AQA English Literature GCSE – poetry anthology Contemporary Conflict poetry

I’ve finally finished my second e-book which you can get on Kindle – you can buy it to read on your PC, so you don’t need a Kindle to read it – or any kind of e-reader. If you’re reading this, you can download my book!

Of course, this is because it’s F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C! But I would say that! It’s 30,000 words and 58 pages of analysis of the eight poems in Conflict: Contemporary poetry, including Flag, Mametz Wood, The Yellow Palm, Poppies, The Right Word… and I’ve put a sample GCSE essay in there too. At £1.14 including VAT, that’s cheaper than most exam guides!

Anyway, here is a sample from it – it’s on Belfast Confetti which is one of my top three favourites in the contemporary conflict section – I guess, up there with Mametz Wood and The Yellow Palm (though there’s only one poem that I can’t really get a feeling for – and I love The Right Word about as much as these three…)

The Form of Belfast Confetti

The poem is the most fragmented of all – I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it looks like a bomb has blown it up – but it’s definitely doing something visually that represents the conflict and the fractured land it creates. Not only that, when you read it, that sense of disharmony and chaos is emphasised once again by the line breaks, the use of caesura and the enjambment. Mind you, that’s the whole point of it. He uses language, and punctuation, to help create this fractured image. In fact, the punctuation itself becomes part of the break.

Here, before we really get into it, you have to think about what the whole point of space and punctuation is.

For many, many years, punctuation didn’t really exist. You won’t find hieroglyphs with full stops and commas! In fact, punctuation was invented to help people read when books became more readily available with the printing press. Spaces between words, paragraphs, verses, they just didn’t really exist. Some speakers who wrote their speeches down in order to be able to read them added some to show where a pause would be.

So, if I had the first couple of lines of the poem, it would look like this:


And different people would do different things with it. Like this:

But as time evolved, and as printing presses made things the same, we came up with a system. It’s not always set in stone, and it’s easy to forget that it’s really only existed as we know it for the last four hundred years.

Some people go with the ‘musical beat’ of the four main types:

, ; : .

with a comma being a short pause, the semi-colon being a longer pause, a colon being a longer pause still and then the full stop.

But punctuation does other things too. For instance, a comma can be a pause for emphasis (like the one after ‘instance’) and a semi-colon can mark a balance, like the centre of scales or a see-saw:

Peter has been working hard


Paul has been acting the fool

And a colon can introduce an explanation or example: like this one. It’s kind of like an equal marks to me. So punctuation is not just a marker of a pause, like a comma marking ‘Give Way’ and a full stop marking ‘Stop’, but can tell you what type of thing is coming next.

That’s not all. Some punctuation helps us get emotions across. To be fair, emoticons do a far better job, and a 🙂 or a 😉 or a  :-p can do wonders. But before the wonderful world of emoticons, we had the ? and the !

And they did okay.

We know ? is a question.

We know ! is emotion.

However did we survive?!

This is what Ciaran Carson really plays around with here – the visuals of punctuation, the effects of it. And its entire purpose is to show the city under attack.


shows an explosion

——- becomes a rapid-fire of bullets.
! ! ! become the components of a bomb (maybe?)
. : . :::: . show the rubble and the broken city

This is a fragmented, fractured poem. It’s almost like a typewriter exploded. I say ‘almost like’, because a typewriter or keyboard exploding would be random, and this is very purposeful indeed.

So, in summary, Carson uses punctuation, pauses, breaks and space to show the effect of this conflicted space.

You can read more analysis in my e-book!

If you want to read more about the AQA poetry anthology contemporary poetry, you can find my ebook here. Remember, you don’t need a kindle or e-reader to read it; just download the ‘Kindle for PC’ software. If you want an hour’s lesson with me (or even half an hour!) you can find all my details on my website. One hour via skype is £10.00 only! By the end, I promise you will OWN the poems!!


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