Year 10 Literature students have been studying poetry this term. It is a Power and Conflict collection of poems, many of which focus on War as a key theme. Students have learned to identify key aspects of the structure, meaning, imagery, language and the overall impact upon a reader. They have delved into the context of these poems, learning and solidifying their historical knowledge upon some of the eras. Students have planned, drafted and finalised essays and this is what they have produced:
Students also used this learning to produce poems of their own. Their creative writing is flourishing and their poems are incredibly impactful.
Compare how poets present the theme of fear in Poppies and one other poem from the Power and Conflict cluster.
In the following PEE paragraphs, I will talk about the similarities and differences between the poems Poppies and Remains. Poppies is about a mother sending her son to war but feeling the same as if sending him to school for the very first time. Remains is about a soldier who killed a looter and is getting trauma/PTSD causing him to replay the memory of the looter. I will compare Poppies and Remains to see if they ‘might’ be linked somehow.
I think Poppies and Remains have some coincidence of one being a mother worrying about her son and the other being a soldier who was sent out to tackle a looter. In Poppies, it says ‘leaned against it like a wishbone’ telling us that the mother knows the fragility of life and that their son might not be strong, physically and or mentally. This is called symbolism, representing fragility. In Remains it says ‘End of story, except not really’ telling us that the soldier can’t forget about the dead looter, this indicates that the soldier has trauma. By the mother in Poppies saying her son ‘could’ be fragile and in Remains talking about trauma has some coincidence but in the end it wouldn’t work with both poems.
In Poppies and Remains the mother and soldier are both trying to be brace. The mother is being brave for her son and the solider being brave for their friends and family. In Poppies it says “steeled the softening of my face” telling us that fear almost grabbed the mother physically. In Remains it says ‘This bloody life in my bloody hands’ telling us that the soldier is afraid of the responsibility of someone’s death. This shows us that they are similar in fear. Poppies could be about the soldiers from Remains before he goes to war and about the mother describing from her perspective then remains could be one of the soldier’s missions. The whole theme of fear is always brewing if you understand where exactly that fear comes from.
In conclusion there is fear in both poems on different levels. In remains, I feel there is more of a ‘physical’ fear, if you put your feet in the soldiers’ shoes and the reason is because of the quote ‘his bloody life in my bloody hands’ saying that the soldier’s hands have blood on. Poppies is more psychological fear because of the quote ‘skirting the church yard walls, my stomach busy making tucks, darts, pleats’ saying that the mother is focussed so much on if their son is okay at war. This proves that there is that much fear it can not be held mentally alone and has a physical affect. In general, both poems have so much in common but then again, they couldn’t be further apart.
How is fear presented in Poppies and one other poem?
Poppies by Jane Weir is one of the most recent additions to the power and conflict (PAC) anthology, having been written in 2005. Bayonet Charge by Ted Hughes was written in 1957.
Bayonet Charge takes place in World War I. It follows a young soldier as he comes to think about the war and what he is doing. There is already a stark contrast, as Poppies follows a mother who has either lost her son or taken her son to school.
To compare and contrast these two poems was difficult as Poppies has three meanings, all interpreted in different ways: there is a mother who has lost her son; a son being taken to school for the first time and a mother taking her son to war. Jane Weir uses writing techniques very well, such as sibilance. She uses it very well, “skirting the church yard walls, my stomach busy”. The continued use of the sounds S and F makes the reader naturally speak up the way they read/tell the poem. This is used for dramatic effect. In Bayonet Charge, sibilance is also used to great effect, though in a different way. “Statuary in mid-stride. Then the shot-slashed furrows.” Ted Hughes uses sibilance here to show the panic.
With regards to structure, Jane Weir uses enjambment to show the lost way of the mother, almost to show her just walking. She has no use now her son is gone, whether that's to school or to war. 17 of the 35 lines in Poppies include enjambment compared to 15 of the 25 in Bayonet Charge. Jane Weir and Ted Hughes both do not use a rhyme scheme, maybe to show their disorientated state and its chaotic scene.
Jane Weir and Ted Hughes both use pathetic fallacy to set the tone and mood of the characters, they also do this to show the emotions of other people in the poems. “Winter coat or reinforcements”, from Poppies. Jane Weir does this to show that the mother may be feeling cold and unloved. 'Jumped up in the dark' This could be to show the soldier is feeling dark, maybe because of his environment and setting/situation.
