Poetry (Lowell, Plath & Owen)

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Stage 2 English Studies
Mr. Kuleza
Poetry Major
Elliot Hunt

The poetry studied this year from the anthology ‘The World's Contracted Thus' has presented the thoughts and views of several poets, with many of these poets holding a ‘gloomy' outlook on life. This point is further exemplified through the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath. Wilfred Owen places extensive emphasis on the meaning of life and the meaning of war while Robert Lowell seems to be more concerned with more personal issues such as his mother's death and then there is Sylvia Plath who is even more introverted through her poetry and focuses heavily on analysing her own thought processes and suicidal tendencies. On studying ach of these poets and their words I have come away from the experience feeling quite depressed.

Wilfred Owen is a poet who writes with such passion of personal experiences that a sense of sadness and gloom is created through his poems. Owen's poems are strongly based on the effects of war on himself, and his world. Owen is an insomniac, as expressed through his poem, Dulce Et Decorum Est, when he writes, "In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. If in some smothering dreams you too could pace/ Behind the wagon that we flung him in". This poem is has such an effect on the reader, from the beginning of the poem when Owen describes the battlefield on which he fought in the war and the horrific gas attack with one man dying horribly and painfully as he could not get his gas mask on in time. Owen must also be commended for the vivid use of similes, "coughing like hags…flound'ring like a man in fire or lime…obscene as cancer", just as Sylvia Plath uses in her poem Balloons and the use of alliteration, "Knock-kneed …ecstacy of fumbling, Fitting…white eyes writhing", that the reader can't help but be affected by the strong message Owen has created. Through the fourth stanza Owen expresses his own suffering, and the impression death has on him, making the reader feel sorry for the poet. Owen uses a creative medium of vivid descriptions and an irregular rhythm, unlike Sylivia Plath's poem, Aftermath, which is written in a Sonnett, to make the reader feel somewhat responsible for the war in which he fought as the poem is directed toward the reader and speaks to the reader, "if you could hear… my friend". However, it is the final stanzas that have the most impact on the reader, as Owen uses satire toward the men, women and children who support the war to portray his dishonourable opinion of the war. Owen also uses these creative mediums in his poem, Futility. Futility is a poem that questions the meaning of war and, ultimately, the meaning of life. It is the beginning of the poem we are presented with this theme through the death of a soldier, resulting in Owen further reflecting on this in the second stanza. Owen's poems are very sombre, especially Futility, which expresses that he is sad and depressed, philosophical and anxious especially in the second stanza when Owen uses the sun to represent a body who can not awaken the dead soldiers, "O what made fatuous sunbeams toil To break Earth's sleep at all?" The tone of this poem is very gentle as can be seen through the elongated vowel sounds, "move him…fields unsown…in France…clay grew tall", and the common use of gentle consonants such as ‘M' and ‘N', "Until this morning…full-nerved, -still warm…made fatuous sunbeams", as in Dulce Et Decorum Est when there is a broad use of the consonants, ‘B', ‘D', ‘G' and ‘K'. Throughout his poem, Futility, Owen uses personification, "it wakes the seeds…the clays of a cold star", as does Plath in her poem, Balloons, which creates a more personal approach to the poems. Owen uses rhetorical questions often throughout his poetry, especially in Futility, "was it for this the clay grew tall?" which makes the reader think more strongly about the poem and question life just as Owen does....
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