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‘Otherwise’ by Cilla McQueen Essay

Love can be a great emotion full of joy though it is not the case in ‘Otherwise’, Cilla McQueen seems to cut into one of the rather disheartening issues, a long distant relationship. The free verse structured poem written in first person tells the story of two lovers living on ‘opposite’ sides of the world. The title indicates that otherwise expresses contrast between what is reality and what is hoped for. McQueen divided her poem to reflect this contrast, and uses it to symbolize an essential difference between these lovers.

The Poem consisting of two stanzas begins with examples of how hopeless the speakers love is. McQueen Specifically in the first stanza illustrates the way things are and uses the line endings of the lines to emphasize the images which clearly clarify the division between the two people. The speaker also defines the distant loved one as the ‘other’ which indicates her or him, being the ‘opposite’ which is supported by the stars which ‘assemble in unfamiliar patterns’.

The speaker furthermore continues explaining how different there cultures are since the speaker doesn’t ‘often watch traffic or television’ and instead watches nature and how ‘hour by hour the huge tide’ comes in and leaves again. One can conclude that the speaker is trying to define himself and express how things are not equal between them. But at the same time the speaker is contradicting himself by still showing how in love he or she is. For example when she notices how the ‘Tide absently fingers rocks and shells’, which shows how the speaker is absent from the world noticing the smallest things trying to get his or her mind of the beloved one.

The dissection here of stanza one and two is most certainly deliberately put in by McQueen at this point because the division of the stanzas physically represent what could be the “otherwise” in the relationship. Therefore it is also the turning point in the poem where the speaker stops elaborating on how different there worlds are and instead dreams of how wonderful it would be though if they could get together.

Interesting to notice at the beginning of the second stanza is how there the first word is not capitalized this seems to be an indication from McQueen to additionally illustrate how the first stanza is not so important singularly and that the second stanza is a type of personal reply to signify, how even though the speaker can find hundreds of reasons for himself why it cant work, he or she still does not want to give up the hope that it might still work. In this stanza the speaker also seems to be very distant from his or her ‘real’ world and lost in his own mind, which again reflects how in the first stanza the speaker states how he or she often ‘absently fingers rocks and small shells’ and that the speaker seems to be at this state during this part of the poem. The Speaker begins with the wishful phrase ‘if you were with me now’ and then thinks and try’s to imagine how it would be with his or her loved one, were as one notices here the metaphors and hyperboles very well, such as the speakers wish to ‘watch the distant seismograph [together]’, meaning how nice it would be to just look into the distance at the rigid landscape filled by mountains with ‘silver peaks’.

During all this McQueen uses really powerful imagery to better express herself, such as the ‘silver peaks’ which ‘darken into indigo’. This continues with the great ‘flock of terns [seabirds]’, this part being very significant again because after the birds ‘wheel up shrieking’ they ‘land again behind them’ showing how the loved ones are now one and that nothing can easily get between. The poem now continues to the point were the speaker really seems to long for his or her loved one and wishes that they could at least just be together where the speakers ‘cold hands’ represents the loneliness and the need of the other ones love to feel well again.

The speaker continues describe how they ‘would walk together quietly right to the very end’ signifying the strength of there love and how the speaker thinks he or she will love the one forever. At the very end of stanza two the speaker slowly returns to reality again bearing the ‘big chained rocks hold[ing] back the same Pacific Ocean’ being remember again by the problems, but this time the speaker is more relaxed again and doesn’t use such harsh words but instead ends it with ‘the same pacific ocean, lumbering in.’ The second stanza also consists of a more relaxing flow, in the first stanza there are really few punctuation giving the reader the feeling of nervousness and stress compared to the second stanza were there is an increased usage of punctuations such as commas, creating a more relaxed and comfortable setting.

The Poem overall is a very deep work portraying the strange ways of love, and how love can even survive when one is in pain of being far away from a loved one, this problem can also occur between family and even very close friendships, giving the poem a much broader field of affection. The poem is very loving and brings up a lot of feelings which can be positive as well as negative giving the possibility to the reader that the individual to make up his own thoughts to the issue.

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