Responses to Poems

Responses to Poems

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Responses to Poems

Poetry is known to stimulate powerful responses in readers. Examine
your reactions to these poems. How do they make you feel and why?
Analyse the link between the various techniques used by the poets and
your personal response. Use detailed references to the poems to
support your comments.

Reactions: #1 Reader feels disturbed; unsettled, because (No more
Hiroshimas) d and u poet speaks about relics of the attack that remind
us people were the victims of these attacks, not just buildings or
far-off governments or high-flown principles (The Day After) d and u
reader does not know who is right and who is wrong-what should the
Americans have done rather than cause so much suffering? Was there
another way to end the war? Could the countries have worked something
out? (Monuments of Hiroshima) u only was a 'wooden box' too much to
ask for? We should give the victims of the attacks some more
substantial monuments, something that respects their courage or at
least their individuality-makes reader think (Ghosts, Fire, Water) d
and u the reader almost feels scared, frightened of the ghosts, who
are reaching out their hands and blaming us, and he/she wants to run
away, or find some excuse for the bombings, but cannot reader also
wants to deny that he/she ever stopped "loving others", but cannot
These poems make the reader feel unsettled. In "No More Hiroshimas",
the poet describes Hiroshima as "a town like any other//Ramshackle,
muddy, noisy". This makes the reader feel bad, and wonder why, if
Hiroshima was so ordinary, it had to be destroyed. It makes the reader
question how random the attacks that day were, and how much was
planned. The poet also speaks of relics of the attack with great
vividness and descriptive language: "The bits of burnt clothing,//The
stopped watches, the torn shirts.//The twisted buttons". These relics
are all to do with people; i.e., they are clothes or shoes or
jewellery. The poet uses this vibrant imagery to remind us people were
the victims of these attacks, not just buildings or far-off
governments or high-flown principles. The reader realizes how inhumane
the attack on Hiroshimawas. In "The Day After", the reader feels
uncertain because the poet has left him/her 'sitting on the fence',
unsure of whom is right or wrong. Edward Lowbury describes Hiroshima's
pain with such intensity one cannot help but feel for the people-yet
he also tells the reader "every scar of it's their fault".

#2 Reader feels sad, because (No more Hiroshimas) The bomb left an
ordinary, run-of-the-mill town in pieces; killed its people, destroyed
its beautiful landmarks, and above all, saw that Hiroshima would, in a

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way, never heal (poet implies that Hiroshima has tried to get back to
normal, but they have not succeeded-the people are still suffering
from shock, unhappiness, only "a kind of life" goes on) (The Day
After) In the end nobody wins, whichever way people choose to go-if
the Japanese give in they lose face, if they don't more people die;
this power should not be held in anyone's hands but God's (Monuments
of Hiroshima) the victims of the attack lost in all senses-their
country lost the war, their hometown lost its beautiful buildings,
trees, etc, they lost their families, they lost their histories, they
lost their very own lives, and on top of this, they did not even have
individual monuments to their deaths-only a tower of peace, a hall of
peace (Ghosts, Fire, Water) humanity can be so stupid!-if all of us
could "love one another", there would never be war, never be racism,
never be segregation, never be disagreementsthere would never have
been something as hurtful as an atomic bomb, and Hiroshima would be a
very different place today. It is sad that it takes something so
dreadful to make us remember that old commandment. It is sad that we
still haven't learnt.

#3 Reader feels pain, because PEOPLE were hurt physically and
emotionally, -but esp. physically-the poet describes specifically the
pain suffered by victims ("the blasted boys crawled home to bleed and
slowly die.") (The Day After) Poet uses so many negatively connotated
words to do with death and physical pain-doom, shivers, die, defeated,
torn, mutilated, fights, hacked, scar, blind, dumb, helpless, reality,
blinds, nakedness, shame, hate--very vivid, painfully realistic
images (Ghosts) many vivid, very painful images ("..Their agony
appears. Like ash they are blown and blasted on the wind their shapes
are torn.") The poems cause the reader to suffer with Hiroshima. The
poets describe the physical and emotional pain of the victims so
expressively the reader can understand perfectly the way the victims
must have felt. The poets specifically describe the pain suffered by
victims: "the blasted boys crawled home to bleed// And slowly die.".
Kirkup uses evocative words like 'bleed' and 'die' to help the reader
understand the pain-for these are words people can all identify with.
Blood relates to physical injury, which is something everyone has
experienced somehow. Death is a very real possibility for everyone,
and something the world must face every day. Lowbury also uses
powerful words related to death and physical pain in "The Day After".
Words like "doom agony torn mutilated blind helpless " bring to mind
glaringly realistic images of tortured, anguished people. There are
many clear images to help the reader understand how the ghosts felt
when the bomb fell: " Their agony appears their shapes are torn their
flame-cracked flesh writhes no easy music in their silent screams "
The reader hopes that Hiroshimawill never again experience such pain.

