Man on the Moon – Stephen Edgar – Analysis

Man on the Moon

Hardly a feature in the evening sky
As yet—near the horizon the cold glow
Of rose and mauve which, as you look on high,
Deepens to Giotto’s dream of indigo.

Hardly a star as yet. And then that frail
Sliver of moon like a thin peel of soap
Gouged by a nail, or the paring of a nail:
Slender enough repository of hope.

There was no lack of hope when thirty-five
Full years ago they sent up the Apollo—
Two thirds of all the years I’ve been alive.
They let us out of school, so we could follow

The broadcast of that memorable scene,
Crouching in Mr. Langshaw’s tiny flat,
The whole class huddled round the TV screen.
There’s not much chance, then, of forgetting that.

And for the first time ever I think now,
As though it were a memory, that you
Were in the world then and alive, and how
Down time’s long labyrinthine avenue

Eventually you’d bring yourself to me
With no excessive haste and none too soon—
As memorable in my history
As that small step for man on to the moon.

How pitiful and inveterate the way
We view the paths by which our lives descended
From the far past down to the present day
And fancy those contingencies intended,

A secret destiny planned in advance
Where what is done is as it must be done
For us alone. When really it’s all chance
And the special one might have been anyone.

The paths that I imagined to have come
Together and for good have simply crossed
And carried on. And that delirium
We found is cold and sober now and lost.

The crescent moon, to quote myself, lies back,
A radio telescope propped to receive
The signals of the circling zodiac.
I send my thoughts up, wishing to believe

That they might strike the moon and be transferred
To where you are and find or join your own.
Don’t smile. I know the notion is absurd,
And everything I think, I think alone.

Stephen Edgar (1951 –

Clive James has given an excellent analysis of this poem in his book ‘Poetry Notes’ … the text of this discussion is also on the internet and this is the website link …

Adding some comments to this discussion …

There is no such a thing as a perfect poem … and I agree that this poem has a decided flaw in the second last stanza when SE makes reference to the text in another of his poems – re: to quote myself … an oblique reference that jolts the flow.

However, this is certainly a well crafted poem and one poem that will surely be remembered against his name.

Apart from the ‘poetic devices’ discussed by Clive James for me one of the reasons it is a great poem is the integrated comparison between two ‘major events’ that occurred in 1969. The first event being that famous ‘walk on the moon’ and the second being much more down to earth that of the start of a very personal relationship that affected his life. The poem looks back at these events after thirty five years. The second stanza subtly introduces the link by the ‘moon/nail’ comparison. It is not clear what ‘hope’ means until reading further when ‘hope’ is seen as more relevant in regard to a successful personal relationship.

The journey to the moon took a lot of planning. It was a long path to that first walk and everyone was indeed hopeful for a successful outcome. SE looks at the equivalent path that led to the meeting of his love indicating ‘eventually you’d bring yourself to me’. He poses questions such as – what planning and what forces brought the two of them together? – and was it predestined? And there is that familiar romantic notion that love is meant to be when all is well between lovers.

A secret destiny planned in advance
Where what is done is as it must be done
For us alone

… but then he states that ‘the special one might have been anyone’ dispelling such romantic thoughts. However that ‘anyone’ was of course very special and there was a state of ‘delirium’ comparable to the ‘delirium ‘of the moon-walk, if only to him. A personal journey is far more important.

Then that sad nostalgic reflection … ‘that delirium/ we found is cold and sober now and lost ‘… that the only value of the event, at least the personal event, is a faded memory – and there are regrets that the journey never continued. Perhaps the focus on their relationship has become over magnified on reflecting back on this one highlight after many years. It does give the feeling that it was a never to be repeated event-euphoria similar to the moon-walk.

In the final stanza he wishes his thoughts could journey to her wherever she is in the world, but of course he is caught up alone in this bitter sweet memory – for he is talking to himself as he walks through the reflective mind of a lost love.

Stephen Edgar is a contemporary Australian poet and … a link on Wikipedia …

Buried in pixels

Buried in pixels

they have taken all the children
to their land of fantasy
where they live between the fairies
leaving nought for you and me

they have told them magic stories
that they believe are surely true
ignoring all our history
Huckleberry, Auntie Sue

they have created a subterfuge
to hide land, sky and sea
where their friends screen for hours
in a world we do not see

they have taken all the children
to the graveyard of the living
and we are left a-wondering
trying hard to be forgiving

Richard Scutter

Because – James McAuley – Analysis


My father and my mother never quarrelled.
They were united in a kind of love
As daily as the Sydney Morning Herald,
Rather than like the eagle or the dove.

