Study Notes on Out of the Blue by Simon Armitage

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Analysis of the poem
Simon Armitage's poem 'Out of the Blue' is taken his from 2008 anthology of the same name. According to the book's publishers, the poems in the anthology are presented in the form of a respone to three separate conflicts, all of which have changed the world we live in. Told from the point of view of an English trader working in the North Tower of the World Trade Centre, the poem forms part of the film 'Out Of The Blue' commissioned by Channel 5 and broadcast five years after the 9/11 attacks on America. It won the 2006 Royal Television Society Documentary Award. 'We May Allow Ourselves A Brief Period Of Rejoicing' (a quote from one of Churchill's post-war speeches), was also commissioned by Channel 5, and broadcast on the sixtieth anniversary of VE Day. The radio-poem "Cambodia" was commissioned by the BBC for "The Violence of Silence", a radio drama set in today's Cambodia thirty years after the rise of the Khmer Rouge. The extract we are looking at in the AQA poetry anthology is taken from the final third of the poem so don't feel bad if it confuses you at first glance. It is a lengthy poem and it could be argued that some of the vital contextual material has been left out in AQA's choice of extract, but it is enough to know that the extract deals with an English stock trader, one of those people who yell 'sell, sell, sell! on various trading floors around the world, in this instance the Twin Towers of New York city. For those who don't remember, on the 11th September 2001 terrorists flew two hijacked passenger airplanes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre that used to dominate the Manhattan skyline in New York city. |

The first reports were that a plane had hit one of the towers causing a huge fire in the upper stories, but a short time late a second plane hit the second tower dispelling any belief that the first hit had been an accident. Another plane was crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth crashed after the passengers fought with the hijackers and forced the plane to crash, killing all on board. The world watched in horror as the fires in the towers began to consume the World Trade Centre, home to the New York Stock Exchange and potent symbol of America's wealth and economic power. As we watched we began to hear reports of people trapped above the burning floors who, driven back by the flames and with no possible hope of rescue were seen leaping to their deaths from two of the tallest buildings in the world. I remember watching footage of people waving frantically from the high windows, the horror of their situation almost too much to comprehend. | | |

Down below, men and women from the emergency services tried to evacuate as many people as they could from the lower stories. Finally, weakened by fire and explosions, the first tower collapased, followed a short while later by the second tower, killing all but a fortunate few. It is an event which has come to define the time we live in, not least because it marked the beginning of what politicans around the world would begin to refer to as the War on Terror, which is basically a blanket term used to justify military action against any group anywhere in the world that has or could pose a threat to security in America and her allies. The wars in Afganistan and Iraq that began in the years following 9/11 were presented as being part of a US led response to the attacks, although much of the evidence that was presented as a justification for going to war has since been dismissed or called into question. In the years that have followed, some critics have argued that the painful memories of 9/11 (11th September), which was the first major foreign direct attack on US soil since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in World War Two, have been cynically manipulated by politicans in America and overseas as a means of justifying military action in Iraq and Afganistan. At home in the US 9/11 has become a powerful political tool due to...
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