Poets Summaries – Foundation Tier

The Man He Killed

  • The story of a man who joins the army ‘he thought he’d list‘ perhaps because he was out of work; had had to sell his traps and had no other way of earning a living.
  • He has to kill a man ‘because he was my foe‘ and justifies it to himself ‘just so; my foe of course he was.’
  • It was a case of kill or be killed.
  • But if they’d met anywhere but the war they might have ‘sat us down to wet / Right many a nipperkin!
  • Bitter irony of the fact that it was war that made them enemies who might have been friends otherwise. ‘You shoot a fellow down / You’d treat if met where any bar is, / Or help to half a crown.’
  • Set in regular four line stanzas with alternate rhyming to illustrate the predictability of war.
  • Another personal monologue, a bit like Hitcher in that it seems to be explaining his actions yet doesn’t seem all that remorseful. That’s life, he seems to be saying.
  • Many of the words place this poem firmly in the past yet the reality he speaks of is eternal.



  • Another personal monologue to a social worker / policeman? Explaining his/ her actions. He / she is bitter, jealous, vengeful, spiteful and ‘break[s] in just to have a look. / I’m a mucky ghost.’
  • No remorse; just a feeling of ‘part of the thrill was knowing / that children would cry in the morning.’ And that ‘Life’s tough.’
  • The character in the poem lists the things they’ve stolen in the past ‘a bust of Shakespeare…a camera… I joy ride cars…
  • But this is ‘the most unusual thing…A snowman.’
  • The speaker has a ‘cold…slice of ice within my own brain.’ And is often so boredI could eat myself.’ But is always ‘sick of the world.’
  • Sadly they know the person they are speaking to hasn’t a clue what they are on about.
  • Regular 5 line stanzas show the regularity of their criminal sprees but the lack of regular rhyming indicates their dysfunctional state.
  • Character’s only outlet for their feeling is mindless violence like Hitcher.
  • Full of colloquialisms and violent words.



  • Another monologue – who is she speaking to.
  • Leading a lifestyle of drinking, smoking and sex.
  • One night stands are common ‘I’d done it before / (and doubtless I’ll do it again.)
  • She’s quite used to waking up with a man she can’t remember next to her. ‘What was his name? Peter? /Simon? Andrew? John?
  • But presumably this is the first time the man has been decapitated!
  • Lack of real feeling except that it is spoiling her morning. ‘I knew I’d feel better…just what needed… [after] a night on the batter.’
  • Telling story from the Bible as if from her point of view but she comes across as a heartless bitch.
  • Lots of colloquialisms ‘Ain’t life a bitch‘ and clichés ‘like a lamb to the slaughter‘ all giving the impression of a modern take on the old story.
  • 4 stanzas of irregular length have a different aspect of the story in each.
  • Tone: gossipy, informal, tabloid style like Kid and Education For Leisure



  • Based on a fictional character written by Charles Dickens. Seeing the events from her p.o.v. ‘Beloved, sweetheart bastard.’ The harsh alliteration and the oxymoron (or juxtaposition of opposites) makes her schizophrenic state of mind clear.
  • Another monologue.
  • Probably years after she was jilted she can’t move on; she’s still thinking of him – most of the time she wants to kill him but occasionally in her dreams she thinks of him as the lover she never had, ‘the lost body over me.’
  • Full of violent images ‘a red balloon bursting‘, ‘I could strangle…‘ ‘I stabbed at a wedding cake…‘ and vivid uncomfortable colours ‘puce‘ and ‘dark green.’ And the ‘yellowing‘ dress indicating time passed as also the image in the ‘slewed mirror‘ she no longer recognises ‘her, myself, who did this / to me?
  • Violence also indicated by the ‘ropes on the back of my hands‘ ‘strangle‘, ‘wished him dead‘ and ‘stabbed.’
  • Another extended sonnet? Indicating the passage of time? Her love and her heart break?
  • Bitter; spiteful; vengeful like Ed For Leisure, Hitcher and Salome, Stealing and The Lab.

Poets Summaries – Higher Tier

Anne Hathaway

  • Speaker is Shakespeare’s wife; remember-ing good times, she compares their love to the most romantic of stories of ‘forests, castles…clifftops, seas…
  • She imagines herself as his creation; he created her as lovingly as any of his masterpieces
  • Their lovemaking is metaphorically described in terms of writing prose or poetry or a play ‘his touch a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.’ Love is like language, like literature.
  • Now he’s dead she holds him fast in her memory in her head and in her body and in her sensesby touch, by scent, by taste
  • He has left her their ‘second best bed‘ – that’s where they had their best times.
  • Sonnet structure
  • Proper sonnet rhyme scheme as a tribute to S’s own sonnets
  • Like Sonnet 130 in that there is one central image – here his creative genius
  • Like ‘On My First Sonne’ because Ben Jonson’s son was his ‘best piece of poetrie’


Mother Any Distance

  • Speaker is presumably the poet
  • His mother is helping him measure up for his new house
  • He is half afraid of this new life
  • He compares his mother’s love to the ‘Anchor‘ to his ‘Kite‘ keeping him secure, but now the time has come ‘to fall or fly
  • He doesn’t want to hurt her but children have to leave like baby birds and he secretly revels in his new freedom ‘space walk through the empty bedrooms
  • Sonnet form but expanded to show the breaking point / stretching of the metaphorical umbilical cord represented here by ‘the spool of tape…unreeling years between us…something has to give.’
  • The sonnet form shows us he loves his mother, the irregularity of it and the only occasional rhyme shows his hesitation, guilt and doubt at leaving her.
  • Yet she will still be there always ‘pinch[ing] the last one hundredth of an inch.’


On My First Sonne

  • Written by a contemporary of Shakes’
  • About his real loss of his son
  • He regarded his son as his ‘best piece of poetrie‘ his ‘right hand and joy
  • He is very sad at the loss and blames God and himself ‘My sinne was too much hope of thee.’ That his son had been lent to him by God and now ‘I thee pay
  • But he also envies his son because now he won’t have to suffer, he has ‘scap’d‘ this world and all its hardship.
  • But sadly the poet has learned never again to ‘like too much.’
  • Set out as a shortened sonnet – like its title! Because the child’s life was shortened.
  • The regular rhyming couplets emphasises the father’s almost obsessive love for his perfect son.
  • Clues to the poem’s age are found in the shortening of syllables ‘scap’d‘ instead of escaped and ‘lov’d‘ loved with the last syllable being sounded! But this way it fits!
  • Shakespeare is usually credited with giving English its shortened words


Sonnet 130

  • Written to make fun of the traditional sonnets written by his contemporaries which he regarded as too over the top!
  • Shakes here compares his mistress to the usual beautiful things and sees that she falls short of the ideals of beauty!
  • Coral is far more red than her lips red
  • In fact her breath even ‘reeks‘ – not very flattering!
  • Yet he still loves her.
  • Still set out perfectly as a sonnet with the right number of lines, iambic pentameter and alternate rhyming she may not look perfect but in his eyes she is!
  • So it’s ironic.
  • and yet by heaven, I think my love as rare / as any…