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Visiting Hour by Norman MacCaig

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1 Visiting Hour by Norman MacCaig

2 Poem Summary The poem is about a visit MacCaig makes to an ill relative in hospital. The opening stanzas (1-4) describe the poet’s journey through the hospital. He then reaches ‘Ward 7’ where he finds the frail woman he has come to see. The poem allows us an insight into the narrator’s feelings and we also gain an understanding of how ill the patient is.

3 Stanza One How does the poet create a clear sense of setting in the first stanza? Why has he chosen to describe the smell? What is the effect of the colour choice MacCaig has used for the corridors? (synaesthesia) The hospital smell Combs my nostrils As they go bobbing along Green and yellow corridors (synecdoche)

4 Synecdoche Synaesthesia
Using a part to refer to the whole. For example – he got himself some new wheels We know this means a car But it only refers to the wheels so it is SYNECDOCHE Synaesthesia Confusion of the senses. When one sense experiences something it elicits a response in another sense. For example - when someone hears certain sounds they might see colour.

5 Stanza Two What mood is created in this stanza? What seems a corpse
Is trundled into a lift and vanishes Heavenwards Enjambment What mood is created in this stanza? Explain and pick out words that you think convey this mood. Discuss the effect of the enjambment.

6 Free Verse The poem does not have a set rhyme scheme or verse structure. Why do you think MacCaig decided to adopt free verse in this poem? It is also written in first person. Why is this an effective stance?

7 Stanza Three I will not feel, I will not Feel, until I have to.
After the previous stanzas which describe the setting, this verse allows us to understand the speaker’s feelings. Looking at the structure of this verse, comment on how tension is created. What is the effect of the final line?

8 Stanza Four In this stanza the poet creates a feeling of activity
and purpose. What does he feel about the nurses? In what way do they provide a contrast? (Structure) Nurses walk lightly, swiftly here and up and down and there their slender waists miraculously carrying their burden, of so much pain, so many deaths, their eyes still clear after so many farewells (repetition)

9 Journey These first four verses move through the
corridors of the hospital as the speaker heads towards his destination. How has this sense of movement been achieved?

10 Ward 7. Caesura – a pause in a line of poetry.
What is the effect of the (complete) first line of this stanza? This is a turning point in the poem. Explain.

11 Stanza Five ‘White cave of forgetfulness’ ‘A withered hand/trembles on its stalk’ ‘glass fang’ ‘distance shrinks’ ‘the distance of pain which neither she nor I/can cross.’

12 Stanza Six What do you notice about the viewpoint?
The poet is described as the ‘black figure’. What is significant about this? Explain why you think he ‘clumsily rises’?

13 Oxymoron – a phrase containing contradictory terms ‘almost finished’, ‘dress trousers’, ‘pretty ugly’ Comment on the importance of the oxymoron in the final line of the poem. How has the speaker’s stance changed from the start of the poem? What feeling is the reader left with at the end of the poem?

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