I never saw them casually touch,
Or show a moment’s joy in one another.
Why should this matter to me now so much?
I think it bore more hardly on my mother,

Who had more generous feelings to express.
My father had dammed up his Irish blood
Against all drinking praying fecklessness,
And stiffened into stone and creaking wood.

His lips would make a switching sound, as though
Spontaneous impulse must be kept at bay.
That it was mainly weakness I see now,
But then my feelings curled back in dismay.

Small things can pit the memory like a cyst:
Having seen other fathers greet their sons,
I put my childish face up to be kissed
After an absence. The rebuff still stuns

My blood. The poor man’s curt embarrassment
At such a delicate proffer of affection
Cut like a saw. But home the lesson went:
My tenderness thenceforth escaped detection.

My mother sang ‘Because’, and ‘Annie Laurie’,
‘White Wings’, and other songs; her voice was sweet.
I never gave enough, and I am sorry;
But we were all closed in the same defeat.

People do what they can; they were good people,
They cared for us and loved us. Once they stood
Tall in my childhood as the school, the steeple.
How can I judge without ingratitude?

Judgment is simply trying to reject
A part of what we are because it hurts.
The living cannot call the dead collect:
They won’t accept the charge, and it reverts.

It’s my own judgment day that I draw near,
Descending in the past, without a clue,
Down to that central deadness: the despair
Older than any Hope I ever knew.

James McAuley (12 October 1917 – 15 October 1976)

The one word title ‘because’ is suggestive that some reasoning or explanation is about to take place. As soon as we read the first stanza we realise that this will be a well-crafted rhyming poem with pentameter rhythm.

S1 – JM declares the relationship between his mother and father, from his child-view, it was rather bland, routine, regular … without showing any difference from day to day – akin to the delivery of a newspaper (you don’t have to know that the Sydney Morning Herald is a well know Australian paper). A kind of love – gives the feeling of some acceptance to this situation.

S2 – There was no joy or touch – and JM poses the question – why is this important – when reflecting back over the years … a little ambivalence

S3 – It was hard for his mother if feelings were not expressed. Drinking was an issue with his father … to be regarded as fecklessness – a human failing … and his father had damned up feelings into stone

S4 – a physical aspect … his father’s lips twitched at times … and according to JM the real weakness was a lack of being able to show affection

S5 – and then the rebuff when JM does as other children and puts his face up to be kissed after returning from being away … but there is no reciprocation … a moment painfully remembered through the years

S6 – … his sensitivity … his need for affection … was not recognised by his father … his mother was more forthcoming as indicated in the next stanza

S7 – her mother was more open and JM remembers her singing with affection … and while he reminisces he regrets that he was not himself more open … more giving

S8 – now JM looks at the positives of his parents in bringing him up … they were obviously very caring people and loving in their own way … negating any judgemental attitude

S9 – being judgemental defines the nature of those judging … in this case he is perhaps blaming his own lack of sensitivity on the similar approach taken by his parents in his upbringing … and I love the last two lines of this stanza … nothing can be done now … JM is talking to himself … time to move on … so at this stage in the poem there appears to be an acceptance and a resolution in the ambivalence expressed in the opening question

S10 – JM’s thinking now escapes to his own ‘judgment day’ … how his past will be treated … he has no clue … a sense of despair … a lack of any hope in the hereafter

James McAuley (1917 – 1976) was an Australian academic, poet, journalist and literary critic … James McAuley on Wikipedia

Cut – Sylvia Plath – Analysis

For Susan O’Neill Roe

What a thrill —-
My thumb instead of an onion.
The top quite gone
Except for a sort of a hinge

Of skin,
A flap like a hat,
Dead white.
Then that red plush.

Little pilgrim,
The Indian’s axed your scalp.
Your turkey wattle
Carpet rolls

Straight from the heart.
I step on it,
Clutching my bottle
Of pink fizz.

A celebration, this is.
Out of a gap
A million soldiers run,
Redcoats, every one.

Whose side are they on?
O my
Homunculus, I am ill.
I have taken a pill to kill

The thin
Papery feeling.
Kamikaze man —

The stain on your
Gauze Ku Klux Klan
Darkens and tarnishes and when

The balled
Pulp of your heart
Confronts its small
Mill of silence

How you jump —
Trepanned veteran,
Dirty girl,
Thumb stump.

Sylvia Plath  – 24 October 1962
(1932 – 1963)

Short sharp snappy words cut to a core … appropriate construction considering the event being described … there is no time for long deliberation. She would not have had time to compose the poem at the time of the incident but it certainly provided material for her to write a poem. It was dedicated to her nanny Susan O’Neill Roe who looked after her two young children and perhaps provided the time for her to write this work.

