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Comparing poems "Long Distance" by Tony Harrison, My Grandmother" by Elizabeth Jennings and "Afternoons" by Philip Larkin

Categories: GriefLovePoems

“Long Distance” by Tony Harrison is about grieving in different ways. It is a personal poem as he reflects back to his Father’s love and grief for his Mother, who has passed away. You can see that it is also about the love in a close family, as the love felt by the father regarding his wife and later on, the love felt by the son, which is apparent through his sense of loss. All of this shows a close, loving family, however the title, makes the reader seem as though their relationship is not as close.

The poem uses enjambment, ‘He’d put you off an hour to give him time To clear her thing and look alone’, which creates movement within the poem, as the sentence is long, giving an impression of a long period of time, and that the grief and every day routine of ‘putting up appearances’ that Harrison’s father restlessly deals with.

Harrison also uses Caesura,’You couldn’t just drop in.

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You had to phone.’ The reader is unable to argue with the quick and factual piece of information.

The poem itself has a ‘ABAB’ rhyming scheme in the first three paragraphs, and then in the last verse the rhyming scheme changes to an ‘ABBA’ structure, suggests that the last paragraph is important, and showing that there has been some kind of change between the previous paragraphs and the final paragraph, as the previous paragraphs only deal with Harrison’s father’s reaction to his wife’s death, but the final paragraph is set once both of Harrison’s parents have died, and he is now feeling the grief.

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Harrison does not use metaphors, descriptive language and similies in this poem, as the deaths and the distant relationship with his parents are heavy topics that do not need extra creativity. Instead he uses blunt and stark words to create an emotion that is clear in subject matter for the readers, feeling what Harrison has felt for his parents even though there were many cracks which faultered their relationship, because he writes so sharply to describe his regretful past.

In “My Grandmother” by Elizabeth Jennings, the title makes the reader think that this poem will be a close loving poem, however the relationship between the granddaughter and her grandmother is very distant, which contrasts with Harrisons. No finger marks are on the furniture as she isn’t there anymore to handle things.

Jennings relises that her grandmother has become too old to run the shop on her own and that she couldn’t keep the antiques in replacement of love. She can’t go back now and there is nothing to feel love towards. Her grandmother kept the items as if to preserve them so they survive for much longer than they would without her. In this poem the granddaughter is trapped in her own guilt that she feels towards her grandmother, which comparrises with Harrisons as his poem is about not letting go the love, where as Jennings’ has a sense of guilt, ‘And I remember how I once refused To go out with her, since I was afraid’, suggests that she is not loving her Grandmother, as she was too afraid to get too close to her, as if she felt that if she did, she may get treated like one of her grandmother’s antiques, used and named a possession.

She now knows the hurt her grandmother must of felt when she declined the offer to go out with her and that she hadn’t even given her grandmother any notice. She walked into her grandmothers room full of her old antiques, and saw all the things that her grandmother never used but needed to keep her alive. The only thing that touches the antiques now is the new dust that builds up on them, as the grandmother is not there anymore to polish and dust them. The smell of absences are the missing loved ones that were no longer in her life. She was trying to convince herself all her life that she didn’t need love in her life to stay alive.

“My Gandmother” is also about relationships between a family, so is similar to Harrisons, as they are both personal poems.

The poem is divided into four parts: the first stanza describes her grandmother working in the shop; the second the incident which causes her guilt; the third stanza shows her in retirement. In the final stanza, after her grandmother has died, the she reflects on herself and her grandmother’s life, which is similar to “Long Distance” as it is also divided up into four parts and the last stanza too changes and reflects back.

The poem, “Afternoons” by Philip Larkin reflects on the subject of marriage, which connects to Harrison’s poem as it is also about the daily lifestyle that is needed to be gotten through, as marriages are like his father and his mother’s death. The poem deals with Larkin’s view on young mothers watching their kids playing in a playground and on this he concludes that marrying young and having children young, lead to the mothers losing their identity and destiny. The techniques used by the poet such as theme, imagery and tone made the understanding more impecaple.

The structure of the poem is simple, just like Jennings and Harrisons, so the readers would understand more about their feelings in their poems; there are three stanzas with eight lines in each. The lines are unrhymed, whereas the other two poems are rhymed.

The first stanza deals with Larkin’s rather ironic view of marriage and deals with the idea that the young mothers are isolated. Larkin’s brilliant use of language emphasis the recurring theme of emptiness within the young mothers and how regimented their lives have become when married.

‘Afternoons’ conveys a sense of life passing by, and time elapsing. The opening line, “Summer is fading” suggests the prime of life beginning to fade, the women now have responsibilities and commitments; their children. There are images of the working classes, ‘An estateful of washing/And the albums, lettered/Our Wedding, lying/Near the television”. The wedding album is “lettered”, suggesting gilt letters, which implies that the women did not want to get married. It also lies near the television, creating an idea of the television as the focus of the house, overshadowing even the memories of their weddings. The courting-places are no longer used by the couples, the young are replacing the old. The poem concludes with an image of responsibility taking over their lives and pushing them out of their prime.

The poem gives the sense of time passing and Larkin’s perception of the working class, which is similar to both of the previous poems, talking about their previous experiences.

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Comparing poems "Long Distance" by Tony Harrison, My Grandmother" by Elizabeth Jennings and "Afternoons" by Philip Larkin. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/comparing-poems-long-distance-tony-harrison-grandmother-elizabeth-jennings-afternoons-philip-larkin-new-essay

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