English Poetry Analysis

Topics: World War II, Nuclear weapon, Berlin U-Bahn Pages: 6 (1062 words) Published: August 19, 2014
Tatsuya Shiihara English Poetry Year 11 Term 2 Semester 1 2014

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English Poetry Analysis Commentary

Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Tatsuya Shiihara, and today I will be presenting to you my

interpretation of the poem "The Last War", written by Australian poet, Katherine Gallagher.

This poem expresses the feelings of the "winning" countries before, during and after the Second

World War and the anticipation which the end of the war built. Born in 1935, in the town of Maldon,

in Victoria; Gallagher went through the 2nd World War as a child, and as a result, experienced many

adversities that came with it, such as fear of loved ones not coming home and rationing of food. I

believe that this poem is unique in the way that it represents an important point of view on the

ending of the 2nd World War, not just because it is Australian, but because it also conveys a form of

acceptance and sorrow over the destruction caused by the atomic bombing on Japan.

Gallagher uses many techniques, notably metaphors, to represent emotions felt by people,

emphasising their desperation when waiting for news in the line "Ears keyed to the wireless" and

'Ghost Towns', used to aid readers visualise the devastating situation, allowing for them to

understand the ravages of the war. The final line, 'the pit of ash beneath our tongues', is a distinctive

metaphor in that I believe it to not only represent the residue of atomic fires, but also the

inescapable legacy that had been passed down, which is indisputably the objectionable usage of the

devastating bomb.

Symbolism also helps share Gallagher's perspective on the war. The line "our teacher joining in"

symbolises how even adults celebrated the event by having fun, something which they would not

have been able to do for many years. This generates a sense of jubilance, and combined with

Gallagher effectively positioning the reader as though they are actually in the situation themselves,

World War 2 ended and celebrations everywhere, the reader can understand how joyous people

were when the war was finally declared over.

With the poem being written in first person, "we've won" and "The bomb entered our conversation",

Gallagher also uses personification in the lines "The bomb entered our conversation, a stranger who

refused to leave", to clearly convey that the bomb is unwanted, a symbol of guilt and fear, by making

it personal with the reader. Whilst this effectively reflects her personal attitudes towards the war,

remorse and acceptance, the reader also starts to question their own attitude towards the war.

However, it is the juxtaposition within the layers of the poem that most entices the reader's

attention. The sharp contrast between the cheerful and happy celebrations that the war was over, to

the suddenly sombre tone that comes with the realisation of the deaths that were the price of war -

combined with the existence of the atomic bomb which spreads fear. It effectively engineers turmoil

within the reader.

With no rhythm or rhyming scheme within the poem, the poem is a free-verse, following the rhythm

of natural speech with no consistent meter patterns. Thus, Gallagher uses precise language and

strong phrasing in order to get her point across quickly and concisely, such as the lines "Japan

bombed, gigantic clouds curling, skies burnt scarlet -total destruction . . ." and "The War over." This

short, sharp rhythm is very effective as it doesn't let the reader's mind wander from the point,

thereby successfully demanding the reader's attention at all times.

Tatsuya Shiihara English Poetry Year 11 Term 2 Semester 1 2014

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Poem Annotation

The Last War

There was only one war, and it was finishing any day soon. Ears keyed to the wireless, we waited. Then the news: Japan bombed, gigantic clouds curling, skies burnt scarlet -...
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