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War Protest

by Neezes 

Posted: 08 December 2011
Word Count: 113
Summary: This is based on the protests against the Iraq invasion all those years ago...


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The day we protested against the war:
what could we need a new one for?
Grey clouds scudded overhead;
nurses sighed by hospital beds.
The restaurants heaved; children stole playtime;
streetlights blazed through a darkening daytime.
Walls showed our way instead of the sun;
little and peace and brittle and gun.

Our sore feet walked to gathering ground
by the river: a stage with its waves of sound.
The speeches came thick, the voices sooty
each chanting notions of civic duty.
Heads were shaken, hands were clasped,
for nobody knew how long it would last.
Then we each walked slow ways back from town
as the day rolled over and night fell down.






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Comments by other Members



Account Closed at 15:18 on 09 December 2011  Report this post
Another political poem! This one I 'get' more than some others, but in the end I'm not quite sure what the poem has revealed to us.

I don't understand:

little and peace and brittle and gun.


I think the idea of 'clouds scudding' is a bit hackneyed. And the word 'sooty' is lightweight for a poem of this type, almost comical, especially when rhymed rather dubiously with 'duty'.

Also, I think the rhythm of the poem is inappropriate for the subject matter. It almost bounces along like a nursery rhyme, which doesn't set up the right mood, I feel.

Sorry not to be more positive, perhaps this type of poetry is just not my style.

Jan

Neezes at 16:36 on 09 December 2011  Report this post
No need to apologise - it's all helpful, so thanks for commenting. I'll have a think about those rhymes you mentioned, though as a whole I'm going to keep the rhyme and rhythm... I see the rhythm as in keeping with a poem about a march-based event. Rhyme is perhaps not the obvious choice for a political/war poem, but then it's a bit of cynical take where both leaders and protesters are going through the motions a bit. I agree that some of the phrases are a bit stale, though - definitely needs work!

Jonathan

FelixBenson at 13:13 on 10 December 2011  Report this post
Well I rather liked this, Jonathan. Especially the last line.
The day rolled over and night fell down
.
I think the rhythm does convey a marching tone, and there's lots of good stuff here:
by the river: a stage with its waves of sound.

and
Walls showed our way instead of the sun;
little and peace and brittle and gun.


What I would say though is that maybe this poem might benefit from the odd break in rhythm, a line that lengthens at the crux of what you are trying to say, it might be worth sharpening the odd line here or there, a glint of steel to underline the cynicism, because I don't think it's coming through as much as it might. The last line sounds the cynical note the strongest, but the other lines hint rather than show cynicism (at least I think so.)

I like the voices being 'sooty'... that worked for me, but I agree the rhyme with 'duty' is perhaps is a bit heavy.

I'd be really interested to read any revisions. Well worth working on.

Kirsty

clyroroberts at 20:39 on 10 December 2011  Report this post
I very much like the last line of this poem - the night fell down. It's ominous. I think it brings the rest of the piece into sharp focus.

I have no problem with the rhythms. And I like sooty - (choked with, toxic) but maybe the following line should be longer.

The line I would change is probably line 2. What could we need a new one for. Unless you were trying to suggest a kind of commodification of war - which I think is a potent idea.

I don't think you need to make too many changes. Paterson said that a poem is a machine for remembering itself (at least I think that's what he said!) In this case I think the machine is ticking along nicely.

James R




James Graham at 12:11 on 11 December 2011  Report this post
Iím surprised at the mood of this poem. Itís so downhearted. The narrator is depressed by the speeches, for example:

The speeches came thick, the voices sooty
each chanting notions of civic duty


then heads are shaken and people trudge home. They seem to shake their heads at the speeches, and the demo generally, not the war.

I was in the Glasgow demo, that same day I think, and the atmosphere was very up-beat and the speeches, if not inspiring, at least encouraging. The weather was better, not such a gloomy day, which does help, but even if it had been dismal Iím sure the mood would have been positive.

