I’d like to commend you on your critical reflection this week! It was a very well written and honest response. I also reflected on Sassoon’s poem, “On Passing the New Menin Gate”, which definitely shifted my perspective on war memorials today. You’ve made an extremely important point about how Sassoon has revealed the true horrors of war and calls individuals to deeply reflect on a critical part of our history. The example you gave of ANZAC day was excellent as it exposed the extent of Sassoon’s message in our modern day context, calling Australians to develop a stronger sense of respect for our soldiers. Well done and keep up the fantastic work!
I stood blinded by the blur of billboards like a stunned deer in headlights.
The hustle and bustle echoed,
soothing like the fresh scent of lavender.
The poem I have composed is an attempt at the imagist style of poetry. This style originated in the early twentieth century, propelling modernism into prominence during this era. It is noted as a reactionary movement against Victorian poetry and Romanticism, aimed at stripping back poetry to its fundamental basics. In doing so, this radically new approach prompted imagists to create poetry that utilised simple language to communicate a single, precise image rather than prompt moral reflection.
“It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works”
– Ezra Pound
This poem represents my experience in Times Square, New York for the first time. I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of life within such a confined space. Constantly on the go seeing new unfamiliar sights and needing to stop and catch a breath because there was so much to take in. It was overwhelming trying to keep up with the locals, following the rhythm of the city and the pace of being in their world. Yet, it was equally as beautiful and peaceful. It was refreshing to jump into another way of life and experience it from a different perspective. That was the experience I attempted to convey in my poem.
Therefore, imagist poetry can be compared to the art of photography. Much like a photographer, imagist poets capture a single, still moment of life. They present what they view and don’t urge readers to look for something hidden beyond the surface. Rather, they allow the audience to take their own meaning from what is presented. Thus, I believe imagist poets utilised such simplistic language to encourage readers to live in the moment, to not overthink what is presented and just be. As demonstrated within my poem, the use of language is simple yet effective, focussing on a single moment in time, mirroring the work of imagists of the twentieth century.
Your take on celebrating the arrival of Spring through the construction of your own poem was absolutely phenomenal! You definitely mimicked the amazing experimentation of Hopkins’ language through your use of alliteration and vivid imagery. You brought life to your words in a way that made me feel as if I was in a field surrounded by the most magnificent spring flowers. I loved how you chose to challenge yourself and keep each line alphabetical as it really emphasised your creative ability and kept me anticipated to see how you would deliver each following line. Overall, you have composed an amazing piece. Keep up the great work!
Siegfried Sassoon is often regarded as the most innocent of the war poets. Although his poem “On Passing the New Menin Gate” connotes a more passive-aggressive tone compared to others, it still vividly emphasises great fury and anguish over the most gruesome era of human history.
Sassoon’s poem evidently calls readers to consider humanity’s involvement in WWI and the attempts made at commemorating such individuals who risked their lives. The poem begins in an accusatory tone, calling readers to immediately question “Who will remember, passing through this Gate, the unheroic dead who fed the guns?” (line 1-2). The use of rhetoric emphasises how humanity has failed to properly honour the victims of war. Sassoon mourns the fact that such soldiers will never truly find peace as they were doomed from the start, lied to about their inevitable fate and, valued as no more than a mere casualty of war.
The title pays homage to Belgium’s notable war memorial, ‘Menin Gate’. By definition, a war memorial is “a commemorative object intended to remind us of the people who served in and died as a result of war” (Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 2020). However, Sassoon suggests that such monuments, in actuality, degrade the essence of fallen, missing soldiers, referring to Menin Gate as a “sepulchre of crime” (line 14). And so, this made me think. Are the commemorations of war memorials genuine? Yes, they serve as a reminder to the fallen of war but also as a reminder of the hypocrisy that caused such lives to be lost.
To me, the comparison of a war memorial to a crime is far from unfitting. Sassoon states “’Their name liveth for ever’, the Gateway claims,” and continues to question “Was ever an immolation so belied as these intolerably nameless names?” (line 10-12). And is he wrong? There are so many names evidently scribed on the walls of Menin Gate today, much like the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, that they drown each other out. The individuality of each fallen soldier is erased, deeming them practically meaningless. This feeling is one I will always remember from my school excursion to the Australian War Memorial where the thousands of names on the walls were nothing more than blank words staring back at me. There was no sincere meaning behind each name as they held no identity, and that is exactly the point Sassoon has made.
