Quick Draw Poem Essay

Poetry Essay - Exemplar Poetry Essay

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Exemplar Poetry Essay

Here is an exemplar poetry essay, at GCSE standard, which compares two poems and almost attained almost full marks. The poetry essay was written by a student (aged 16) in exam conditions, taking approximately 40-45 minutes to complete. 

Compare how poets use language to present feelings in ‘The Manhunt’ (page 50) and one other poem from Relationships.

In both ‘The Manhunt’ by Simon Armitage, and ‘Quickdraw’, by Carol Ann Duffy, the poets use similar language techniques to express the characters’ feelings.  The main theme in these poems is the breakdown of a couple’s relationship and the stresses and emotions this breakdown puts the people under.  In ‘The Manhunt’, Armitage clearly expresses that the couple’s relationship has been damaged by the husband’s (Eddie’s) personal experiences whilst at war.  These experiences have had a severe effect on the man’s personality and his physical health.  This, in turn, has had an effect on the relationship.  Unlike ‘The Manhunt’, in ‘Quickdraw’ the couple are not in danger of ruining their relationship because of something that has happened to one of them – it is damaged because of the hurtful things they have been saying to each other.  Duffy clearly states that one of the reasons for this is due to the use of their mobile phones.
 
The structure in ‘The Manhunt’ is used for a particular outcome.  The continuous use of short two line stanzas not only reflects the fragility and weaknesses of the relationship, it also shows the wife’s actions to try and comfort her husband.  The broken up look of the poem implies that the couple’s relationship has been ripped to pieces and the couple are trying to piece it back together.  Also, in each stanza, the first line is normally something that the wife is trying to do to heal her husband in some way: “mind and attend”, and the second line is normally describing the extent of the husband’s wounds: “the fractured rudder of shoulder-blade”.
 
The structure in ‘Quickdraw’ progressively builds suspense, with the story reaching the climax at the end.  The poem starts quite slow-paced where it is setting the scene with Western imagery, and then the poem explodes into life, like a gun battle with the “sheriff” looking on.  The form of the first three stanzas resembles the shape of a gun, which reflects the danger and violence in the poem.
 
Armitage uses many different vivid images in his poem to express the feelings the husband is experiencing.  He also talks about the amount of physical torture he has endured.  The narrator says, “feel the hurt of his grazed heart”.  This could be interpreted that Eddie has been hurt severely and emotionally by his experiences and consequently it has affected his relationship with his wife.  The use of the word “heart” signifies not only the lifeline and the pivotal engine system of his body, but the vast love he had and still has for his wife.  The wife is feeling the pain with her husband (“feel the hurt”) so the reader can empathise and understand the roller-coaster of emotions the couple are going through.  On a deeper level, a “graze[d]” is normally something that can be nurtured and heal over time, but if not dealt with correctly, it could end up as a scar, which reflects how close their relationship is to breaking point.
 
Similarly, in ‘Quickdraw’, Duffy uses vivid imagery to express how close the couple’s relationship is to the end: “read the silver bullets of your kiss”.  This shows that although there is a positive side to this quote, “kiss”, the words that are being said are extremely hurtful to the reader.  The word “bullets” implies that the struggle is slowly killing the speaker and she can’t deal with it.  The fact that the bullets are “silver” means that they are strong enough to destroy anything, even the strongest of relationships, because silver bullets are renowned for being able to kill any type of beast.  Silver also implies that there is still hope for the relationship, because silver is precious, and because of the expression, “every cloud has a silver lining”.
 
In ‘The Manhunt’, Armitage uses an interesting metaphor to describe the feelings of Eddie.  He says, “the foetus of metal beneath his chest”.  This could mean that the pressure of the couple’s tribulations is growing inside of him, much like a “foetus”.  A “foetus” is also a symbol for life and joy, but unusually this is the exact opposite of what it is in Eddie.  The word “metal” reflects the pain and suffering Eddie has gone through at war and in a harsh, gruesome image that makes the reader feel quite taken back, because the “foetus of metal” is near his heart.  It is will soon reach his heart as it grows, which reflects how his pain is passing onto his relationship.
 
In ‘Quickdraw’, Duffy shows that the two people almost want to hurt each other, rather than help each other.  She says, “the trigger of my tongue, wide of the mark”.  The use of the word “trigger” suggests that the couple are deliberately trying to hurt each other’s feelings by hurling insults towards other’s hearts - the only way they know how to.  The phrase “wide of the mark” suggests that the remarks don’t always hit home, which means there is some promise for the couple.
 
