Social Items


You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
OK then, yes, I’m lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies*
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean

You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely


If I’m lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawn’s first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep

If I’m lonely
it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning
*Rockies: a mountain range in the USA

--- two paragraphs of analysis ---

An idea that is strikingly communicated through the poem is confidence. This is presented by the first-person point of view used throughout the poem: “Ok then, yes, I’m lonely.”, and “If I’m lonely”. There are no descriptions of other characters except scenes metaphorically explaining the poet’s believes and values. This shows that the poet is willing to let the audience to look into her heart directly, completely deep into her thoughts and feelings. It highlights that the poet has no fear in clarifying her ideas and challenging the audience’s usual understanding of the word “lonely”, exploring the idea of self-confidence.

The poet strikingly conveyed her feeling that she will always live in a free lifestyle. The title of the poem, “Song”, could have many meanings. A song could be exciting and inspiring, or sad and bitter. It could be a solo sung by the poet herself, or a hymn sang by a choir. The variety of its explanation suggests the manifold possibility of the poet’s life. The same idea was expressed by lines in each stanza. ”You’re wondering if I’m lonely: / OK then, yes, I’m lonely / as a plane rides lonely and level” Unlike classical poems, Song does not have a clear meter or rhyme scheme, the poet herself decides where and how to stop the line. This could imply that the writer wants to live in the way she decides, no matter how other people might think about her, what their views and opinions might be.

Song by Adrienne Rich Analysis

import random

def has_questionmark(qus):
 wordlist = qus.split()
 last_word = wordlist[-1]
 split_last_word = list(last_word)
 if '?' in split_last_word:
  return True


def has_special_words(qus):
 wordlist = qus.split()
 first_word = wordlist[0]
 first_word = first_word.lower()
 special_words = ['what', 'where', 'when', 'how', 'why', 'are','do','did']
 if first_word in special_words:
  return True
  
def is_a_yn_question(qus):
 wordlist = qus.split()
 first_word = wordlist[0]
 first_word = first_word.lower()
 special_words = ['do', 'did', 'are']
 if first_word in special_words:
  return True

def is_a_question(qus):
 if has_questionmark(qus) or has_special_words(qus):
  return True
  

print('\nSpeak to me!')
while True:
 question = input('')
 if question == 'q':
  break
 if is_a_question(question):
  if is_a_yn_question(question):
   choice = random.randint(0,1)
   if choice:
    print('Yes.\n')
   else:
    print('No...\n')
  
  
  
  
  
 else:
  print('This is not a question.')

Conversation Machine

Photo by Ari Spada on Unsplash

Everything was a blur around her, as in every other day. As a kiwi, she wasn’t able to see things further than the tip of her beak. But from experience she knew that it was dark. It was always like this since she was brought here.

From Kella’s exploration in the past days, her long beak would hit a hard fence when she walked straight. There were rocks in the area, hard and sharp and cold, like the freezing gusts of wind, soaring through the mysterious night when she was back in the forest. She lied down. She would rather rest for a while than walking into the rocks.

The faint wind brushed against her fur. She took a deep breath, it was the mix of sweat, coughs and scents of other animals no far from the dark house where she lives. She sighed. It was the same even at the middle of the night, without noises from animals, visitors and her breeder. She struggled to blow all the smell out from her nostrils, but it only resulted in breathing more in.

She closed her eyes. She had never seen the forest with her own eyes, but she could recall the smell of timidness, the fragrance of ferns, the freshness of mint and flowing water not far away. She had always been able to find her way in the dewy grass, through the heavy mist of the forest and return to her nest just before daybreak.

Nora, she thought. The name was echoing in her heart, again and again. Through the thick glass inside the dark house, seemingly she saw Nora gliding between the branches of an old tawa tree on her wings, saddened by the promise which Kella was unable to comply with. Slowly, the scene turned into her memory, the same tawa tree, a year ago.

She had been wandering in the forest, only hearing her feet tread, hearing the cracking twigs and leaves underfoot. It was on the roots of the old tree that she heard the loud whistling crescendo. It was a soft song soothing and sweet yet powerful, rich of smooth melody and rhythm. All notes were deliberate to the extreme exquisiteness, all bars were cut accurately to perfection. It was not just a pleasurable sound to Kella’s ears. It was something more than that. It was a satisfaction, a contentment to her curiosity, a trigger to the vent of her displeasure due to her bad eyesight, a fulfillment to her heart eager to experience the world. Spellbound, Kella jumped towards the sound.

