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Kelso High School English Department. ‘ Memorial’ by Norman MacCaig.

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Presentation on theme: "Kelso High School English Department. ‘ Memorial’ by Norman MacCaig."— Presentation transcript:

1 Kelso High School English Department

2 ‘ Memorial’ by Norman MacCaig

3 Learning Intentions Familiarise ourselves with the poem Develop our understanding of the form and structure of the poem Develop our understanding of the poetic techniques used in the poem Develop our understanding of the themes in the poem and the way in which they are conveyed through an effective use of poetic techniques

4 Let’s read…Stanza One Everywhere she dies. Everywhere I go she dies. No sunrise, no city square, no lurking beautiful mountain but has her death in it. The silence of her dying sounds through the carousel of language. It’s a web on which laughter stitches itself. How can my hand clasp another’s when between them is that thick death, that intolerable distance?

5 Stanza Two She grieves for my grief. Dying, she tells me that bird dives from the sun, that fish leaps into it. No crocus is carved more gently than the way her dying shapes my mind. – But I hear, too, the other words, the other words, black words that make the sound of soundlessness, that name the nowhere she is continuously going into.

6 Stanza Three Ever since she died she can't stop dying. She makes me her elegy. I am a walking masterpiece, a true fiction of the ugliness of death. I am her sad music. I am her sad music.

7 First Impressions? 1. What is the poem about on the surface? 2. Who is speaking in the poem? Who are they speaking to? 3.How does the poem use language to convey its message and what techniques can you identify? 4. What are the themes or ideas behind it? 5.What response does the poem elicit from the reader/ you?

8 What is happening in the poem? Poet describes the impact of a loved one’s death – probably the death of his sister Frances who died in This poem was written in This poem is an ELEGY.

9 Elegy In literature, an elegy (from the Greek word for “lament”) is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead. " Elegy" (sometimes spelled elégie) may denote a type of musical work, usually of a sad or sombre nature.

10 Structure of an Elegy A traditional elegy mirror three stages of loss: First, there is a lament, where the speaker expresses grief and sorrow. Then praise and admiration of the idealised dead. Finally consolation and solace.

11 Memorial A sad, beautiful poem about the way in which the loss of a poet’s loved one pervades every aspect of his life. Her death is not in the past. The process of her dying stays with him constantly. The opening states, “Everywhere she dies” and the final stanza reads, “she can’t stop dying”.

12 Poet’s beliefs… MacCaig was an atheist. As such, in the face of death, there were no easy comforts for him of promises of life or resurrection beyond the grave. For him death presented an awful finality- “ intolerable distance ” and “ ugliness ”.

13 Poet’s beliefs… Still, the act of writing such a powerful, memorable and skilfully constructed poem raised the poet’s consciousness above the profound, melancholic state he experienced at this time. Still, the act of writing such a powerful, memorable and skilfully constructed poem raised the poet’s consciousness above the profound, melancholic state he experienced at this time.

14 Form and Structure This poem is written in free verse, and like all of MacCaig’s poetry, the themes and central ideas are readily accessible through conversational style and the simple language. Written from a first person stance in the past tense, the poem is divided by stanzas into three main sections.

15 Form and Structure In the first stanza, the speaker introduces the subject of his meditation, the death of a loved one. In the second he reflects and explores the impact of this painful experience. In the third stanza, he reaches a conclusion of sorts in the final stanza, by reiterating the assertion made in the first line of her death being everywhere, ever present.

16 Form and Structure The fluidity and looseness of the structure helps to reinforce the key message of the poem which focuses on death and the grieving process. Death of a loved one itself represents a formlessness, a loss of structure, the disintegration of close bonds of love and affection.

17 Central Theme… sense of unending grief that is felt when someone we love dies.

18 Conveyed through tone utterly hopeless in its despairingly bleak outlook. Nevertheless, there is an occasional glimpse of optimism and beauty contained within the image of the crocus, which is “never carved more gently than in the way her dying shapes my mind.” This seems to imply one of the abiding effects of his grief is that it will forever and indelibly continue to shape and impact on his creative work.

19 Analysis – Stanza One Blunt opening line - immediately emphasises the constant impact of his loved one’s death. Repetition of “Everywhere” – suggests that the poet cannot escape the awareness of the death of his loved one. Statements are simple and direct to show the directness and bluntness of his feelings.

20 Analysis – Stanza One Juxtaposition (two things being placed beside each other for comparison or comfort) of “I” and “She” suggest the strong bond between the two people. Repetition of “No” emphasises how inescapable and ubiquitous (found everywhere) her death is for him.

21 Analysis – Stanza One Builds up to a climax which shows that even in the most beautiful surroundings her death is present. Listing of places: these places are not usually associated with death. A city square is usually a bustling and busy place with many people, a sunrise and mountain are associated with providing aesthetic pleasure through their beauty. These places have now been tainted with death and grief pervades everything / everywhere for the persona.

22 Analysis – Stanza One Present tense of “lurking” implies that his pain is still very present – it is there within him and around him all the time. Enjambment / Word Choice of “but” indicates a change in direction and highlights contrast of the beautiful surroundings with the pain of death. Punctuation: full stop highlights finality of death.