In conclusion, Duffy and Armitage both use similar themes in their poems.  The breakdown of a couple’s relationship is a key feature in both and provides the background and storyline of them.  Both are raising wider issues of how couples deal with obstacles in their relationships.  Moreover, both are about the hope that is still there for them, but sadly both end with a negative tone, emphasising that the struggle will carry on.

Quickdraw

I wear the two, the mobile and the landline phones,

like guns, slung from the pockets on my hips. I’m all

alone. You ring, quickdraw, your voice a pellet

in my ear, and hear me groan.

You’ve wounded me.

Next time, you speak after the tone. I twirl the phone,

then squeeze the trigger of my tongue, wide of the mark.

You choose your spot, then blast me

through the heart.

And this is love, high noon, calamity, hard liqour

in the old Last Chance saloon. I show the mobile

to the sheriff; in my boot, another one’s

concealed. You text them both at once. I reel.

Down on my knees, I fumble for the phone,

read the silver bullets of your kiss. Take this …

and this … and this … and this … and this …

Overview.

Carol Ann Duffy’s poem Quickdrawplayfully explores the ambivalent role of the  telephone during an argument during a  love affair.  We may believe that  communication is a good thing in a relationship,  but this poem ironically reveals that too much accessibility gives lovers the opportunity for behaviors both destructive and hurtful.

Being ‘ in touch’ is significantly a most anti-tender experience in this playfully affecting poem. Words have become transformed into metaphorical pellets or bullets, so that dialogue becomes fraught with verbal missiles intent on emotional damage.

Interestingly Duffy plays with the  Western Cowboy convention of the gunfight at high noon. Typically in Westerns like High Noon, The Magnificent Seven  and the later Tombstone, cowboys fought each other at set times in the main street; for money, honor and territory.

The fastest  meanest,  most degenerate  gunslingers would face the solitary Sheriff or ‘Shane’ -like heroic figure, who would courageously remain alone in town to defend the weak and virtuous against all the odds.

Duffy ‘borrows’ such a scenario for her poem in order to entertain the reader and to provoke them into new ways of considering their own experiences. The playful combination of mobile phone and gunslinger ‘teases’ the reader into thought!

Carol Ann Duffy also enjoys recreating such a scenario as she enjoys creating new personas in her poetry. It’s a form of literary cross dressing or ventriloquism. Here in Quickdraw, we detect a certain urgency and tension as the inevitable duel between one ‘cowboy/girl/ lover’ fight l it out via the telephone!

Think About.

Carol Ann Duffy’s poem appropriates very familiar objects from today’s daily world and makes us think about their impact upon our hearts and minds. Is the art of communication really enhanced by so many ways of ‘getting in touch’ or are these ‘ways’ in fact far from intimate? Are we less in touch than we realise as everything is so rushed, reactive and sometimes ill considered?

Ironically perhaps, do they distance us in fact from kindness and reflection, so that hurtful behavior may be  too easily experienced as we react immediately and have no time to reconsider the effect of our reactions?

Stanza One.

I wear the two, the mobile and the landline phones,

like guns, slung from the pockets on my hips. I’m all

alone. You ring, quickdraw, your voice a pellet

in my ear, and hear me groan.

Love can make us defensive. We ‘wear’ ‘phones as if they are weapons; weapons for us to use aggressively,  as well as to be utilized against us. This is the irony of ‘phones. We are both receivers as well as deliverers.

How many times have we all encountered hostility over the ‘phone? And perhaps mobiles with their shortened messages by text make hostility easier or understanding so much harder?

The poet is here in a state of expectation as well as preparation. ‘Phones are ‘like guns, slung from my hips.’ Love and its fall out make us ever ready for combat, for the repercussions of challenged intimacy.

Why does the poet declare that she is ‘all alone.’ Is this her normal state? Or is it a loaded admission? An admission loaded with irony? I am alone  so we could be enjoying our relationship, yet here we are fighting? Is there someone else involved too? Perhaps the ‘sheriff’ mentioned later in the poem?

Has  her lover has left her?  Or has  her public partner   gone away, so that her private lover and her can battle it out across all the phone systems? Tension in the poem seems complex and entangled.

Then the  inevitable  expected call comes and takes the speaker by surprise: ‘You ring, quickdraw, your voice a pellet/in my ear, and hear me groan.’ The lover attacks first. They are the faster gunslinger; is ‘right’ on their side or are they more prepared, more used to verbal combat?

The words damage the poet, so she groans, wounded by her lover, less equipped to deal with her lover’s quickdraw than her two guns suggest.

