The anthology “Lines to Time” includes a wide range of poems written by a selection of poets. What makes “Line to Time” interesting and enjoyable to read is the variety of topic and treatment the poets use to make their poetry effective.
The range of poets featured in “Lines to Time” use a variety of poetic devices and writer’s techniques such as symbolism, imagery, alliteration, onomatopoeia, tone, metaphors and humour, to effectively construct an evocative poem.
Symbolism and imagery plays a large role in Gwen Harwood’s poems “Suburban Sonnet”, “ Suburban Sonnet: Boxing Day” and “Father and Child”.
“Suburban Sonnet” tackles the issue of the harshness of motherhood. Harwood creates the image that the woman in the poem has sacrificed her dreams and aspirations, to become a mother figure for her children. This image is portrayed through Harwood’s contrasting ideas that the way she moves around the kitchen is similar to the complex composition of a fugue. “She practices a fugue, though it can matter to no one now if she lays well or not.”
Symbolism and imagery help Harwood to achieve the poem’s purpose in creating a sympathetic tone towards the woman’s struggle. The use of rhyming couplets and irregular short sentences create a hectic and disorganised structure and rhythm to the poem, which symbolises the mother’s life. Harwood uses emotive description and olfactory imagery to allow the audience to experience exactly what the woman is feeling. “A pot boils over. As she rushes to the stove too late, a wave of nausea overpowers” Harwood creates the image of a pot of milk boiling over and a horrible odour dispersing from it. The use of olfactory imagery presents the audience with a common smell recognised as a disgusting stench, forcing the audience to feel empathy towards the poor woman.
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The mouse caught in the trap is symbolic of her dreams and hopes that are crushed and demolished when she made a sacrifice for the sake of her family. The mouse is symbolic of the mother, who is stuck in a trap and is unable to break free. Harwood uses this symbolism to express the major thematic concern, that she has become a slave to her family.
“Suburban Sonnet” is a very bitter and melancholic poem, and is told from the author’s point of view, creating the sense that maybe the woman in the sonnet could be the poet herself.
Harwood continues with her style of poetic expression and tone with her poem “Suburban Sonnet: Boxing Day” to create a heartbroken and sorrowful poem. Similar to the mother figure in “Suburban Sonnet”, the mother featured in “Suburban Sonnet: Boxing Day” is portrayed as trapped and depressed by what she has allowed herself to reduced to in order to keep structure in her family.
“Suburban Sonnet: Boxing Day” is told in a romantic register of language and explores a woman’s suburban life as a mother and a broken-hearted wife. Harwood continues with her strong use of symbolism and imagery throughout this poem, to stimulate a vivid visual image in the audience’s mind.
“Gold, silver, pink and blue, the globes distort her, framed in the doorway: woman with a broom.” Harwood creates the impression that the woman is depressed and tired of the life she leads. Standing in the doorway holding a broom in her arms portrays the woman like a maid, which is left to clean up the aftermath of Christmas.
Harwood uses the image of “wrappings and toys lie scattered round the room”, as it is a common scene, which the audience can relate to. Harwood portrays the Christmas wrapping as a symbol of her hopes, which have been torn apart by her family.
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Ironically, the Christmas period is a symbol for togetherness and is a family occasion. Harwood uses this to specify the harsh reality that this woman is experiencing. Portraying her as alone and depressed during the festive season.
The “glossy magazine the children bought her” is an impersonal and hollow present that shows how ungrateful and ignorant her family is towards her. Harwood creates this impression to emphasis on the mother’s pain and anguish towards her situation.
By creating the symbolic action of “a child (stretching) above her and, laughing, crowns her with a tinsel wreath” Harwood is portraying the mother as a martyr figure. Harwood uses this symbolism to make a contrast with Christ, implying she is a strong leader of her family.
Harwood uses the last line to make the final point that once again the mother is left to clean up the mess. “She gathers up a new, dismembered toy”. This is symbolic and portrays her as the one who is always putting things back together, regardless that it is Christmas.
