“In Memory of My mother” by Patrick Kavanagh and “For My Mother” by Elizabeth Jennings
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In this essay I will compare two great poems, both written by well known poets. The two poems are: “In Memory of My Mother” written by Patrick Kavanagh and the other “For My Mother – My Mother Dying Aged 87” written by Elizabeth Jennings. Both poems have a similar theme which is linked to the remembrance of a mother, but these poets come from different backgrounds. Patrick Kavanagh is an Irish poet, who was born in Inniskeen, County Monaghan on 21st October 1904; he was the son of a shoemaker and small farmer. He then later died on 30th November 1967 and was buried in his native Inniskeen. The other poet, Elizabeth Jennings, is an English poet. She was born in Boston, Lincolnshire on 18th July 1926. Jennings also received an Honors Degree in English from St. Anne’s College. She later died on 26th October 2001 and buried in Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford.
Before I start analyzing the two poems, I would first like to outline the definition of what makes an effective poem. An effective poem is one where the words in the poem describe something so vividly that you can “see” what the author’s describing in your imagination.
Elizabeth Jennings’s poem has three stanzas; the first one is biggest consisting of 12 lines and the last two having six lines. There is very little punctuation, there are only two commas but there are full stops breaking up lines which suggest an outpouring of feeling. This is because here Jennings is trying to heavily illustrate her feeling on her mother. However, Kavanagh’s poem has five verses with each of them consisting of four lines, which really means that in her poem she has five quatrains.
There is lots of enjambment and also there are three full stops closing stanzas. Also here, there is more use of commas, colons, semi-colons and hyphens because this then gives the poem an outpouring of emotion. Two similarities which the poems have are that they both have a loose structure in terms of punctuation. The poets’ emotions cannot be contained within one line, and therefore must flow into another, leading to enjambment. Also, both poems reflect back to memory. The main difference between the poems is that Jennings poem has only three stanzas with the first one the biggest but Kavanagh’s poem has five stanzas with all of them consisting of four lines throughout the poem. These quatrains suggest measured religious structure, in comparison to Jennings. The effect on the reader is that Jennings’s structure of the poem makes it very emotional, her poem also focuses more on present than the past.
Even though there are a few similarities in how the poems are structured, the language these poets use is very similar. Jennings’s use of imaginative language makes her poem very effective. There is a great deal of repetition of the word ‘ you ‘ and this shows that the poem is addressed to someone, which is obviously their mother. Also, there is a repeated use of the word ‘I’ which suggests intimacy which makes the poem very personal. Furthermore, there is frequent use of longer vowel sounds which creates a ‘hushed sound’ which makes the poem solemn. For example, on the 5th, 6th and 7th line of the second stanza there are these words, “mood”, “too” and “good”. There is some alliteration, for example on the 7th line of the 1st stanza there is repetition of the ‘s’ sound, ‘ Small Shell ‘, this is good use of alliteration as it makes the poem more imaginative, it also gives the poem a “hushed sound”.
Kavanagh’s poem also has a wide range of repetition, there is repetition of the word ‘you’ and ‘I’ which gives a hint that the poem is again addressed to some one and also that it gives the poem an individual feeling. Moreover, there is alliteration in Kavanagh’s poem on the 1st line of the 2nd stanza, ‘Second mass on a summer Sunday’. This is the imagination of the “hush” sound in the church. Here, there is a repetition of the ‘s’ sound repeated. On the subject of language, there are many similarities between both poems. Both poems have a repetition of personal pronouns which gives the poem intimate feeling. Furthermore, the use of the word ‘I’ allows the reader to understand that this is something from the poets hearts. However, the only main difference is that Jennings uses repetition more than Kavanagh which gives Jennings’s poem more texture and interest.
Although there are similarities in the language used by both poets, the imagery they use is very different. The effect is that it makes a great meaning in the poem and also that it adds feelings. Jennings’s poem focuses on physical nature of dying. The poem also refers to matter in present tense, ‘You died as quietly as your spirit moved’. Furthermore, the last stanza focuses on after life, there is also a metaphor, ‘Lush piety but all will guide your ship’. This hints out that the ship is like a soul. The effect of using a metaphor here is that it makes the description exciting and also it will make the readers think about it and choose from many different meanings. However, Kavanagh’s poem consists of many natural images which reflect to rural life.
There are also some abstract metaphors, ‘Among your earliest words the angels stray’. This is suggesting religious belief and ‘Going to second mass on a summer Sunday’ highlights this. And also, Kavanagh’s poem refers to the topic in past tense, ‘The bargains are all made’. Furthermore, the last line of Kavanagh’s poem refers to eternal happiness, ‘And you smile up at us – eternally’, which gives the effect that there was happiness during her mums life. Between both these poems there are many differences, Kavanagh’s poem places the mother in the past and in her natural, rural environment. Here, we also get a clearer and more sympathetic portrait of the mother. However, Jennings’s images focus more on the death rather than the person. So the main difference would be that Kavanagh refers to the topic in past tense but Jennings refers to the topic in present tense. One similarity would be that both poems make reference to the after life as a happy place, although Jennings’s description uses more metaphors and is described in more detail.
While the imagery used by both poets is very different, the rhythm and rhyme used is equal. In Jennings’s poem, the rhythm is fairly structured with five lines of ten syllables followed by one line with six syllables. Overall, the pattern is almost perfect but the rhyme is quite loose in the poem. However, in Kavanagh’s poem, the second line of each of the first three stanzas is shorter. But the lines of the final two stanzas are roughly the same length. However, there is a very irregular rhyme which gives the effect of an unsteady trail. One similar thing is that both poems do not have a regular rhyming pattern. This adds a serious tone to the poem because regular rhyme builds up a pattern which then leads up to a type of tone, but also suggests that it is a more spontaneous true emotion. However, the main difference there is, is that the rhythm in both poems is fairly steady, but Kavanagh’s poems uses longer lines and seems more solemn, but also a bit more spontaneous because it is not as structured. Here, the effect on the reader is that the build of the regular rhythm constructs a solemn tone on the poem.
In this paragraph I will be talking about the tone used by both poets. Jennings’s poem uses religious referencing, for example, on the 1st line of 1st stanza there is, “You died as quietly as your spirit moved”. But the tone Jennings uses is not full of grief but has a solemn tone. However, Kavanagh’s poem has reminiscence of a past life. The poem is also full of vivid memories. Kavanagh uses ‘ever-day’ simple images in her poem which makes it imaginative. Finally, the poem has serious, sad and personal tone. There are a few similar and different things between both poems. One similar thing is that both poets have created a solemn tone in their poems through the imagery and the rhythm they have used. The tone is also suitable for the subject on both cases. However the main difference here is that Jennings’ poem has a much more religious feel to it than Kavanagh’s, due to references to ‘spirit’ and images of the death bed. However, Kavanagh’s poem is more natural. The effect on the reader here is that Jennings’s gives a more religious and spiritual feeling than Kavanagh’s poem as I said earlier in this paragraph.
Overall, I want to conclude by saying that both pomes are effective on portraying the loss of a mother. However, I think that the most effective poem is “In Memory of My mother” by Patrick Kavanagh. I think this because Kavanagh’s poem has a great deal more use of vocabulary. For example, on the topic of form and structure, Kavanagh uses quatrains which suggest a religious feeling. Also, Kavanagh uses a lot of alliteration which gives the poem a more solemn, serious tone than Jennings’s poem. Finally, I would like to say that Kavanagh’s poem is more natural than Jennings, and so this makes the poem more interesting and realistic.