In both poems the theme of death is very easy to see. In Jane Weir’s Poppies the death theme is of a lost mother without her son, while in Bayonet Charge it’s written as if it is you. Ted Hughes does this by writing in first person. This point in Poppies is proven by quotes such as “leaned against it like a wishbone”. Jane Weir uses a metaphor, personification and hyperbole to show the dual meaning of this. One is that her son is fragile and precious - that is the wishbone part. The “wish” part could be a link to hope and survival.
While Bayonet Charge is very straightforward and to the point. “In bewilderment he almost stopped.” this is the soldier maybe just thinking, Ted Hughes portraits this by using the word bewilderment. This also may link back to the fear of death. While in Poppies, Jane weir uses emotive imagery, language, hyperbole and dual/triple meaning. “Later a single dove flew from the pear tree” in this quote from Poppies, Jane Weir uses emotive imagery by describing the tree and language by specifically using a dove, this may be symbolic. This quote also links back to the mother who lost her son and her meaning. In This Stanza (3) the reader is shown to believe that the son has passed while not being told for definite if he has. “After you’d gone I went into your
room”. This may be the mother trying to get some sort of reminder or nostalgia of her son, this is further backed up by multiple lines in Poppies. “I listened, hoping to hear your playground voice catching on the wind”. This could be her trying to hear her son one last time or hear him playing on his first day of school. While in Poppies Jane Weir uses writing techniques, Ted Hughes also does. Ted Hughes uses many techniques such as similes, hyperbole, oxymoron, personification, juxtaposition, alliteration and emotive language/imagery.
In Bayonet Charge there are many examples: “green hedge” is an example of oxymoron, “sweating like molten iron from the centre of his chest”. Here Hughes personifies the iron saying it sweats, “that dazzled with rifle fire”. Here he uses hyperbole to exaggerate the amount of rifle fire. “The patriot tear that had brimmed in
his eyes” here is another similarity in the physical effects of fear. Jane Weir wrote Poppies with the intention of people catching an ear to a part of the poem, then reading it. Which way they interpret it is up to them. They can either see the huge loss of a mother failing to protect her son, they may also see a mother taking her son to school for the first time.
In my opinion, there are many similarities and differences. By far these two poems have physical and emotional effects on the character. This may be due to fear. While there are similarities such as the focus on fear, pain and grief, there are also opposites, for example in Bayonet Charge the structure and tempo are very strict and fast. Poppies has many stanzas but the structure is not as strict.
How is the theme of fear presented in ‘Poppies’ by Jane Weir and one other poem from the power and conflict cluster?
In most of the power and conflict cluster, there is somewhat an element of fear. Each of these poems, represent fear in unique ways and they portray different types of fear in unique ways and they equally portray different types of fear. The poem ‘Poppies’ by Jane Weir, presents key themes of fear. Bayonet Charge, by Ted Hughes also seems to fit this criteria.
Upon first glance of the poem, ‘Poppies’ it is easy to notice how there is not particularly a fixed, stable structure. Personally, I think this is a great way of strongly putting across the overwhelming nature of the mother’s emotions and show us what a mixed amount of emotions she is feeling. I think, Jane Weir also does this to make us feel similar emotions the mother is feeling; to really touch the reader's hearts.
In ‘Bayonet Charge’ there seems to be a stable, tidy structure. Equally, I think this is a way of getting the message across to the reader about the severity of the situation they are in, as tidiness could be perceived as maturity and severity. The difference in structure in ‘Bayonet Charge’ and ‘Poppies’ are noticeably different, but each still depicts the fear in great ways by using structure in different ways.
One similarity both poems share is their prominent and constant use of enjambment throughout all of the stanzas. The authors both use this technique to make the reader feel the same level of emotions and understand how the mother and the soldier really feel.
The two poems structure difference could also suggest how impactful these differences are psychologically because ‘Bayonet Charge’ is set in WW1, compared to ‘Poppies’ which seems to be set during the Afghanistan war. Maybe, it is trying to show the scale of the psychological effect on wars that are different.
Next, I would like to highlight the difference in person. In ‘Poppies’ the poem is in first person, whereas, in ‘Bayonet Charge’ it’s set in third person, of what seems to be an in-service soldier. This shows fear in different ways as in ‘Poppies’ it is as if the mother is beside herself. In ‘Bayonet Charge’ the third person effect helps the reader look in on the fear and potentially take it more seriously because it’s almost as if third person ‘can’t lie’. These differences in person are a great example of how they differently present fear, but in an equally powerful way.
