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:

belfastconfettisuddenlyastheriotsquadmovedinitwasrainingexclamationmarksnutsboltsnails

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

belfast.confetti/suddenly.as.the.riot.squad.moved.in/it.was.raining.exclamation.marks.nuts.bolts.nails
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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New Amazon stuff for the AQA GCSE English Literature poetry anthology

I am currently writing about Belfast Confetti, which I absolutely love. It’s amazing. It goes back to what I was saying about shock-and-awe with E. E. Cummings – this does the same. I wouldn’t even think to use punctuation in the innovative way that he has – it’s just genius. I love the way the explosion is represented by the asterisk – the rifle fire by the — – and how he doesn’t just pick out punctuation that visually represents these things, but connects with it in ways that are to do with meaning as well. Genius.

But I’m also working on (21,000 words in!) the ‘contemporary poetry’ e-book to accompany the ‘literary heritage’ poetry. I’ve got a couple of essays to stick in to show you how they might look and I need to finish my analysis of Belfast Confetti before moving on to Poppies and the Simon Armitage extract about 9/11. I keep getting side-tracked by how wonderful these poems are – like really, really wonderful. I loved Mametz Wood and it sent me off in a spiral of information hunting. I loved The Yellow Palm and The Right Word and I can’t for the life of me pick out a favourite, because they’re all masterpieces. I thought I was going to struggle to form my own words on Belfast Confetti because it is fairly complex to write about, and I absolutely cannot distinguish a favourite.

However, this is the new cover of the second book in the series, and I’m mighty impressed. I’m going to do one for the existing e-book on ‘literary heritage’ poems in ‘Conflict’ – the one I did was functional, but not flashy.

Here’s a preview:

And on the subject of Belfast Confetti, search on Google Maps for the streets in the poem – and add ‘photos’ – have a look at the murals around the area. And then listen to this:

I think this poem touched me the most because a couple of my best friends are from Belfast and because I grew up with this conflict so near to me. It was only in 1996 that Manchester was bombed by the IRA; it was only 1993 that Shankill Road was subject to a huge bomb. It might be 20 years ago, but it’s fresh to me. Plus, I grew up with Joan Lingard’s ‘Across the Barricades’ stories of love across the lines. These stories were my Romeo and Juliet.

Because all of this is recent, there’s a lot of excellent footage on youtube of Shankill and the Falls areas, and it’s something that definitely influenced the music I listened to, growing up. Here’s another:

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 20.00 only! By the end, I promise you will OWN the poems!!