23 Analysis – Stanza One Paradox – “silence of her dying sounds through the carousel of language”. ‘Language’ = words of sympathy. The grief he feels creates a silence so intense that no words of comfort make a difference to him. Metaphor “carousel of language”. Language compared to something light-hearted and frivolous. By contrast the “silence” of her death seems much more profound and serious.

24 Analysis – Stanza One Metaphor – silence becomes ‘a web’ on which laughter (loved one’s attempts to comfort him) is doomed to be stuck and not penetrate because neither comforting words nor language can penetrate his grief.

25 Stanza One – final three lines Stanza ends with a rhetorical question. Creates a deeply pessimistic note. How can his hand clasp another’s when death’s ‘intolerable distance’ lies between them? Use of rhetorical question emphasises his isolation – he does not expect and answer. Death is described as an inevitable, impenetrable barrier between the living and the dead. Emphasises poet’s feelings of despair.

26 Stanza One – final three lines Metaphor “thick death”. Grief is like a fog that we cannot get through. Word Choice “intolerable distance” – death has created an unbearable distance between them.

27 Stanza Two – let’s read She grieves for my grief. Dying, she tells me that bird dives from the sun, that fish leaps into it. No crocus is carved more gently than the way her dying shapes my mind. – But I hear, too, the other words, the other words, black words that make the sound of soundlessness, that name the nowhere she is continuously going into.

28 Analysis – Stanza Two Word Order - the opening of this stanza involves a subversion of the usual order by asserting “She grieves for my grief”. Effect - this reinforces the bond the two shared while she was alive implying she couldn’t bear to see him sad and suffering.

29 Analysis – Stanza Two lines 1-3 “That bird dives from the sun, that fish leaps into it”. Imagery - both images represent a reversal of the normal order of things. The bird should fly towards the sun, and the fish should dive into the depths of the sea away from it. Death, by implication, is seen as a reversal of the natural state of living.

30 Analysis – Stanza Two lines 3-5 “No crocus is carved more gently than the way her dying shapes my mind” - IMAGERY Her dying has shaped his mind in the same way that a crocus is carved or shaped by nature. Could be seen as acceptance that grieving is part of nature. One of the abiding effects of his grief is that it will forever continue to shape and impact on his creative work.

31 Analysis – Stanza Two lines 3-5 Symbolism: CROCUS - could be a symbol for hope and renewal, especially as the crocus is a spring flower. Spring can be equated with new life and a new beginning and a sign of hope. Is there a suggestion that the poet could be working through his grief?

32 Analysis – Stanza Two NO!! He is still grief stricken - Dash - the use of the dash - to create a stark contrast and change of direction. The conjunction "but" also creates contrast. What comes after “but” is a metaphorical image of him hearing “other words, black words" which whisper to him of the horror of the oblivion of the grave. The word BLACK carries connotations of death and misery, showing that the words of well-wishers do not console but upset him deeply.

33 Analysis – Stanza Two SYMBOLISM - chilling image of her "continuously" going into a "nowhere" these black words "name". Well-wishers refer to heaven, but this seems of little relevance to him. This is because the persona is not religious and does not believe in life after death.

34 Analysis – Stanza Two “that name the nowhere she is continuously going into”. METAPHOR: Dying and death are presented as a kind of metaphorical journey that has no destination and never ends. The cycle of suffering and dying is repeated "continuously". This emphasises the deep despair and loss that he feels as for him death offers no hope or positivity.

35 Analysis – Stanza Three Stanza opens with a flat, matter-of-fact statement that reminds us of the opening line “ Ever since she died/she can’t stop dying”. Within the poet’s consciousness she can’t stop dying– he is constantly tortured by this overwhelming experience of the death of his loved one.

36 Analysis – Stanza Three Simple statement follows as he begins to reach his conclusion “She makes me/her elegy”. An elegy is song or poem associated with death. His grief is so raw, so deep and all-consuming that he identifies entirely with it to the exclusion of all else. He has become a physical embodiment of a lament (passionate expression of grief or sorrow).

37 Analysis – Stanza Three The short and simple (and therefore emphasised) final line sums up one of the central ideas in the poem, “ I am her sad music”. This pessimistic note again emphasises the ceaseless, all-encompassing nature of the grief and sorrow that consumes him and pervades every aspect of his consciousness.

38 Analysis – Stanza Three Word choice: he describes himself as “a walking masterpiece / a true fiction / of the ugliness of death”. The term “masterpiece” is used satirically to convey how successful his transformation into “ugliness” - a mascot for death, despair and despondency has been as he has been so badly affected by her death.

39 Overview - theme The sense of unending grief that is felt when someone we love dies. Nevertheless, there is an occasional glimpse of optimism and beauty contained within the image of the crocus, which is “never carved more gently than in the way her dying shapes my mind.” This seems to imply one of the abiding effects of his grief is that it will forever and indelibly continue to shape and impact on his creative work.

40 Success Criteria We understand the poem We understand the form and structure of the poem We can identify and explain the effect of poetic techniques used in the poem We understand the theme of the poem and the way in which they are conveyed through an effective use of poetic techniques


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