Their different situations almost lead back to some kind of theme- war. In ‘Bayonet Charge’ it is looking at a soldier in battle, depicting his battle adrenaline and his ponderance of what his worth actually is as a soldier. The mother in ‘Poppies’ may feel something close to this insignificance as she may feel quite insignificant to the war, as well as helpless. There’s also the similarity of how the soldier may be scared of losing his life and the mother losing her son’s life which reflect similar kinds of feelings.
‘Poppies’ and ‘Bayonet Charge’ are about two completely different roles in the war process but I think it’s a great way to provide understanding of how war can affect everyone and that different roles can still have the same level of fear as a soldier. In both of the poems, they have different ways of representing fear, but still are as effective. In conclusion, I think the poems: ‘Poppies’ by Jane Weir and ‘Bayonet Charge’ by Ted Hughes show fear very well and that this comparison has shown fear well.
Compare how poets present the theme of fear in Poppies and one other poem from the power and conflict cluster.
Within Poppies, and Bayonet charge there is a constant theme of fear throughout their poems that Jane Weir and Ted Hughes introduces. They are both also war poems within the power, and conflict cluster, they both link in with the theme of death, loss, and fear.
I will be discussing, and comparing the themes of fear within Poppies and Bayonet Charge with how it links in with the reader’s and characters feelings, the effect on the structure, and how it changes the tone. Jane Weir presents fear within poppies through the mother of the soldier going to war, while Ted Hughes presents fear in Bayonet Charge through the life of a soldier within the moment.
In Poppies there are four stanzas, the first has six lines, the second has twelve lines, the third has eleven lines, and the fourth has six lines. Poppies is set in 2005 during the Afghanistan war in the middle east. Poppies uses caesura and enjambment to change the structure and adjust the tone, at the start as well as the end, using short, quick paragraphs, while the middle of the poem uses longer paragraphs and tries to speed up the pace. Towards the end of the poem Jane weir decides to disrupt the poem to compat with the mother’s feelings.
Bayonet Charge contains three stanzas, the first, and last stanzas have seven lines and the second has six lines. The poem is set during the first world war. Ted Hughes uses a broken structure throughout the whole poem, and uses as little punctuation as he could to give it an off but speedy feeling, ‘He was running like a man who has jumped up in the dark and runs’, the effect of no pause makes it sound broken and fast paced so it again fits in with the action within this poem. The author also uses enjambment and caesura throughout the poem especially nearer to the beginning and the end.
Jane Weir shows fear throughout the soldier’s mother and not the soldier himself to present that it wasn’t just the soldiers that suffered, but it was also friends and family too. ‘I was brave, as i walked with you, to the front door’, shows that the mother is afraid of her son dying in war, and has to be brave to walk him to the door, this quote also using a lot of breaks and commas within it to give a slow paced feeling, as if she's slowly walking to the door with him. ‘My stomach busy making tucks, darts, pleats, hat-less, without a winter coat or reinforcements or scarf, gloves.’ , this quote is very disrupted and broken, to show the mothers thoughts and the sickening feeling she has in her stomach at her son's funeral, it could also have a similar feeling on the reader too.
Ted Hughes shows fear through the soldier directly, ‘suddenly he awoke and was running’, if anyone was in this situation they would show fear, the quote is very sudden in the poem and starts it off with a fast, rapid start that continues throughout the poem. Ted Hughes also uses enjambment and caesura to disrupt the whole poem throughout to show off the soldier’s thoughts and actions within the poem, ‘dropped like luxuries in a yelling alarm to get out of that blue crackling air his terror’s touchy dynamite’, this quote contains no commas or pauses, and wants the reader to read it quickly so it fits with the quick action.
In Bayonet Charge it describes that the soldier is patriotic and expresses his commitment towards his country, while Poppies shows patriotic commitment through the mother by pinning a poppy onto her son's lapel on her blazer,’ before you left, I pinned one onto your lapel’. ‘Sweating like molten iron from the centre of his chest’, this is a simile and this could also be described as an adrenaline rush pumping in his chest and throughout his body. Poppies is more slow in context of the tone and its structure compared to Bayonet Charge which is faster paced.
I think that Ted Hughes and Jane Weir present fear in these poems very well, as it gives an effect on the reader similar to the feelings that the people within these poems are feeling. The authors also use very effective imagery to help the reader visualise what’s going on and what’s going to happen.