I agree that war memorials are necessary to remind us of past mistakes that should never be repeated and, to obviously commemorate those that risked their lives however, such memorials still act as a ‘slap in the face’ to those directly impacted by the loss of war. Sassoon’s poem attacks the false way soldiers are remembered as ‘heroes’ who were glad to die for their country, and instead reveals how they died “unheroic” and “nameless”. Consequently, exposing readers, particularly myself, to the harsh reality of war. Thus, Sassoon’s poem has called me to critically reassess war memorials today.
I’m sure at some point in life everyone has had an experience which touched something far deeper than any ordinary everyday encounter. For me, that moment was when I had the opportunity to travel to Italy with my grandparents and explore the town they grew up in. It was truly unlike anything I had ever experienced before, simply due to the fact that I was able to physically see everything they had always described to me in stories and, be in the very place they used to live, with them by my side.
The town was full of rich history waiting to tell a story, all of which was woven together by my grandparents. Every building, archway and door we passed, they shared a memory from their childhood, explaining how they used to live, what they used to do and how they made every day a new opportunity following the aftermath of WWII. Particularly, when we visited their old childhood homes (or what was left of them) an immense sense of emotion overwhelmed me. Seeing how they lived with the bare necessities, limited opportunities and were forced to grow up quickly because “that’s what those days were like. We didn’t have three-course meals or ten pairs of shoes.” How they were forced to teach themselves to swim in the river and work on the vineyards, yet embraced each day as it came, all before turning eighteen and leaving their life behind for the hope of a better opportunity in Australia.
It was this experience that really opened my eyes to the world around me and touched something much deeper within me. It unlocked my perception of reality today compared to that of the 20th-century post-WWII and I was able to realise just how lucky I am to live in Australia, surrounded by family. Most times I forget that life exists beyond my mundane routine. I fail to recognise that my worries are minor inconveniences compared to others around the world who aren’t as fortunate and constantly live with their own set of challenges.
Having the privilege to connect with my grandparents’ past catalysed an internal awakening of myself, allowing me to now appreciate the small things in life that I once took for granted, such as a simple good morning call from my grandmother. Despite the hardships and turmoil post-WWII, my grandparents took each day as it came and lived by a simple motto; life is short. They saw what destruction could bring yet still lived every day to its fullest and indulged in every opportunity that presented itself. The hardest being, having to leave their life in Italy, in order to create a prosperous one of their own. To truly live.
So I leave you with a thought to consider to possibly ignite an awakening within yourself, as this experience did for me. Are you alive or just existing?
Images taken by me in the town my grandparents used to live.
I’d really like to commend you on your blog post this week as it was very well written and presented. Your form was simple yet effective and easily comprehensible. I enjoyed the rhythm and flow of your poem, especially the inclusion of a rhyming pattern. This gave the overall feel of a Shakespearean poem, particularly considering this was dedicated to Shakespeare himself. Your appreciation and admiration for Shakespeare was evident and allowed me to engage with the material you composed. I also thought the intertextual reference to Shakespeare’s play ‘A midsummer night’s dream’ was a very nice touch. You compared him to “a bright star in the midsummer night”, ultimately establishing his significance in the world. As a result, your poem definitely encapsulated the essence of Shakespeare and was an excellent read overall. I can’t wait to see more of your work!
Marcia Williams’ translation of Shakespeare’s classic ‘The Winter’s Tale’ (1623) is an inviting introduction to the Shakespearean world. Although some may not consider Marcia’s work a “translation” of this literary classic due to her complete restructure of presentation and style, the essence of the play is retained and showcased to readers of all ages. Marcia conveys the story in a simple form that is easily comprehended for all to connect with. She does this through a comic-strip layout of the story which delivers the excitement of a live play, evident through her employment of greatly detailed illustrations which create a sense of enjoyment when reading. On top of this, she has also included commentary and images around the border of the actual story, to represent the feeling and experience of physically attending a play, as part of the audience.
Image sourced from: ‘Mr William Shakespeare’s Plays: Seven Plays presented by Marcia Williams’ (Walker Books, 2009)
Her translation to this style evidently encapsulates major parts of the play and manages to provide an immense amount of detail. The language used is simple and structured in short sentences allowing readers to easily follow along. In addition to this, Marcia has utilised images to act as visual stimuli for readers to understand what is happening. The colour and intricacy of such illustrations allow the painterly language of Shakespeare to come alive in a different form. Therefore, Marcia has simplified the plot-line and challenges the preconceived idea that Shakespearean literature is hard to understand and follow. Ultimately resulting in readers, particularly children, to gain confidence in their ability and form an appreciation for classical literature. Thus, Marcia Williams’ translation of ‘The Winter’s Tale’ is an exciting experience that transforms Shakespeare’s classic play into an inspiring and motivating read for individuals of all ages!