Gwen Harwood’s poem “Father and child” is different from her sonnets as it is told in a narrative style. It tells the story of a young child whose journey from total innocence to the brutal death of an innocent owl, is the major thematic concern.
Harwood crafted the poem in the point of view of the child as it allows the audience to look into the child’s thought and emotions. When the child says, “Let him dream of a child obedient, angle-mild” Harwood is clearly stating that the child is going against his father’s orders. The mischievous tone creates the impression that the child is enjoying the thrill of its rebellious acts. As the child is aware that while its father is “robbed of power by sleep”, he is the one in control.
Harwood uses visual and olfactory imagery to make the hunt of the owl effective and realistic. “I stood holding my breath, in urine-scented hay” the use of olfactory imagery allows the audience to visualise the smell of the old barn, and feel as thought they are standing beside the child. “Beating his only wing, as I watched, afraid” Harwood uses the powerful imagery of the dying owl, to emphasise the child’s shock and disbelief of death. The child’s frightened state illustrates to the audience that he had no previous understanding of his actions and the result it may have, “a lonely child who believed death clean and final”.
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Harwood uses strong descriptive language to portray the pain of the owl and the cruelty the child has began. “Bundle of stuff that dropped, and dribbled through the loose straw tangling in bowels, and hopped blindly closer”. Harwood creates a saddened tone to make the audience feel sympathetic towards the young child, dismayed by its own actions and compassionate towards the abused owl.
“Owl blind in the early sun”. The symbolic description of the owl allows the audience to make a contrast between the owl and the child. The owl that is regarded as old and wise is compared to the youthful child who is eager for exploration and lacks wisdom.
The conclusion of the poem states “for what I have begun”, suggesting to the audience the child has lost their innocence and father’s trust, beginning something which cannot be reversed.
Similar to Harwood’s use of symbolism and imagery in her poetry, is David Campbell’s “On the Birth of a Son”. “On the Birth of a Son” is a sonnet about a man whose life is turned upside down by the birth of his first child. Campbell’s sonnet makes the audience question their views on life, due the way they structure their lives. “On the Birth of a Son” looks at the impact of a man’s life when his first son is born, breaking the cycle of his comfortable life. Campbell uses symbolism to show the changes the child makes to the man’s world. The “espaliered pear” is symbolic of the things in his life that he had trained and nurtured into the direction of his own liking. Campbell explores the way man had built his life around this wall he had built himself and had admired comfortably. Campbell uses the wall as a symbol of something planned in his life, “locked stone with stone”, adding structure to his world. Campbell uses the “freak wind” as a metaphor for the new child, which so innocently changes everything in his life. The idea that the wall has been blown down by the birth of his son, and is “tumbled across the lawn” conveys the idea that his life has been disrupted and attacked by this freak action- the birth of his son.
The tone, creates the impression that, the father is bitter and jealous of his son. However, this changes when the resolution of the poem states “And then with joy I looked beyond the stones and saw the view”, which symbolises the notion of looking beyond the bitterness and looking into the future. Without the wall blocking his vision, the father is able to see a much greater view.
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David Campbell’s “Tourist Trade” is from a different variety of poems to Gwen Harwood’s sonnets and his sonnet “On the Birth of a Son”. “Tourist Trade” is a satirical poem, which is structure like the classic Australian song ‘Waltzing Matilda’. David Campbell’s poem takes a whimsical look at the tourist industry and how it has changed. Campbell uses the lyrical structure of the satire to make it effective and enjoyable for the audience to read.
Campbell uses “Tourist Trade” to ridicule the technological advancements of the Australian tourist experience. Campbell presents many images that are quite amusing and absurd. The idea of a koala handing out beers to the tourists, is a ridiculous idea, however Campbell uses it as a symbol of how the tourist industry is willing to force its icons to entertain its visitors. The changes that have been made to accommodate Australia’s tourists are portrayed through the images Campbell creates. The image of the wallabies coming in and out of the toilets, due to thirst, is contrasted with the idea that camping has evolved from the idea of roughing it, to having the luxuries of domesticate life.