At the same time the song stopped. Faintly in the blur, a tiny grey silhouette flew down, and there, in front of Kella, stood the tiny figure. A nightingale. Kella stared at it with amazement. Small wings, short beak. The beak. Kella lowered her head to have a closer look. Unbelievable, where the song came from. Nora the nightingale jumped forward and chirped in a friendly manner.

Far away from the house, a dog barked. Alerted, she raised up her head. The echo was reverberating. Soon the echo dissipated, everything was quiet and secluded again, as if nothing has ever happened. Kella pricked up her ears. Unlike in the morning, all the unfamiliar noises were taken place by an ever-lasting peace. Everything seemed normal, yet everything seemed to be driven by some abnormal and unknown forces. Fear was spreading fast in her body like an epidemic, and soon she was teemed with it. She uncontrollably shivered. Desperately and toughly, she searched in her mind for comforting memories.

It had been a full and exciting day with Nora. The small shadow was standing on her side. It was the same song and Nora’s voice was still sweet, Kella found in its melody an indescribable sadness.

“When will you come back?” She murmured softly, so soft that Nora thought she said that to herself.

Nora’s song stopped. “I don’t know. Africa was a long way from here.”

Kella snuggled against Nora. Tears slid down on her cheeks. She stared blankly at the blurry peach-colored sunset.

She walked back to her nest, alone.

It was nighttime. She rested in her nest, sensing darkness and coldness taking up the forest. Suddenly, she heard chaos. Chaos everywhere. Crows flapping their wings. Animals fleeing. There was also an unfamiliar smell that she did not know. “There is a kiwi bird over there!” The voice was excited. She struggled to stand up. Footsteps. More and more footsteps getting closer and closer to her nest. She felt a prick on her back. She tried to walk away, but she got dizzy. She had to sit down. She staggered for a few steps and lost her consciousness.

Kella wasn’t getting better. She shivered even more. She crawled into a ball on the side of the glass, facing the direction of the moon. The moon looked smoky and yellow behind the scudding clouds. It had no brilliance to offer, blending into the gloom of the night.

All of a sudden, Kella saw an obscure figure flying into the dark house. What was it? She wondered. Is it the feeder, is it a visitor, or was it another creature that I would never be able to see? She sensed the shadow coming closer and closer. She shrieked.

Soft and gentle, she raised her head. Slowly, she calmed down.

As the first note came out, Kella knew it. She always knew that she would come back. She listened to the familiar song in inexplicable joy and agony. Nora. She had waited her for so long. She had dreamed about her in the past year. She had prepared for the day, yet she had never wanted Nora to see her in the dark house, being stranded here for the rest of her life.

Nora paused; it was to confirm if Kella was still alive. Kella tried to stand up hard, but she was too weak. She wanted to show her presence to Nora, but no sound came out from her beak. It had been a long time since she last ate something. The song started for a second time. It was louder than usual, with a deep grief and sorrow. Kella froze. It was too loud for Nora. It would damage her voice forever. The notes cut into Kella, making her heart bleed. “I’m here! I’m alive!” She yelled in her heart, but no one seemed to know. “Stop!” The song resonated in the middle of the night. It was like a dirge, full of lament, reminding people of night, of death.

Nora’s song continued. It was close to the end. Usually it got slower and softer, this time, however, it did neither. The closer it was from the end, the louder, the sharper it was. The moon came out from the clouds. It seemed that its florescence and dominance could not be covered by the grey clouds anymore. The illuminated sky was starless, as if the stars were ashamed to stay with the brightness of the moon and ensconce themselves behind the clouds. The great melody finally came to a climax, the whole world stopped for the last note, and Kella held her breath.

The note never came out.

Nora opened her mouth, but the only thing coming out was blood. She had sung loud for too long. It costed her her life.

A few drops of blood hit the floor. Then it was the Nora’s lifeless body.

Kella paralyzed. But then she stood up. It was her last bit of energy. The world seemed to be not so blurry. Kella ran towards Nora’s body, fueling herself with her last drop of life.

She ran onto the glass that separated her from the rest of the world, the forest, Nora.

Her world turned black.

