Higher 2006- Unseen Poetry Practice
‘In the Can’
In the poem, a prisoner describes life in a prison.
Every second is a fishbone that sticks
In the throat. Every hour another slow
Step towards freedom. We’re geriatrics
Waiting for release, bribing time to go.
I’ve given up trying to make anything
Different happen. Mornings: tabloids, page three.
Afternoons: videos or Stephen King,
Answering letters from relatives who bore me.
We’re told not to count, but the days mount here
Like thousands of identical stitches
Resentfully sewn into a sampler,
Or a cricket bat made out of matches.
Nights find me scoring walls like a madman,
Totting up runs: one more day in the can.
Higher Unseen Poetry -Example Response
‘In the Can’
This poem is very interesting in the inmate’s attitude towards crime. He does not show any signs of remorse or wishing he had not done it. But neither does it have the emotions of the crime not being his fault.
The poem describes the life that the prisoners lead in jail. The phrase ”I’ve given up trying to make anything different happen” evokes sympathy for the boredom they must be suffering. “like thousands of identical stitches” tries to make us empathise with them. It then talks of cruelty by saying he has become “like a madman”. This pejorative with connotations that drip with the abject cruelty of the confinement make us take pity on the inmates. Yet because of the contrast it does not seem so bad ”videos or Stephen King”. Personally, bored as I am with revision, I would love to watch some videos or watch some Stephen King.
The poem rhymes on every other line. Which gives a structure that shows the monotony of life in prison. It gives me the opinion that life in prison is boring for the inmates, it is not altogether unpleasant. “ Every hour a step towards freedom”. I can’t help but empathise as I sit here writing my answer. How less free are they in...
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