#4 Reader feels guilty, because (The day after) The poet makes the
reader feel as if not just America but mankind is responsible for the
bomb ("if God had nothing to do with it, extinction is the least
price man can pay.") (Monuments) "Monuments of Hiroshima" makes the
reader feel guilty or not so much guilty but uncomfortable, for the
poet, very subtly, asks the reader why no one recognized the
individuality of those who died. The reader feels like he/she should
do something about these unrecognized souls-feels like something
should have been done long ago, feels like we are forgetting how
unlucky these people were and how much they deserve that little bit of
recognition, at the very least. (ghosts) the poet also makes the
reader feel as if he/she is responsible, because, he asks the ghosts
to "Forgive us" and he writes that "Their shame is ours.". .the poet
makes the reader feel responsible for the unsatisfied ghosts ("Their
voices call to us, in pain and indignation: 'This is what you have
done to us!'""Forgive us")

#5 Reader feels scared, because (No More) the poet transports the
reader back to right after the bomb fell with vivid descriptions and
imagery-the reader wonders where the "bits of burnt clothing" came
from, and the "twisted buttons" and "The white blouse polka-dotted
with atomic rain, indelible' but especially the "cotton summer pants
the blasted boys crawled home in to bleed, and slowly die."(The day
after) frightened the poet has a very severe verdict for
man-extinction-the reader wants to deny this verdict, justify the
Americans, protest his/her innocence The reader feels frightened of
the ghosts in "Ghosts, Fire, Water", because they blame the reader for
what happened ("Their voices call out to us, in pain and indignation:
'This is what you have done to us!"). The reader wants to run away, or
find some excuse for the bombings, but cannot James Kirkup uses
strong, repetitive language to emphasize how much pain the ghosts
suffered, and this makes the reader feel even guiltier. The reader
also wants to deny that he/she ever stopped "loving others", but
cannot for the poet himself seems to believe that the reader, perhaps
the world, is responsible for the ghosts of Hiroshima, for he writes:
"Forgive us " and "Their shame is ours". "Ghosts, Fire, Water also
makes the reader feel uncomfortable because it is talking about
something abstract, unreal, almost frightening-ghosts-and this in
itself makes the reader feel frightened.

James Kirkup's "No More Hiroshimas" and "Ghosts, Fire, Water", Edward
Lowbury's "The Day After" and D.J. Enright's "Monuments of Hiroshima"
are four moving, incredibly powerful war poems. Like a lot of war
poems, they are not pleasant to read, and they do not cause the reader
to feel good. They only encourage one to think, maybe even to
understand how futile war is. The poems have different tones and
styles, and bring to the reader many ideas and emotions regarding the
attack at Hiroshima during World War 2. "No More Hiroshimas" is a
portrayal of the town after the attack. "The Day After" is a harshly
realistic depiction of the people of Hiroshima after the attack.
"Monuments of Hiroshima" is a much quieter poem that questions how we
should treat the people who died. Finally, "Ghosts, Fire, Water" is a
collection of images of the ghosts of those who died.

The poems are heartbreaking, and cause the reader to feel sad. This is
because the bomb left an ordinary town in pieces. It killed many
people, destroyed beautiful landmarks, and above all, caused a wound
that in a way never healed. Kirkup uses negatively connotated words to
hint that Hiroshima has tried to recover and return to everyday life,
but has not succeeded ("Awful emptiness jaded Christmas
frippery dingy deserted"). The people are still suffering from shock
and grief, and only "a kind of life " goes on. The reader feels
especially sad for Japan when Lowbury describes how she is "[t]orn
between saving face and body" and both are "mutilated beyond
recognition". The poet uses this symbolism to show how Japan was
unwilling to back down and 'lose face', yet also unwilling for more
people to die. The symbolism and the duel meaning of the phrase
"[t]orn between saving face and body" emphasize Japan's losses and
increase the reader's sympathy. After reading "Monuments of
Hiroshima", the reader feels especially sorry for the victims of the
attack. The reader realizes how much they lost-their families, their
histories, their very own lives, and especially their
individuality-they did not even have a simple coffin. Enright mentions
their monuments: "A Towerof Peace, a Hall of Peace, a Bridge " to show
just how little recognition they received. The memorials are simply
general reminders of what happened and do not honour the individuals
who died. It is also sad that it took something so horrible to remind
us of the old commandment: "Love one another [as I have loved you.]"
("Ghosts, Fire, Water"). Sadly, people still haven't learnt.