[ It was in the morning. The breeder walked towards the dark house. There was a delicate nightingale’s body with a few drops of brownish liquid by its side. It was too small to be noticed. The breeder stepped right on it and walked into the house. The furry thing inside the glass fence was not moving. She took a closer look. It was the kiwi bird that she had been breeding for a whole year, there seemed to be a smile remaining on her face. The breeder picked up her phone emotionless: “Hi mate, kiwi 008’s dead. Yes. Yes. Can you please help to bury it? The pot next to the dark house will be fine.” ]

To Kill a Kiwi Bird

Inspired by Lights out, who's there?
Watch here

11 pm, her normal bedtime. She filled herself a glass of water on the dining table. Swallowing, she felt the sound of water sliding down her throat. After finishing she looked around. Things were strangely quiet in an eerie way. She shivered.

She had graduated from university three months ago. Mum had wanted her to work in her hometown so that she would be able to return home everyday, but thinking of getting a job with more potential, she had decided to go to a foreign first-tier city, alone. Considering her situation, she had rented a cheap house near the central of the city, paying an unacceptably high rent.

A corridor, long and narrow, was at the corner of the dinning room. The end of the corridor was the door to her bedroom. It had been left ajar, light shone out from it, an ice-blue color. She preferred warmer colors, but this light would do for her first night in the cheap rental house. Light switches for the whole house were on the left of the doorframe, yellowed with age, which she hesitated before touching it.

With a few clicks the lights were off. She got into the room walking directly towards her bed. Sitting down, she took her phone and opened WhatsApp. 0 messages. Refresh. 0 messages. It was not until then she realized that there was no signal in the rental house, and as she never turned on her data, she was completely separated from the world in the past few hours when hurrying to get things organized in the rental house. Mum should have already texted her a thousand messages now. Worriedly, she turned on her data and called Mum.

“Hello?” The warm and steady voice put her a bit more at ease.

“Hi Mum, it’s me.” She had a sudden impulse to cry.

“Fibie! Oh my god I… Why did you not call me! It seemed like you have disappeared. How was everything going?”

She hesitated, looking around the old, yellowish rental house. “Oh I am living with my friend! Remember Maggie? My primary school’s friend.” She started making it up. “Never mind, everything is going w—” Crack! Something is wrong with the bed. She struggled to stand up, but it was too late. Boom! The whole bed crashed onto the filthy floor. She felt extreme pain in her waist. She tried to stand up. Two legs at the end of the bed had snapped. She stepped back in terror. “What happened?!” Mum yelled on the other end of the call. “I’m fine. I’m fine.” She tried to speak in her normal voice. “Good night mum.” She said quickly and abruptly ended the call.

Dread was spreading in her body. The broken bed seemed to be unexpected and normal. It was getting cold. Wind was whistling by the window violently, vehemently, fiercely. I should rest, she thought. I should rest and tomorrow will be a sunny day again.

She walked towards the door and stretch out a hand lazily and pulled on it. The door did not move. She dragged the door with both hands, hard this time. The wooden door started to move and squeaked as it turns. Crack! The poor-quality doorframe had a tiny spine sticking out from the top. The door hit the spine and stopped moving, as if setting itself against her deliberately.

She pulled even harder. The door did not move. She put her whole weight on the door, staring at the end of the corridor hard, as if that would make her stronger or ease the pain on her hands. A gust of cold wind blew onto her cheeks. She opened her eyes wide, but suddenly, it seemed, there was something in the darkness. She searched in the darkness for the same color and contour that she just saw, and there, at the end of the corridor, was a lump of shadow, shadow with a dark color, much darker than its surrounding area. She widened her eyes in horror, with her sudden realization that it was a silhouette, a still silhouette of a woman. Restraining herself from screaming, she immediately fumbled for the light switches on her right. Click click. Lights were on, nothing was there. “Ah.” She felt a sense of relief. Out of pure curiosity, she turned the lights back off. Click. The shadow was still there. Her heart tensed again. Click. Lights on, nothing. Click. Lights off, the shadow appeared. She fiddled the switch for a few times, started to feel bored and turned the lights off the last time, deciding to go to bed. Click. The shadow was not there. She searched for the shadow again and again at the end of the corridor, and in a sudden, she saw it.

The silhouette was midway through the corridor.

Lights on. Lights off again, just as her hand got away from the switches, the air coagulated.

The shadow was in front of her, next to the doorframe.

She screamed.

Lights on. She took some tape to fix the light switches, making sure that they are not going to turn off. I need to sleep, she thought. Corridor lights on, desk lamp on, the whole house bright and safe. She crawled onto the broken bed, hiding her head underneath the blankets. She watched the bright lights through the blanket, starting to feel dizzy and sleepy.