‘Cut’ was one of many productive poems generated in October 1962 when SP lived in London after the separation with Ted Hughes and is included in her Ariel collection.

S1 … it looks like an accident when cutting an onion … but it comes as a thrill as though something exciting has happened in a dull life … or, knowing SP’s history, during a depressive state … so instead of looking on the initial experience with horror SP steps back and lets the cut open a window for exploration … the hinge indicating an escape

S2 … this is what happens as she views the cut as the first pulse of blood comes into the dead white skin … flap like a hat – nice one syllable internal rhyme

S3 … the thumb is a little pilgrim (re: American history and the scalping of missionaries by Indians) … the thumb takes on personification … a drop of blood falls on the carpet into wool and a very apt description of the red flow into wool – like a turkey wattle

S4 … perhaps SP inadvertently treads on the blood on the carpet … she might at this stage try to stop the bleeding too … her thumb becomes a bottle of ‘pink fizz’ … so there might have been quite an initial squirt … to die out as she deals with the flow by clutching on to her thumb perhaps with her other hand

S5 … SP likens the blood flow to the Redcoats (British) in the American Civil War escaping through a gap as her blood is escaping through the cut … and as she is now escaping from the drudgery of life by this event that has given her such an unexpected thrill

S6 … well, which side is the blood on … it is her blood and escaping from her … she now realises that all is not well and she has started to feel pain so takes a pill … the thumb now becomes a little man (homunculus) … some commentators have equated this reference to Ted Hughes as he has been cut-off … but like her thumb SP cannot completely cut-off TH or the flap of skin.

S7 … a thin papery feeling – apt description of the sensation as she touches the thmb … and again the male reference to a saboteur and more extreme a kamikaze – a suicide … again thoughts go to TH … whether she would like to remove TH is this fashion or alternatively whether TH has caused the cut himself by leaving her … part of her missing

S8 … it seems she has now put a gauze dressing on the thumb to stem the bleeding and that it soaked and stained the material … another male reference this time to the exclusive group the Ku Klux Klan (an extreme group that advocated white supremacy) and the gauze takes on a Russian flavour – babushka (a headscarf tied under the chin, typical of those traditionally worn by Russian women) … the thumb becomes a head wound

S9 … the flow of blood … the heart pulp … is eventually contained … the blood mill is silenced, the fizz gone … the heart equated to a mill continually circulating … and the bandage, or babushka, dirtied … and like the first stanza there is strong emotion in a jump … a jump in her thought …

S10 … the trepanned veteran (trepan – to ensnarl) … and, following my poetic fancy, – she has been caught by the TH /Assia Wevill adultery and is now a dirty girl … SP is soiled by this experience, part of herself left hanging … and then the last line – the thumb reverts to just a stump rather than any implied poetic considerations of earlier stanzas – something she just has to live with – just as she has to live with the broken relationship with TH.

Continuum – Allen Curnow – Analysis


The moon rolls over the roof and falls behind
my house, and the moon does neither of these things,
I am talking about myself.

It’s not possible to get off to sleep or
the subject or the planet, nor to think thoughts.
Better barefoot it out the front.

door and lean from the porch across the privets
and the palms into the washed-out creation,
a dark place with two particular

bright clouds dusted (query) by the moon, one’s mine
the other’s an adversary, which may depend
on the wind, or something.

A long moment stretches, the next one is not
on time. Not unaccountably the chill of
the planking underfoot rises

in the throat, for it’s part the night sky empties
the whole of it’s contents down. Turn on a bare
heel, close the door behind

on the author, cringing demiurge, who picks up
his litter and his tools and paces me back
to bed, stealthily in step.

Allen Curnow (1911 – 2001)

Title – continuum – something without ending, in relation to a poet – the continual creative thinking

S1 – The moon rolls over the roof … well of course the moon does not do that … a poetic personification … and quite rightly AC is talking about himself how he articulates the action of the moon … maybe he has been watching it for some time … in S2 we see the link of rolls over with the fact that AC cannot sleep. Presumably not able to sleep and being a poet decides to put pen to paper (does a poet ever stop being a poet the continual process in action).