These poems also cause the reader to feel guilty. Lowbury holds not
just America but mankind responsible for the bomb. "If God had
nothing to do with it, //Extinction is the least price man can pay.".
Lowbury increases the guilt by illustrating Hiroshima's pain with
strong, emotive language: "Who will break this terrible silence? seems
less than a dream" Enright asks the reader why no one recognised the
individuality of those who died. The reader feels like he/she should
have done something about these unrecognised souls. Did they not
deserve some recognition? Kirkup makes the reader feel partly
responsible for the bomb because he asks the ghosts to "[f]orgive us,
that we had to see your passion to remember". The poets uses
personification to give the ghosts voices with which to blame us.
"Their voices call to us, in pain and indignation: 'This is what you
have done to us!'". Kirkup also uses strong, repetitive language to
emphasize how much pain the ghosts suffered, and this causes the
reader to feel even more guilt. The poems cause the reader to feel
almost responsible for the attack.

The poems can also upset and scare the reader. The poets use vivid
imagery to transport the reader back in time, to right after the bomb
fell. The reader wonders where the "bits of burnt clothing" came
from, and "The white blouse polka-dotted with atomic rain, indelible"
but especially the "cotton summer pants the blasted boys crawled home
in to bleed, and slowly die." These objects remind the reader of the
horror of that day, and personalise the tragedy. In addition, the
reader feels revulsion when Lowbury details the pain of the people:
"...in the agony of death still torn, contorted such nakedness that
shame itself could not look on "-he uses such poignant language, one
cannot help but see, feel the agony. Lowbury also has a very severe
verdict for man-extinction-and death is something many people fear ("if
God had nothing to do with it//Extinction is the least price man can
pay."). The reader also feels terrified of the ghosts of Hiroshima
because they blame the reader for what happened ("Their voices call
out to us, in pain and indignation: 'This is what you have done to
us!"). The reader wants to avoid reality and find some excuse for the
bombings, but cannot. The poems also make the reader feel
uncomfortable because they talk about something abstract and
unreal-ghosts. Perhaps it is understandable that one feels afraid when
the poets describe war.

After reading the poems, the reader feels subdued. He/she can
partially grasp how grave the situation was. The poets use short,
contemplative sentences to touch the reader and leave them with
something to think about: "Remember only these. They are the memorials
we need." The reader feels subdued when Lowbury illustrates
Hiroshima's terrible pain: "the doom of war shivers over these //
Unwilling to die searching us with sickening clarity" Words like
"doom agony torn mutilated nblind helpless" bring to mind glaringly
realistic images of tortured, anguished people. These remind the
reader how fortunate he/she is, to be alive and free from intense
suffering. Enright uses balanced rhythm and rhyme to portray the dead
people of Hiroshima: "Little of peace for them to rest in, less of
them to rest in peace: //Dust to dust a swift transition, ashes to ash
with awful ease." The poem 'flows' off the tongue smoothly and
reflects the ease with which the people were killed. This encourages
the reader to consider the sanctity of life and how much people are
worth. Do we deserve to enjoy life when so many never will?

These are war poems, and they are sombre and perhaps somewhat
disheartening. They are also very important and meaningful, for they
remind people of a time when countless numbers were hurt and killed.
The poets use emotive language and moving descriptions to shock, scare
and sadden the reader. More importantly, the poets encourage the
reader to feel determined the world will never kill so many again. I
think this was the poets' intention. They wanted to show everyone how
much unhappiness stemmed from war. They wanted to warn the world never
to go to war again. They wanted the world to remember Hiroshima and
how much she suffered, for if we remember we will never repeat the
mistake.

They write in the hope that we will always remember. Let us do so.
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