A soft click. Losing her consciousness, she did not hear it. A loud click. She was quickly alerted, shrinking into the blanket fearfully.

Click. Her heart started racing. She held her breath.

Click. It was the desk lamp. She screamed, becoming weak and limp, feeling unable to control her body. The blanket slid off down the slope of the broken bed.

Now she was exposed to the infinite darkness.

Lights Out

It was a growing line that never moved forward. It seemed inevitable for the line to grow thicker, thicker, and eventually filling up the room. You got to go into that door if you wait in the line, but not always, only when you have a full wallet in your pocket.

It was a sunny day, scorching hot. The brilliant rays from the sun were shining onto the top of the building, licking its surface like a hot-blooded serpent. Although it was not outdoors, Prince Regent Charles's hospital was filled with ferocious heat, as if trying to drain you and squeeze out the last bit of consciousness from your body. Everything other than the heat was the crowd, men women children from Bubanzi, Cibitoka, Kayanze, and villages Imamu had never heard of, hurrying here for the medical care.

Imamu was familiar with the heat. Not long ago he had caught a cold and suffered from fever. Dizzy and having a headache, he had hobbled along the muddy roads, all the way to Prince Regent Charles hospital.

“Ahem!” The old man sitting behind Imamu coughed. Imamu was alerted. The faded plastic chair became sticky in the high temperature, its skin coiled up and were peeled off. Half sitting and half lying on the chair, Imamu felt the sun biting into him, eating into his vulnerable skin. Unable to move, he faced directly at the yellowed clock hanging on the potholed wall. The pointer was pointing right when he came, but now it is pointing upwards, straight up between the smooth “1” and the curly “2”. Dalia, he thought. The clock was fuelled on Dalia’s life. Every second it ran Dalia got sicker.

Two people were chatting on his side.

“Waiting in the line worth it,” one said, “as long as I no need to pay for my wife’s medicines.”

The other nodded.

“It has been hot this year, my coffee tree’s dying. I might only be able to earn half of last year’s…”

Getting medicines free of charge? Imamu did not think so. Not here. Authorities are accustomed to using their power to fleece the less privileged ones whenever they could. Giving free services? No way.

Imamu felt tired. He closed his eyes and sank into his memories. Last time he came to the hospital alone, he had been dizzy and having a headache. Half asleep and half awake, he had waited in the flock of people, somehow got into the consulting room, facing the man wearing an oversized white coat. The doctor had said to Imamu that he has got influenza. “Rest well.” His only advice in two words. “What about medication?” The doctor had called in another patient, saying no more to Imamu. Imamu had stumbled back home. It was a week of unendurable illness, but it was after the experience a neighbor had revealed to him that people covertly bribe doctors for real treatment in free government’s hospitals. They called this paying “health fees”.

A man walked out of the consulting room, frustrated with tears on his cheeks. A tall pregnant woman with a three-year-old boy in her arms entered, but came back out after a few minutes, her calmness washed away in salty tears. Imamu sighed and looked around, there were sounds of children coughing and vomiting all over the line. Normally Imamu would be filled by agony every time he heard children suffering, but now it only reminds him of Dalia. Funny, Imamu grit his teeth, coming to a free public hospital carrying a sack of money. He patted on his backpack again, reassuring himself. He had sold half of his coffee trees to get the hospital fees after Dalia started coughing during the day and having headaches at night.

All of a sudden, people in front of him began to move. The line dispersed to give way to a young doctor wearing glasses. “The hospital is now closed. Come back later in the afternoon. Now leave, please!” Imamu opened his mouth to the shape of an “O”. The room turned completely silent swiftly. It was people getting shocked, unable to accept what had just happened. It was a long pause. No one said a word. The doctor turned away from the crowd, walked back to the consulting room, his footsteps echoing on the cold, marble floor. It sounded like a clock ticking, a countdown, the elapsion of Dalia’s life. My daughter, five years old, lying on her bed with a serious fever! She might not be alive tomorrow. With the thought, Imamu’s legs gave away. He knelt. He yelled and cried in silent and no one cared. The doctor opened the door and went in, with a loud “BANG” of the closing door, he was gone.