Campbell creates an amusing aspect to the satire by creating the visual image of animals laughing at the pathetic tourists. “Then with young in pouches to see the tourists pass like Swan Lake ballerinas with thistles up their arse.” Campbell uses surreal and crude images to create a blunt and sarcastic tone to the satire.
Similar to David Campbell’s “Tourist Trade” is Geoffrey Dutton’s ‘The Stranded Whales’, which was crafted using similar writers techniques and poetic devices.
‘The Stranded Whales’ presents the idea of people’s selfish manner and ignorance towards animals, similar to “Tourist Trade”. Dutton conveys this idea by creating a range of people, from children to “a leathery home carpenter of fifty” all ignorantly stealing from the dying whales. Dutton’s use of description creates an effective image in the audience’s mind. “The aniline Holdens and Datsuns disgorged all ages and sizes thick as whitebait on the sand” Dutton’s description creates the impression of the people as masses who subconsciously follow each other, similar in the way masses of the whales insides spill out in a giant mass.
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Dutton uses alliteration and onomatopoeia, “Bloody gussets of blubber”, “shook out slack spouts of bubbling breath” to create an evocative visual and auditory image for the audience to visualise. The “domestic weapons” which they bring to collect their prize, is a symbol of their desperation for a reward of their triumphant hard work.
The irony that Dutton uses is a symbol of the ignorance and selfishness of society. “A lady teacher with knowledge of biology succeeded at last in slicing, through slippery with blood, and giggly, a complete anterior fin”. Ironically the teacher should of known better than to hack into a dying whale at the first chance she gets, she should of known that “when cleaned down to the skeleton an arm, a hand and five fingers (are revealed)”, similar to a humans features. The strong and realistic use of imagery and description Dutton uses, makes “The Stranded Whales” an effective poem which succeeds in making the audience disgusted towards society’s ignorance and sympathetic and sorrowful towards the dying whales.
In contrast to the style and register of language European poets’ use, Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s poetry is significantly different. Sorrow, pain, and anger are all tones consistent throughout both the poems “Colour Bar” and “We Are Going”. The thematic concern and purpose of these two poems is to convey the anguish and hurt the aboriginal people have gone through due to white man’s ignorance. The structure of both her poems is simplistic and minimal. Noonuccal uses powerful words, and short sentences to convey her ideas and feelings of angry and sorrow.
The structure of “Colour Bar” is consists of two line sentences. Where the first line highlights an issue and the second answers the problem. Noonuccal uses powerful statements to convey her ideas and feelings. “When a taunted child comes home in tears, Fierce anger sears”.
Throughout the poem Noonuccal uses powerful statement and words to illustrate the mounting anger, “Vile men jeer”, “meaner mind of moron kind” and “colour baiting-clod”. Noonuccal conveys the ignorant attitude of white men in the climax of the poem, where our justice system and religion, Christianity, is conveyed as to “be but a lie”.
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Similar to “Colour Bar”, ‘We Are Going’ conveys the white society as ignorant and egotistical, by forcing the aboriginal people out their homelands and their traditions. Noonuncal uses “We are…” consistently throughout the poem, to emphasise her anger towards her culture disappearing. Noonuccal uses symbolic language and imagery such as “The white men hurray around like ants” to emphasise their repetitive ignorance and isolation from the aboriginal people. The conclusion of the poem symbolic of their culture disappearing, “The bora ring is gone. The corroboree is gone. And we are going.” Due to white society taking away what is rightfully theirs.
What I enjoyed about the anthology “Lines to Time” was that it contained a wide variety of issues and techniques in the ways these issues were conveyed. “Line to Time” was interesting and enjoyable to read due to the variety of topic and treatment the poets used to make their poetry effective. The range of poets featured in “Lines to Time” used a variety of poetic devices and writer’s techniques that effectively made them evocative poems.