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Tuesday 12th January 2010 Before your Literature Mocks we have: 8 lessonsTo cover:14 poems And do 2 practice essays
This means that in most lessons we will be covering 2 poems. So we need to be SUPERFOCUSED.
Today we will be studying… ‘Before You Were Mine’ ‘My father thought it’
My father thought it Have you ever done anything to deliberately annoy or rebel against your parents? What was it? Why did you do it? How did it make you feel? How did it make your parents feel?
Listen to the poem Write down any words/thoughts are particularly striking from the poem or that come into your head – no matter how random they might seem.
What do you think the poem is about? Try to write a summary in your own words
So what is it about? The twenty nine year old poet recalls how his father reacted when he came home with his ear pierced.
Background This is another poem taken from Armitage’s collection, ‘Book of Matches’ It is an exploration, from another angle, of the relationship between parents and children, during the turbulent period moving from adolescence to young adulthood. The concept behind ‘Book of Matches’ is based on a party game, where participants have to talk about their life in the space of time it takes for a match to burn down. It is a game which starts with facts and then goes on to feelings. The poem is very different from ‘Mother, any distance greater …’ in that it focuses on the conflict of the ‘generation gap’.
homophobic? - ‘queer’ – or just odd father – What does it imply about the father? Immediately focuses reader on importance in the poem of relationship with father down to earth ‘bloody’ – colloquial Who says these words? My father thought it bloody queer, the day I rolled home with a ring of silver in my ear half hidden by a mop of hair. “You’ve lost your head. If that’s how easily you’re led You should’ve had it through your nose instead.” What image of the narrator do these words give? What is implied by it? What metaphor is employed by the father here?
And even then I hadn’t hadthe nerve to numb the lobe with ice, then drive a needle through the skin, then wear a safety- pin. It took a jeweller’s gun to pierce the flesh, and then a friend to thread a sleeper in, and where it slept the hole became a sore, became a wound, and wept. What do these words and phrases reveal about the poet in his ‘rebellion’? What group is this a reference to? What do these words imply?
Gives context – clearly indicates to reader movement in time Why is it important to have this at the start of the verse? At twenty-nine, it comes as no surprise to hear my own voice breaking like a tear, released like water, cried from way back in the spiral of the ear. If I were you, I’d take it out and leave it out next year. This is his voice – but it sounds like what his father might have said. Has he come to share Is removing the earring his father’s values? a sign of maturity? Or a sign that he is now ready to conform?
Structure 3 stanzas First 2 stanzas show what happened in the past. Last stanza brings reader up to date with what the event means to the poet when he is 29.
In reading the poem, do you take sides? Whose? Why? Does the young man in the poem come across as a sympathetic rebel-without-a-cause character or does he seem weak and insecure? Or would you describe him in some other way? Explain. The poet describes the decision to take out the earring as a “voice breaking like a tear” and water being released from the ear where it has been trapped. Does this suggest that this is a welcome relief or a regretful acceptance of defeat? When the father calls the ring “bloody queer”, do you think he merely means that it is stupid, or is he frightened that it is a sign of effeminacy - as if he worries that his son may be gay?
Listen to the poem Write down any words/thoughts are particularly striking from the poem or that come into your head – no matter how random they might seem. http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/english_literature/poetduffy/beforeyouwererev1.shtml
The poet is talking to her mother, having seen a photo of her mother as a teenager.
Use the following to annotate the appropriate parts of the poem: She describes the photo of her mother standing laughing with two of her friends. She knows that the thought of having a child one day doesn't occur to her mother when young, when she was wrapped up in a world of dances and teenage dreams. Now remembering her own childhood, the poet thinks of how she used to play with her mother's red shoes and imagines when her mother might have worn those shoes to meet a boyfriend in George Square (in Glasgow). She remembers how her mother used to teach her dance steps when she was a child - yet even back then, the young poet wished she could have known her mother when still young and carefree, before she was a mother - 'Before you were mine'.
Use the following notes on language to help you annotate the poem: There are many references to her mother as happy and bright - “"you laugh / the bold girl winking in Portobello"” ... “"you sparkle and waltz and laugh"”. Life back then is seen as very glamorous. Her mother is likened to Marilyn Monroe and goes to a dance where a glitter ball hangs - “"the thousand eyes"”. Her mother dreams of “"fizzy, movie tomorrows"” and she imagines her mother meeting a boyfriend “"under the tree, with its lights””. There is contrast between her mother's life as a teenager and as a mother of the young poet. The poet assumes her mother's life was better before her own “"possessive, loud yell"” was heard. The phrase “"I'm not here yet"” sounds almost like a warning to her teenage mother-to-be that the fun will end when she arrives.
Language continued… The poem is written in the present tense, as if the events of the photo are happening now. Why do you think this is? Is the poet trying to make her mother's past as real as possible? The poet has a very confident, assertive voice, and makes definite statements: “"I'm not here yet"”. She speaks to her mother in a familiar way: “"The decade ahead of my loud, possessive yell was the best one, eh?"”
Language continued… The poet deploys a great deal of glittering light to evoke the excitement of carefree teenage existence: the ballroom “"fizzes"” with light; the tree under which the mother is kissed has “"lights"” in it; mother and child “"stamp stars"” from the pavement as they cha-cha home from Mass; life before motherhood waltzes and “"sparkles"”. The poem is written to sound as if the poet is talking to her mother, so the poet follows the patterns of ordinary speech. Many phrases begin with I, as if the poet wanted to assert her presence even before she was a presence: 'I'm ten years away .. I knew you would dance like that.'
Structure The poem is written in four equal stanzas of five lines each. How does this help you to 'see' the poem? It may help you to visualise photos in an album, set out regularly over a page. It may help you to realise the regularity of time passing. (The poem keeps reminding us that ten years after the photo was taken, the happy, bold teenager had become a mother.)