A newborn baby’s cry broke the silence, his mother sang a lullaby and wept. The crowd started to move towards the exit. Imamu pushed the man next to him to grab his backpack and jostled towards the consulting room. “Doctor!” His words were lost in the crowd. “Please! Doctor!” The flood of people carried him away. He struggled towards the doorframe of the room. “Plea—” He got the door handle. “I beg you! I have a daughter!” The door was firmly locked. Tears rolled off his chin, he hollered in despair. “I’ll pay you health fees!” He heard small movements inside the door. “I’ll pay you health fees…double!” The door opened. For a moment Imamu stood there, shocked, unable to say a word.

“Sit down.”

A cold and impatient command. The doctor was in front of his desk, facing the large computer screen. The lamp shone cold light onto his glasses, reflecting into Imamu’s eyes, making him shiver. Reluctantly, Imamu sat onto the plastic chair, feeling unused to the rolling wheels underneath its legs. There wasn’t much conversation. Recalling Dalia’s symptoms was painful. He shed his tears with his broad fingers full of calluses. He kept telling, memories freely flew out from his dried lips like a sad river, his sight fell on the buttons of the doctor’s coat, then on the doctor, who seemed to pay no attention. The doctor looked at his screen, his hand as if aimlessly, wrote little things. Words numbers symbols that he did not recognize.

He fi. Imamu waited. The doctor’s face was shone brightly by the light of the screen, hard and motionless. The doctor stood up, as if a solemn judge doing a sacred ritual, he announced:

“Chloroquine, Quinine, Mefloquine.”

Imamu did not understand.

“Health fee?” The doctor finally asked.

Imamu knew what to do. Carefully, he took out the sack full of notes and coins from his backpack, then handed it over. A mix of smells of soil and metal came out as soon as the bag was opened. The coins shone golden-yellow, the holy illumination before a child was being saved, Imamu thought. The doctor took the calculator on the desk and started pressing the buttons. The hospital was quiet, the elapsion of time was only indicated by the “tac tac” sound of the calculator. Looking back on the sack of health fees, the doctor frowned.

A sudden buzzing sound. Imamu was startled and almost jumped up. The doctor took the call with composure. “Hello?”

A man was talking on the other side of the call and Imamu couldn’t hear. Imamu looked at the clock. The pointer was now back to the beginning of the cycle, pointing at “1”. He winked at the doctor, trying to catch his attention, but it was no use.

“I got a patient in Prince hospital. He got double the fees. No, I am not doing one more leg surgery. Wait, the fees are up to us? In Gambro Healthcare?” Gambro Healthcare, Imamu had heard of that hospital. It was in a building, with 100 floors, people said. The uncle in his village said every time he walked past the building he felt cold air coming out from it.

“Who is the patient? Mr. Chidike? Oh! Isn’t he the police chief’s son? Let me see, can he wait for 30 minutes?” Imamu now understood, there was the son of the police chief in their district that got a cut on his lower leg from a gang fighting. If receiving no treatment, a permanent scar would be left.

“My daughter is very sick now!” Imamu tried to interrupt the call. The doctor walked towards the door. Imamu panicked, feeling dizzy from breathing off the top of his lungs, he struggled to stand up from the swivel chair, reaching towards the doctor. The doctor was half out of the doorframe, Imamu managed to grab onto a corner of his clean white coat.

Slap! Imamu felt burning pain on the left side of his cheek. Before he could realize that it was a smack, the corner of the coat disappeared between the doorframe and the closing door.

Imamu sagged down, fell forward and his face hit the floor. His head was full of the coughing and crying sound of Dalia, but all of a sudden they faded. The bright afternoon sunshine slide across his cheeks along with his tears, then disappeared behind the thick hospital curtain.

Await

How does Tim Winton use plot to engage readers in the social concern(s) of 'On Her Knees'?

Initially, there is an individual vs. society conflict, as Vic’s mother was always patronized by her employers, who had taken her for granted and were trying to chip her rate down, even though she had got a good name. Through the development of the plot, we were shown the gap between the rich and poor and the vulnerability of people of lower hierarchies, represented by Vic and his mum in the story. Secondly, the story introduces a sense of an individual vs. individual type conflict, as it is clear that Vic thought differently comparing to his mother when being demeaned by people.