I really enjoyed reading your soliloquy of Ophelia’s view of 2020. I felt that you used an authentic voice and channelled that through the character of Ophelia. In particular, you expressed her essence to the situations we are/have faced so far this year. The use of rhetorical questions and metaphors really allowed me to engage with the response as a whole and cleverly explained the current situation of 2020 without being too direct and breaking the flow of the response. Also, the structure of your response definitely fit the style of a soliloquy, allowing Ophelia’s expression and thoughts to flow clearly. Overall, this is a well-written response and I look forward to your future blogs. Great work!
The virtual visit to the State Library of NSW was an extremely beneficial tool in expanding my knowledge of Shakespeare’s place in the world as it provided me with great insight into the mind and perceptions of a literary icon. Not to mention, it also allowed me to form a greater appreciation for his work and to truly understand his significance in our world.
The Shakespeare room located within the state library was an interesting experience, as I had never known it existed. I was in awe of the authentic Shakespearean relics it held. It was through these that my understanding of Shakespeare’s place in the world was broadened, especially through a detailed analysis of the stained glass windows in the room. At first, I didn’t realise how much information they contained and thought they were just used as decoration to add to the Elizabethan style of the room. However, the virtual visit explained that the windows truly encapsulate Shakespeare’s concept that “all the worlds a stage and we are merely players” from his play ‘As you like it’ (1603).
The windows depict the seven stages of human life as described in Act 2, scene 7 where Shakespeare represents the different roles we each play in our lifetime. This perception of the world around us enabled me to understand that we, as individuals, are players in our own lives. Our fate is not set and we are playing each day as it comes, putting on different costumes whether it be sister, student, teammate or friend, dependent on what is required for each parting day. Therefore, it can be understood that we are indeed acting out our own lives and not entirely living, only existing.
What is our purpose? Why are we here?
These are the questions raised through Shakespeare’s work, illuminating his perceptions of the world, in which he calls us to assess.
Think of it like this. You look through a telescope lens however it is blurry. To you, the view is obscured and you don’t know what is presented however, if Shakespeare were to look through the lens, he would see the picture clearly. The virtual visit allowed me to understand that Shakespeare’s view of the world was incredibly different to others of his time. He saw the truth in life and therefore encouraged this through his plays. As a result, these works have since influenced readers, particularly fellow literary scholars such as Ben Jonson, who have noted Shakespeare’s significant place in our world.
Therefore, the virtual visit enlightened me to comprehend the simple fact that Shakespeare wrote to transform. His literature is the lasting legacy of his essence which I now deeply appreciate. Thus, he was more than “merely just an actor” in his own world, but rather a great literary figure who holds a prominent place in the world. His work highlights deeper meanings which guide us (the audience) to live honest lives, even without us knowing it.
Oh, what a year thus far! Three months in and already it feels like the world has come crumbling down. January, what we thought as the beginning of the new year, a time of change and resolutions, oh but no! Rather a scorching hellfire. Raging bushfires, toxic air, thick blanketing smoke. Our lungs, our precious lungs! Oh, how they suffered. Then, of course, February. The gates of hell remained open, pouring destruction all over our nation. The month of floods, oh how mother nature was so cross with us! Our beloved earth, who cares for us so tenderly, oh how we failed you! But alas, what can we do? What can I do? I am nothing but helpless, a tiny speck, a grain of sand amongst this vast ocean.
And the disease! Oh, how this coronavirus is so close. For the fear looms over me. Am I next? What can I possibly do to protect myself? It’s too late! Countries in lockdown, entire nations divided over toilet paper, oh how the world has gone absolutely mad! Madness I say!
Two thousand and twenty (2020), must you have brought forth hysteria to the start of a new decade? Not even a quarter through the year and we are almost undone, hanging by a thread, about to snap. No bandages to patch us up just yet. Oh two thousand and twenty (2020), for I hope you offer us assistance. We are in need, the world has come undone! Ridden with madness, controlled by selfish desire and not a shred of light in the horizon.
Please, two thousand and twenty (2020), for I ask you to save us. Save us from your reckoning and help us to understand the consequences of our actions. For we are the result of our undoing. But, my woes are yours and yours mine. We can only hope the final three-quarters of the year are a time of rebuilding and saving. Saving us from ourselves.