • What is the dreadful event that occurred in the life of the character that the poem is about?
  • Why did it cause them to lose their trust and faith in their mother?
  • What did the character do next?
  • What was the father’s reaction?
  • How long ago did it happen?
  • Who is speaking now / telling the story?
  • What is their message to the person? Can you imagine a reason why?

 


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