The main protagonists in the story are Vic Lang and his mother. The individual vs. society conflict was shown through lots of details in the inner thinkings of Vic: “I’d seen their patronizing notes on floral paper, their attempts to chip her rate down.” Through demonstrating these details from the perspective of Vic, the “victim" of the story and the representation of the lower community in the society, we are encouraged to despise the employers of Vic’s mother, the villains with more advantages over the victims. At the same time, we get to see what these vulnerable ones in the society are treated, what they perceive from society. We also tend to sympathize Vic and Vic’s mother and question why their societies had made that patronization happen.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

The main cause of the individual vs. individual conflict, as introduced in the outset of the story, could be the difference between Vic and his mother’s reaction when being devalued. When Vic’s mum was devalued, being blamed for stealing a pair of earrings that she did not steal, Vic was offended and wanted to revenge by not returning the house for cleaning, while his mother, after crying under the lemon tree out of sadness of being wronged, seemed to be doing nothing about this and decided to go back to clean the house again. Vic could not understand his mum, thus, the conflict was built up. Vic’s anger towards people who hire his mum could be shown with his inner thinking in his characterization: “[Mum] was proud of her good name and the way people bragged about her and passed her around like a hot tip, but I resented how quickly they took her for granted.” An effect of this could be Vic’s mum going back to clean the house on her own, Vic staying at home planning for taking revenge on Mum’s employers.

As the plot developed further, we as readers have more understanding of the situation Vic and his mother were facing. The terrible working environment and a large amount of work of Vic and his mother were described: “The stink was awful” in the “airless laundry”, and there were “every sill and architrave, each lamp and mirror” waiting to be cleaned. Through these, the idea of wealth gap was further explored. In addition, after the earrings were finally found underneath the bed, being left there just because of the employer’s carelessness, the two protagonists were arguing to or not to take the money the employer give them before sacking them. While Vic thought that they should do so to vent their anger, Vic’s mother prefer not to do so as “all [the employer] have to say is that she made [her] guilty enough to give them back”. This creates even more gap between the two characters.

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

The two conflicts were closely interconnected. As the rich were patronizing the poor, the poor need to keep their dignity and try to stop the patronization. When Vic’s mother chose not to take the money, Vic was startled, but after Mum explaining her decision, Vic suddenly fully understood what dignity means. Leaving the money proved that Vic’s family would only earn money not through stealing nor the employer’s benevolence, but only money that they deserved and from what their hard work. Before this, Vic has decided to put the pair of earrings into the stinking cat tray out of anger, but now he decided to take it back, as he finally agreed with his mother, appreciating her actions, the gap between him and his mother was fulfilled, the individual vs. individual conflict is resolved. At this point, individual vs. society conflict should also be resolved. However, it is not known if the employer of Vic’s mother was convinced, if she was still blaming Vic’s mother for the loss of the earrings even after they were returned to her. This leads us to feel that the conflict wasn’t fully resolved. With Vic and his mother representing the poor and the employers as the rich in the society, we are encouraged to question why the rich must patronize the poor, why the poor needs to be so vulnerable, not even able to keep their dignity.

By setting multiple conflicts, providing more understanding of the situation to the readers, showing possible resolutions and eventually providing an unsatisfying resolution, the writer not only engages readers, but also raise awareness of the social concern of wealth gap in ‘On Her Knees”.

Analysis on an Effective Narrative

Blessing is a poem written by Imtiaz Dharker in 1989 from a typical Mumbai slum scene. War Photographer is written by Carol Anne Duffy in 1985, inspired by her photographer friend who recently returned from a war-torn foreign country. The two poems use techniques that are sometimes similar and sometimes widely different. Overall, the images were portrayed in order to support themes in the poems, lack of water and war in Blessing and War Photographer respectively.

In Blessing and War Photographer, the writers have presented powerful images with poems of different structure. In Blessing, the writer uses free verse to imitate the water. For example, “A congregation: every man woman / Child for streets around”, and “Their highlights polished to perfection, / flashing light”. There are long lines followed by short lines and vice versa, powerfully presenting the free-flowing nature of water, underscoring its preciousness to people in the poem. On the other hand, in War Photographer, we have fixed and rigid sestets with a strict and recurrent rhyme scheme, for example, “alone”, “rows”, “glows”, “he”, “mass”, “grass”, to represent the order orchestrated by the protagonist of the poem, showing him as a holy figure bringing salvation to human kinds in order to highlight the brutality of war through his perspective. Therefore, the two writers differ on the way they structure the poem when presenting powerful images to portray the important elements in their poems.

