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TASK: Choose a poem in which there is a dramatic or violent incident. Show how the poet conveys the incident using various poetic techniques. ‘Glasgow 5 March 1971’ by Scottish poet Edwin Morgan effectively conveys a violent incident which occurs on a busy street in Glasgow. The incident captured in this instamatic poem involves a violent attack on a young couple who are pushed through a shop window by thieving youths. The incident is shown vividly through various techniques such as imagery, word choice and structure. Through this poem, Morgan effectively criticises society and our reluctance to help others in need.
One of the ways in which Morgan helps us understand the incident is through the use of imagery. The poem begins with a striking metaphor to describe the “ragged diamond of shattered plate-glass”. The broken glass is being compared to a diamond to help us picture the sharp, glinting edges of the window. This immediately shows how violent the incident is. He goes on to describe the man’s face as “bristling with fragments of glass”. This metaphor compared the numerous shards of glass on his face to a beard. This again highlights the pain and damage caused to the innocent “young man”.
The serious nature of the injuries is also conveyed by the words “spurts of arterial blood” which creates the image of blood gushing out of the girl. Her “wet-look white coat” emphasises the amount of blood and the contrast of red blood on white which creates a strong visual image. The poem then moves on to describe the attackers using effective word choice to convey the lack of compassion shown to the victims. The incident is described as the “operation” which suggests that this is a purely business-like transaction for these people. There is no emotion.
The word “loot” suggests that the youths’ only care is to grab as many valuables as possible and do it “smartly”. This highlights the impersonal, business-like manner again, showing a lack of humanity. Again this is done with “no expression” which shows no concern or care for the couple whose faces show “surprise” and “shock”. The word choice used here effectively shows the selfishness of the youths whose only care is to steal with no concern for who gets hurt in this violent incident. . Morgan achieves this by using the present tense, “a young man and his girl are falling”, “their arms are starfished”.
This creates the effect of seeing the event as a picture rather than an ongoing event. The writer emphasises this with the words “sharp clear night” which relates to a camera image again. This helps the reader stand back and look at the event objectively without be involved. Morgan is trying to make the point that this is what we do in society when we see violence occurring – stand back and not get involved. This theme of society’s reluctance to help others is shown through the deliberate reference “in Sauchiehall Street”.
This makes it clear that this violent incident took place on a busy street in Glasgow where lots of people would be. He goes on to refer to drivers “in the background” which again highlights the fact that people do not come forward to help the victims; they “keep their eyes on the road”. This final line effectively conveys Morgan’s attitude that people turn a blind eye to violence, most likely from fear or lack of compassion. Through presenting this ‘snapshot’ of the incident in “sharp clear” detail, it makes the reader think about what we would have done in this situation and why people failed to act.
In conclusion this poem effectively conveys a violent incident on a busy Glasgow street. Edwin Morgan successfully highlights the lack of concern in our society for others. He achieved this through his instamatic technique, vivid imagery and effective word choice. These techniques helped me visualise the incident well and understand the writer’s message. The poem really made me think about how we treat one another in society as this incident is set in Glasgow in a busy street. It made me wonder if this would actually happen and if people would help or turn a blind eye.