The line

what could we need a new one for?


surprises me too. Itís strangely naive, not savvy at all. I suppose people on our demo were asking why the war was needed at all, but Iím sure they also had ideas about Bush and Blair and why they wanted war. This line, and the poem generally, give the impression that the narrator doesnít know what heís doing there, and wishes he hadn't bothered!

It does need reworking. I too can't understand

little and peace and brittle and gun


and agree that some of the rhymes seem forced. I think, though, that the important change you need to make is in the content - to introduce something about the politics of the war. OK, the mood doesn't have to be up-beat, but the poem needs something political - doesnít have to be much - so that it becomes clear that people are fed up with the politicians and not just fed up with the demo. Many of the details could be kept: the weather, nurses by hospital beds, restaurants, children, head-shaking, hand-clasping etc. These are concrete and quite telling.

I suppose I'm making this criticism because the mood I get from your poem doesn't ring true of anti-war protests in my experience, going way back to CND in the sixties. But maybe your experience is different. Let me know what you think.

James.

Neezes at 15:19 on 11 December 2011  Report this post
Kirsty - many thanks for those comments, I'm glad you liked the overall structure of it and it was helpful to pick on the lines you thought were strong. I'll definitely think about revising that rhyme, and varying the rhythm as you suggest.

James R - thanks for the positive feedback, I'm glad you liked the last line -
probably the line I was happiest with - and I'll think about that second line, which probably sounds a bit awkward as it stands.

James G - you focus on the mood and content which is useful - perhaps I misremember the weather in Glasgow that day! and
perhaps I am gloomy looking back, because it was ultimately a futile protest and the war went ahead. Don't get me wrong - I thought it was amazing that so many people came out and spoke up against it. I did think at the time, though, that some people were making political capital out of it. Your comments and the others have been very helpful, though, in making me realise that I need to present a clearer mood and message in the poem.

Thanks all,

Jonathan

James Graham at 12:16 on 13 December 2011  Report this post
I may have misremembered too! But of course it doesn't matter - your poem calls for a gloomy day to underline the mood. Even if it had been a sunny warm day, you're free to fictionalise it to suit the poem. I see now that the dispirited mood of the poem is perfectly appropriate, but still think it should be clear that it's not only the demo but the politics of such as Bush and Blair that bring on this sense of futility.

James.

V`yonne at 17:32 on 14 December 2011  Report this post
I think that the end-rhyme doesn't serve the poem best but may that's just me. I always think rhyme trivialises strongly held feelings and tends towards humour better. But I do like the sentiment and if you made some of the rhyme internal by breaking up the form this would work for me. Something like:

restaurants heaved;
children stole playtime;
streetlights blazed through a darkening
daytime. Walls showed our way
instead of the sun;
little peace and brittle gun.

James Graham at 18:59 on 14 December 2011  Report this post
Oonah's suggestion about rearranging the lines, and using internal rhyme as well as end rhyme, is very good. It would raise the poem to another level.

James.

Neezes at 08:55 on 15 December 2011  Report this post
Thanks folks, yes, more internal rhyme is an excellent suggestion, Oonah. I will work on it...

Jonathan

V`yonne at 12:30 on 15 December 2011  Report this post
Give me a shout when you've revised, Jonathan

SarahT at 13:46 on 15 December 2011  Report this post
Jonathon

I liked the second line because, unencumbered by actual experience of the demo perhaps, I read the poem as a comment on the general ritual, if not futility, of protesting. You weave the story of the city going on its daily business, 'nurses sighed by hospital beds.
The restaurants heaved; children stole playtime', around the business of the demo which is almost institutionalised:
The speeches came thick, the voices sooty
each chanting notions of civic duty


So for me the effect of the second line was to infer daily small talk and chit chat, as if people were discussing the issue when they bumped into each other at the shops. In this way, the poem doubles up as a comment about how commonplace these issues are becoming, which is also a bigger and much sadder comment on the ways of the world. Perhaps, if you were to tweak it, you could put speech marks around the second line and play up that aspect.

I did like Oonah's suggestions about the internal rhyme and I agree that this would strengthen the poem but I don't think you should lose too much in the process, just reframe it.

S


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