Photo by Atharva Tulsi on Unsplash

The two writers also use different ways to describe an urgent situation. In War Photographer, the writer uses juxtaposition when demonstrating the way the photographer asked for permission: "he sought approval without words”. Permission has to be “sought" by communication in some sort of language, while the photographer sought permission “without words”. This could be that the photographer could not stand the brutality of the war anymore, and strongly wanted to show it to the rest of the world and urgently wished to provide a way to ease the effect of wars. The urge here is shown thoroughly through the use of juxtaposition. Contrarily, the sense of urgency is presented through enjambment in Blessing. By abruptly ending the last line, the readers have to hurry to the next line to make sense of the sentence, increasing their reading speed. The sentences flow smoothly from one to the other without stopping, possibly imitating how the villagers in the poem rush to get water urgently relentlessly. Duffy uses the juxtaposition to show the urgency in War Photographer, suggesting the responsibility of the photographer. This is in contrast to Dharker, who demonstrates the imperativeness of the villagers to get water, implying the preciousness of water. Thus, the two writers use disparate ways to describe an urgent situation.

On the other hand, the two writers also present powerful images in some similar ways. The same perspective is used in both Blessing and War Photographer. Blessing narrates the whole story through with a third-person point of view: “every man woman child for streets around”. This allows readers to see the reactions of lots of characters, thus suggests their harsh situation in the slums. War Photographer also describes things from a third-person point of view: “he remembers the cries of this man’s wife”. This explains what the War Photographer had seen in the places torn by war. By using this perspective, image is powerfully presented, readers are given a full understanding of the settings, the characters, and the situations, thus having a better comprehension of the photos the photographer took.

Photo by Duncan Kidd on Unsplash

There is also similarities between how the two writers use metaphors. Metaphors in both poems reflect the main themes by representing them with other things with the same characteristics. For instance, in Blessing, the water drops are described as “silver crashes to the ground”. Silver here connotes the valuableness of water, thus signifies people hardship in the place described in the poem. Similarly, in War Photographer, the man in the photographer’s image is said to be “a half-formed ghost”. The word “ghost” comprehensively expresses the languishment and paleness of the man in the war-torn country, hence indicates the irreversible and severe impacts of war. Thence, both the two writers use metaphors to reflect the themes of their poems.

As a conclusion, writers of Blessing and War Photographer used similar and different techniques in portraying images. While Blessing describes in a free a flowing way and is smartly using punctuation, War Photographer is fixed, rigid and contains a lot of language techniques. These contribute to the themes of lack of water and war in both poems.

Comparing Blessing and War Photographer

This code is to find out the 3-digit numbers that have their digits add up to 9. The problem was originated from the "Problem of the week" from the university of Waterloo. The original question is stated here: https://www.cemc.uwaterloo.ca/resources/potw/2019-20/English/POTWD-19-NA-02-P.pdf

The digit positive integer is the sum of all of its digits. For example, the digit sum of the integer 1234 is 10, since 1 + 2+ 3 + 4 = 10. Find all three-digit positive integers whose digit sum is exactly 9.

This is the answer that I got, it can also be found out through running the code by pressing the green button:

108
117
126
135
144
153
162


Well, but there is another problem that I do not know how to solve. The problem can be found here: https://www.cemc.uwaterloo.ca/resources/potw/2019-20/English/POTWE-19-AE-02-P.pdf. If you find out the answer, please leave a comment!

POTW - It all adds up

by Carol Anne Duffy

In his dark room he is finally alone
with spools of suffering set out in ordered rows.
The only light is red and softly glows,
as though this were a church and he
a priest preparing to intone a Mass.
Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.

He has a job to do. Solutions slop in trays
beneath his hands, which did not tremble then
though seem to now. Rural England. Home again
to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel,
to fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat.

Something is happening. A stranger’s features
faintly start to twist before his eyes,
a half-formed ghost. He remembers the cries
of this man’s wife, how he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how the blood stained into foreign dust.

A hundred agonies in black and white
from which his editor will pick out five or six
for Sunday’s supplement. The reader’s eyeballs prick
with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers.
From the aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns his living and they do not care.

-- Analysis --

In War Photographer by Carol Anne Duffy, the poet portrays the contrast between England and places with wars, the photographer’s impression of war and the urge of the photographer trying to show the scenes with the world.

Firstly, the poet portrays the darkroom with a sense of regularity to contrast with places with wars. This is reflected in the use of form where the poet has chosen to use 4 regular sestets, showing the sense of regularity. Furthermore, the rhyme scheme remains the same as “abbcdd”, for example, “alone, rows, glows, he, mass, grass”, throughout all the 4 stanzas. The stanzas and the consistent rhyme scheme underpin the regularity of the darkroom. The environment in Rural England is a distinct contrast to the chaos and disorder in the places torn apart by war.

