How is Kenneth Slessor effective in conveying his thoughts and ideas?
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Poets use many techniques to convey their thoughts and purpose in their poetry. In this case, Kenneth Slessor’s poetry will be analysed to show his effectiveness. William Street is a poem which discusses about the beauty and ugliness of the red light district. Country Towns, in contrast, romanticizes the country and its sleepy atmosphere. In addition, Night-Ride is also sleepy in tone and tells about a train trip Slessor ttok. Finally, Beach Burial will be discussed about its anti-war themes.
William Street is a very colourful poem by Slessor. With the use of imagery and other literary techniques that help readers sense the environment, Slessor achieves a vivid description of the area. But when contrsasting content with purpose, it is up to the reader to judge what Slessor is trying to convey. Each stanza ends with, “you find it ugly, I find it lovely”. This tells readers that it is up to them to make the judgement of whether it is ugly or lovely. In addition, this simply sets two types of opinions and reinforces it through repetition throughout the poem.
The first stanza sets up the atmosphere of William Street, with the “red globes” of light, illuminating the streets. Also, mentions of “flashing neon lights” reinforce the fact that this poem is set during the night. The second stanza brings up the topic of the pawn shops around the area. The trousers in the shops are described as “hung men.” This is effective as it gives readers the understanding that these pants were once worn by troubled, desperate men, and it was these characters that walked into the pawn shop. Through this comparison, Slessor has created an environment which is not a satisfactory way of living and causes most readers to find that William Street is not an entirely beautiful place to live.
The third stanza bombards the reader’s senses with images of take away shops. Sound devices such as onomatopaia is used in, “grease that blesses onions with a hiss,” replicating the sounds of the grill by repeating “ss” sounds. Slessor has used this to good effect, recapturing the sounds of the hissing and smells of these take away shops that are situated on the streets. Therefore, the poet creates a very pungent smell through his use of imagery and effectively creates the atmosphere. The final stanza finalay introduces the humans into the poems. Again, he describes these people as desperate creatures, “grazing the pastures.” He paints a very unpretty picture of the corrupted people who dwell in these areas, but finishes the stanza with, “I find it lovely”. This poem leaves readers thinking about the area and forces them to judge for themselves.
In Country Towns, Slessor again is vague in his opinions of thie topic. Using inconsistent rhythm and tone, Slessor confuses readers of his true underlying opinion and creates ambiguous meanings. The main theme of the poem is the sleepiness of country towns and an abundance of references are made.
The opening stanza addresses Country Towns as a living entity, “Country towns with your willows.” As a result, readers are led to believe that this poems an ode in support of Country Towns. By the end of the stanza, the poem’s tone has changed to one of mockery, referring to the hogans as a race and sets the tone for the next stanza. The second stanza talks about the town’s laziness. It describes the School of Arts with a broadsheet, “dated a year and a half ago”. Slessor makes this comment, suggesting that this was the town’s only form of entertainment and are lazy as they have not pulled the broadsheet down.
The laziness tone continues as the third stanza talks about the sleepiness of the town. The use of metaphor in, “mulberry faces” describes the bright red faces that are sleeping on the porch. This gives the atmosphere of Country Towns a sense of heat. Slessor then uses simple rhyming to slow down the pace of the poem and create that sleepy mood, “musky sleep/dozing deep”. This stanza’s rhythm is slower in comparison to all the other stanzas. Therefore, it emphasizes the town’s dreary state and reinforces Slessor’s opinion on Country Towns. Whether they respond to this fact as a pro or a con according to slessor, responders are left unknown until the final stanza.
The final stanza somehow romanticizes the slow pace of country towns. Slessor wants to be in a Country Town and live in their laid back atmosphere with no sense of time, “find me a bench and let me snore”, “I’ll think its noon when it’s half past four!” The purpose of this poem is then contrasting due to its many purposes conveyed through literary techniques.
In most of SLessor’s poetry, sleep is a reoccurring theme. Night-Ride is based on the sleepy nature of humans at night. With Slessor’s use of the monotonous tone, he creastes an atmosphere which is “drowsy” and “all senses are drugged”. Other references to sleep indicate “engines yawning” and the travelers “lumbering” up and down the station platform. As the train moves, Slessor uses dark imagery, “nothing but blackness” to describe outside, and when the sunrose, “nothing but grey” This all captures Slessor’s sleepy feelings as he travels on the train.
The use of a one stanza poem creates no stoppages as the poem is read. Because of this, the imagery and words pass through the mind like a dream. The final lines uses repetition, “sleep sleep” to hypnotise readers into a trance. The poem finishes with Slessor remembering nothing, emphasizing another theme, the fleetingness of life. From the poem, readers can assume that sometimes, life just flies by. He also questions us about the absurdity of life. Do humans go through life just to finish dead?
The final poem is one of Slessors great works and relates to all the themes Slessor has conveyed in all these poems. In Beach Burial, the poem starts off solemnly, describing the movement of dead sailors as they get washed onto the shore. “Swaying” and “wandering” are haunting images. War is normally bloody and loud but Slessor successfully captures a quieter and slower side of war. Sound devices are used to convey the distance and sounds, “sobbing and clubbing”. The repetition of “b” sounds help readers understand that a war is being fought but is quite a considerable distance away, so only echos can be heard.
Beach Burial introduces more characters into the poem. The people who bury these dead sailors body. These characters put crosses on the beach with “perplexity” and “bewildered pity”, a metaphor for Slessor’s own opinions on war. Both Slessor and the characters, believe that these war men deserve more respect than to be buried on a beach in hoards, and be named “unknown seaman.” Slessor’s rhythm in this poem is slow to creat a somber feel and mood. The slow pace induces the reader to think about what is being written.
The final stanza is one of the most powerful and shows what Slessor feels about the subject of war. “Dead seamen, in search for the same landfall” shows that Slessor believes war is futile and it is just powered by the greed of man. He questions how humanity can progress if we are killing ourselves. Also in the final stanza, Slessor is ambiguous as after that line, he writes in rememberance to the soldiers and understands that “even as enemies they fought” they will be reunited and come together on “the same front”.
In conclusion, Slessor lacks the conviction in his works as his purpose can be misinterpreted, depending on how readers respond. His thoughts are ambiguous and can be understood in many ways with his use of language techniques, to bring these lines to a whole new level.