Does the lover enjoy inflicting this verbal wound upon the poet? Is this exchange about point scoring with metaphorical  ‘bullets/pellets’.?

Stanza Two.

You’ve wounded me.

Next time, you speak after the tone. I twirl the phone,

then squeeze the trigger of my tongue, wide of the mark.

You choose your spot, then blast me

This is a powerful declaration. ‘You’ve wounded me.’ Love involves hurt. Love is HURT perhaps?

Communication can kill.  Just like the Quickdraw of the title. And presumably this is the danger of intimacy  We know enough about our beloved to damage them , especially when love renders us vulnerable and more susceptible to hurt. We lash out with the intent to wound.

How brave is it to admit that someone has caused you pain? Or is such an admission egocentric or ‘weak’? Or designed to make the other feel guilty?

The reactive quality of this Quickdraw continues in the second line. ‘Next time, you speak after the tone.‘This is a battle conducted by telephone!

Once again, being in communication or being ‘available’ is dangerous as we literally can be found and then attacked. Once again think of the poetic conceit Duffy is deploying. Survival needs a fast gun and  adequate protection. A Quickdraw!

As the poet/narrator retaliates, the ‘verbal trigger of my tongue’  attack goes ‘wide of the mark’. Perhaps the poet is less adept at this conflict within a relationship than the lover. For the lover is an expert assailant’you choose your spot, then blast me..‘ Notice this line is not end- stopped as we might expect with such an attack. In fact it goes over the line into the next stanza via the use of enjambment. The attack is sustained and destructive  as it goes ‘through the heart.‘ Words have the power to deeply wound like real bullets. Wounds carry on, the spill over into different parts of one’s life.

Perhaps bullets are in some ways cleaner and more honest?

Stanza Three

through the heart.

And this is love, high noon, calamity, hard liqour

in the old Last Chance saloon. I show the mobile

to the sheriff; in my boot, another one’s

The noun ‘heart’ is then end-stopped as we linger with the impact of this ‘fatal’ hit. Those whom we love, often know enough about us to hurt us deeply, deeply enough to ‘kill’.

The irony and pathos of the next line emanates from the list of iconic associations with the Wild West gunfight: ‘And thisis love, high noon, calamity, hard liquor…’ This list is contextualized in the ‘old Last Chance saloon‘. Surely this place is a metaphor for the love affair itself? Love it seems brings disorder, chaotic behaviour and the hurtfulness of fights.

The poignant or cynical resume of the love affair is cut short by the appearance of a mysterious ‘sheriff’ whose identity we remain unsure of. Does the poet have a partner who asks to see what all the texting ‘phone furore might be? Couldi t be that the lover is  female too? 

At any rate, surely the number of ‘phones that the poet owns connotes secrecy? Why would you own several ‘phones unless you are leading a double life?  The fact that like a real gunslinger  one ‘phone remains hidden in the boot, yet is known to the lover, leads the reader to believe this is a secret relationship and perhaps that is why it is so riddled with intensity?

Once again Duffy deploys enjambment at the end of this stanza to give an ongoing, unfinished aspect to the events of the poem.  In fact the word ‘concealed‘ is then sealed as you can see just below, by the emphatic use of a full stop. This adds irony to the device and once again stresses the secrecy of the relationship.

Stanza Four. 

concealed. You text them both at once. I reel.

Down on my knees, I fumble for the phone,

read the silver bullets of your kiss. Take this …

and this … and this … and this … and this …

 The lover is not to be deceived. They know the strategies and ways of the poet. ‘You text them both at once.’ This is all out assault; passionate verbal victory too? For what is said, makes the poet ‘reel’. Is is a revelation, a message that cannot be ignored or denied? Or even we wonder an ultimatum with a declaration of love. For look how the poem ends with ‘the silver bullets of your kiss.’ Several famous gunslingers used ‘silver bullets‘ These are precious kisses or bullets of love as they seem to render the poet submissive and perhaps yielding to the victory of the other. 

Is the submission exciting erotically? Or is this about relief through the release or catharsis of the fight? making up extra passionate perhaps after the stormy exchanges that have lead up to this reconciliation?

Who knows. We are left to make up our own ending to this ‘gun fight.’ Will the lovers love again or is it all  over in a famous hail of bullets? Or is it perversely a storm of kisses, healing over the squabble yet again? 

 

 

I am a highly approachable Independent Expert Private English/English Literature Tutor located in Greater Manchester with over twenty years teaching and tutoring experience from Secondary to Postgraduate Degree level.

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