Secondly, the poet implies that the war has left strong impressions in the war photographer’s heart. This is shown through the use of a double entendre: “A stranger’s features faintly start to twist before his eyes”. From the setting of the story, this is a description of the process of an image showing when it is being soaked in solutions. However, another explanation for the description is that the photographer started to slowly recall what he has seen when taking the photo and dangerousness of war. In addition, the poet wrote that the photographer “did not tremble” in the places with wars going on “then though seem to now”. Cases like this are usually due to extreme fear that human brains are unable to react to. This further implies the brutality of war.

Thirdly, the poet demonstrates the impendency and the urge of the photographer. This is indicated by the way the photographer seeks for permission in Stanza Three. “he sought approval without words”. The photographer did not even talk to the man or his wife before taking the photo. This could be that he could not stand the brutality of the war anymore, and strongly wanted to show it to the rest of the world, urgently wished to provide a way to ease the effect of wars. Additionally, the word “must” is emphasized in line 5 of the same stanza as it is the last word in the line. It stresses the importance of taking these photos, demonstrating the impendency of the photographer, indirectly showing the brutality of war.

In War Photographer by Carol Anne Duffy, the poet portrays the contrast between England and places with wars, the photographer’s impression of war and the urge of the photographer trying to show the scenes with the world. Thus, the poet portrays the brutality of war to a large extent.

War Photographer

To see the poem on the original website

The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands,
An iron authority against the snow,
And this grey monument to common sense
Resists the weather. Fears of idle hands,
Of protest, men in league, and of the slow
Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.

Beyond, through broken windows one can see
Where the great presses paused between their strokes
And thus remain, in air suspended, caught
In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes
Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought,

And estimates the loss of human power,
Experienced and slow, the loss of years,
The gradual decay of dignity.
Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour;
Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears
Which might have served to grind their eulogy.

·· Analysis ··

In An Abandoned Factory by Philip Levine, the poet strikingly portrays the factory with a sense of permanence and order, oppressiveness, inactivity, and excruciations. These are shown in the use of form, symbolism, continuous verbs, and precise dictions.

The poet portrays the factory with a sense of permanence and order. This is reflected in the use of form where the author has chosen to use three regular sestets mirroring the sense of order. Furthermore, the use of iambic pentameter creates a regularity to the pace of the poem and this is perhaps symbolic of the factory's machines which too would have had a regularity in pace. In addition to this, the regular rhyme scheme further underpins this sense of continuity as it maintains a stable and symmetrical tone to the poem.

The poet manifests the oppressiveness of the factory. This is shown through the use of symbolism in the first stanza. In the first sentence, the factory is described as “chained” with “barb-wire fencing”, which sounds a lot like a prison. The pillars in front of the gate is an “iron authority” that “resists the weather”, just as guards of a prison that oversee everything. This symbolizes how the workers in the factory were being imprisoned intellectually, being drained from the continuous hard work. Moreover, the poet describes the fence as being charged by “the corrosion of their minds”. This refers to the loss of hope of the workers working in the factory, implying that their hopelessness fuels them to continue working. These symbols vividly show the situation of the workers that used to work in the factory and the oppressiveness of the factory.

The poet portrays the factory with inactivity. This is presented through the continuous use of verbs, as the poet walks into the inside of the factory. While describing the presses inside the factory, verbs like “paused”, “suspended”, “remain” are used, “stopped” and “blurred” are also used to illustrate the old iron wheels. This reflected that the factory was unchanged for a long time. Furthermore, the frequent uses of these verbs give a slow rhythm, often stopping readers, thus creating the atmosphere of inactivity in the abandoned factory.

The factory is also shown as an excruciating place. The dictions used in the last stanza reflect this. What happened before in the factory is described as the “gradual decay of dignity”, and the workers spent their life in the factory, being tormented as they counted “hour by hour”. Moreover, the word “eulogy” is used at the end of the poem, suggesting that the machines in the factory have spent so long time with the workers, knowing them so well. It also implies that the workers were killed slowly by the factory, the painful ordeals, signifying the factory as an excruciating place.

As a conclusion, the poet portrays the factory with a sense of permanence and order, oppressiveness, inactivity, and excruciations. These are shown in the use of form, symbolism, continuous verbs, and precise dictions.

An Abandoned Factory, Detroit