2Visiting Hour Understanding After reading through the poem, write down what you think is happening in the poem.ThemesDo you notice any themes at this stage?
3Stanza 1 How does the poet help us be there with him, in our minds? What do the lines “The hospital smell…bobbing along.” tell us about the effect of the hospital smell on the poet?What are the connotations of the colours green and yellow in this context?
4Stanza 1The poet is making his way along the hospital corridor to ward 7 where his seriously ill relative lies.In stanza 1, the scene is set by reference to the poet’s senses.The ‘hospital smell’ is typical of most peoples experience of hospitals.The poet creates mood through his word choice – “combs my nostrils.”Suggests the smell is so pungent and unpleasant to him that it reaches right up into his nose hairs.“green…yellow” suggests colours of vomit, pus – again emphasises his discomfort and unpleasantness of visit.
5Stanza 1 SYNECDOCHE Lines 2/3 “nostrils…bobbing along” Of course his whole body is moving along the corridor – not just his nostrils.The synecdoche focuses attention on the nostrils in order to strengthen the idea of the hospital smell being so overpowering, all other senses are blocked out.
6Stanza 2 heavenward.” “What seems a corpse is trundled into a lift and vanishesheavenward.”What do the words in bold tell you about the poet’s mood at this point?What is the effect of enjambment?
7Stanza 2We know what is on his mind as when he sees the trolley, he immediately assumes it is a dead body.“vanishes heavenward” – in fact goes up in a lift, but as far as poet is concerned, its on its last journey.He is clearly worried about his sick relative – has he come too late?Enjambment – the effect is to emphasise the last word of the line (his thoughts of death and finality)“Trundled” suggests the lack of care taken by the porter – as if the poet thinks there is no point taking care as the person is dead. Supports his feeling of hopelessness.
8Stanza 3The poet repeats the words “I will not feel.” To whom do you think he may be saying these words and why?How does the repetition and rhythm add to the overall effect of the verse?Explain the last line of this stanza.
9Stanza 3 The poet appears to be talking to himself. The repetition intensifies the control he is trying to impose on himself, denying his feelings as they are too painful.Together with the staccato rhythm of this short verse with its monosyllabic words, the repetition heightens the atmosphere of tension.The last line shows the poet making a conscious effort to be detached – he knows he will have to face up to the situation eventually, but not yet.
10Stanza 4Comment on the syntax (word order) of the line “here and up and down and there.” What effect does it achieve?What is the effect of the linking word ‘and’?What do these details tell us about the poet’s attitude to the nurses?What does he reveal about himself in his observations of the nurses?
11Stanza 4This verse gives the sense of bustle in a busy hospital through the description of the nurses.Unusual syntax in line 12 highlights the ubiquitous (appear to be everywhere) nature of the nurses, as if they are everywhere at once.The repetition of “and” emphasises the distance the nurses cover and gives an impression of the speed they move at.There is a contrast in how the nurses and the poet cope with death. “Burden” conveys the extent of his anguish, yet the nurses are able to deal with many deaths “their eyes clear”.
12Stanza 5Comment on the effect of the full stop in “Ward 7.” Also, what is the effect of the use of the numeral 7?Find 3 examples of metaphor in this verse and explain the comparison being made,how appropriate the image/metaphor is, what is the effect it has/connotations?Comment on the use of enjambment in lines
13Stanza 5 “She lies/in a cave of white forgetfulness.” The bed is screened off by a white curtain like a cave. “Forgetfulness” because she is barely conscious.It is appropriate because she is cut off from the rest of the ward as effectively as if she were in a cave on the side of a cliff. Due to the coma, she cannot communicate with the poet, nor he with her.The poet is immediately aware that she is not accessible to him, or him to her. “White” adds to the feeling of inaccessibility, as if he is seeing her through a white haze or white noise – which impedes communication.
14Stanza 5 “A withered hand/trembles on its stalk,” “Withered” is appropriate as she is dying and “stalk” suggests the weakness and thinness of her armThe trembling hand and eyes moving behind eyelids are her fluttering uncontrolled attempts to reach him, so he too, is alone with his pain.The enjambment emphasises the heaviness of the patient’s eyelids and the effort she is making to open them, to communicate with him.The flower image gives a sense of fragility and her beauty in the eyes of the poet who looks at her with love.
15Stanza 5“Into an arm wasted/of colour a glass fang is fixed/not guzzling but giving.”Vampire image intensified by alliteration conveys his abhorrence at the sight of the drip feeding blood into her arm.He sees the needle as a fang biting into her arm, like a vampire drinking her blood.“wasted of colour” adds to impression that blood is being taken rather than given.Effectively conveys his pity for the suffering of the patient, his distress and the feeling that the whole process is pointless and intrusive.
16Stanza 5“And between her and me/distance/that neither she nor I/can cross.”He bends to kiss her but she doesn’t respond.She is alone with her pain which has formed an invisible barrier between them.The image conveys his feeling of desolation and hopelessness at the inability to reach her.His isolation is emphasised by the enjambment – “I” poised at the end of the line.
17Stanza 6How has the poet changed from the way he was at the beginning of the poem?Comment on the effectiveness of:The metaphor in line 34Pun (play on words) in line 35Paradox ( two opposing ideas) in line 37Oxymoron (contradiction) in line 38 andAlliteration in line 38.
18Stanza 6When the bell rings at the end of visiting hour, he leaves in a highly emotional state.Metaphor – “clumsily rises/in the round swimming waves of a bell.” he escapes from his distress like a drowning man to dry land.His self control has collapsed as he now stumbles “clumsily” from the ward.“swimming” could suggest his eyes filled with tears, as well as his head swimming with the emotion of the experience.
19Stanza 6Pun “growing fainter” – the poet would grow fainter with distance from the patient and he is so upset he feels faint.Paradox “Books that will not be read” andOxymoron “Fruitless fruits” intensify his distress and confusion.She is beyond his reach and he can do nothing for her. She is past reading or eating. He has gone through the motions of a visit but knows his presence has made no difference to the final outcome.Alliteration intensifies the futility of the situation.
20Visiting HourThe themes of this poem are facing death (both of the patient and the loss of a loved one), inevitability of death (it is impossible to stop) and problems of communication.It is written in FREE VERSE (it has no pattern or rhyme)It is written in the FIRST PERSON – poet can express his feelings from the inside, which an observer would be unable to detect. We see his feelings as genuine.
21Visiting HourSTREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS (speaking to oneself, an interior monologue) style makes us sympathise with the poet as we can put ourselves in his position and identify with his feelings.We arrive with him, walk through the corridor with him and leave with him – this increases the emotional impact of poem.We follow the build up and release of his feelings.
22Visiting HourThe overall structure contributes to the atmosphere and mood.Stanzas 1-3 are short, staccato and create a sense of place, atmosphere and the poet’s feelingsStanza 4 – sense of busy hospitalStanza 5 – main action, sense of hush in the presence of dying woman.Stanza6 – opening of floodgates of poet’s emotions in face of his inevitable loss.
23Visiting Hour Think about… Is it less of an ordeal for the dying person than the one left behind?Dying is something we have to do alone, despite being surrounded by loved ones?How realistic do you find the poet’s feelings?