S2 – Well AC can’t sleep, nor stop thinking about not sleeping, or anything else, nor to think thoughts – you can’t think thoughts – thoughts just come and when you are sleepy they can be all over the place … better to get out of bed and do something physical … barefoot it out the front

S3 – washed-out creation … an appropriate way of expressing the night surrounds as AC himself maybe washed-out not able to sleep

S4 – The moon dusts the clouds … AC queries whether this is the right choice of word to explain the effect of the moon. Dust implies a light colouring and often not seen until close-up, perhaps there is a better word, we will never know. One’s mine – this is AC’s dust poetic definition in opposition to the ‘dusting’ caused by the wind or something else unknown.

S5 – time varies one moment is many moments at times as he sits sleepless … only to be brought to attention by the chill of being outside with bare feet … the night sky empties it’s contents down … a clear sky perhaps a frost is coming … time to go inside out of the cold

S5 – closing the door on the creative process of the poet … demiurge = influential force, perhaps showing some modesty in regard to his creative self … it is as though this force is personified picking up his litter (paper that he has been using), tools (pen) and paces him back to his bed … closing the poet-self.

Allen Curnow is a re-known New Zealand poet who won the Queens Gold Medal for poetry in 1989 and brought New Zealand to the fore poetically. A link on Wikipedia.

I am reminded of the Ted Hughes poem ‘The Thought Fox’. Another night time poetic creation on the creative process. An internet link to analysis of this poem (courtesy of Richard Webster).

Influence of the Internet, influence of poetry …

After another atrocity … where to now after such a vile act that everyone is finding hard to comprehend? How should we deal with those that foster terrorism abroad and how do we deal with the self-proclaimed terrorist Islamic State when any form of negotiation is impossible? Anger and fear may generate more violence in the form of retaliation and revenge. And unfortunately increased polarisation is inevitable. Annihilation of the enemy and from a distance to minimise personal loss is always going to be a short term band aid solution.

The long term solution will lie with succeeding generations – ‘the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world’. It is imperative that we instil in our children a sense of value and respect for life – their own life and the life of others – in particular to be inclusive of all peoples no matter what religion. Tantamount to this is the ability to think for oneself without being misled by the mob. Hopefully such values will stay with them throughout their days in that great endeavour to make the world a better place.

But to what extent can poetry influence the world … and for that matter, to what extent can any words or thoughts change behaviour and influence life. It is happening all the time of course … we all contribute in one way or another – your voice is important. Today the influence of the internet and social networking is a very powerful force … this is an issue that has to be confronted head-on especially when the internet is used to warp the minds of the young, the vulnerable, and those that have been damaged by drugs. Theresa May has recognised the extent of the problem in her address after the recent atrocity in London. How this is to be effected is another matter.

For those with a spiritual dimension, those who believe in a ‘living creator’ –

Song of the Universe

Every Voice
Endless Rapture
Oration Instilled
Creating Eternity

Some days we may not hear great harmony. But in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins … ‘The world is (still) charged with the grandeur of God’.

Enjoy the beauty of this day and the wonder of creation.

(based on an previous Post)

An Unseen – Carol Ann Duffy – Comments

An Unseen

I watched love leave, turn, wave, want not to go,
depart, return;
late spring, a warm slow blue of air, old-new.
Love was here; not; missing, love was there;
each look, first, last.

Down the quiet road, away, away, towards
the dying time,
love went, brave soldier, the song dwindling;
walked to the edge of absence; all moments going,
gone; bells through rain

to fall on the carved names of the lost.
I saw love’s child uttered,
unborn, only by rain, then and now, all future
past, an unseen. Has forever been then? Yes,
forever has been.

Carol Ann Duffy (1955 –

S1 … Carol Ann Duffy uses few words and grammar to accentuate the way love is articulated in everyday life. Love, or perhaps intense feelings, is always associated with personal departure whether permanent or not and the return greeting after absence if there is one. This depart-return cycle is portrayed in the season of late spring the old becoming new again (old-new) expressing the repeat of nature; of love. S1 ending with the ubiquitous nature of love in terms of looking and seeing another from first sight to the last sight.

S2 … now we have specific circumstance – the departure of soldiers to war – ‘the song dwindling’ gives the impression of soldiers moving away into the distance and I do like the way CAD expresses their precarious situation – ‘the edge of absence’ and the likelihood of a permanent departure, likewise equating death as giving no future to the soldier – ‘all moments going’.

S3 … interesting how a Church service in the rain with inscriptions to dead soldiers is implied indirectly by CAD’s words … and how love’s child is uttered and then unborn – a telling statement to the death of the young … who have no future and their future is their completed life – now in the forever … they are the forever has been … love is always the forever has been.

A very poignant poem defining grief and the suffering of those left behind. Grief comes in many shapes and sizes. Those that went or go to war usually have some expectation that things may not turn out well and they may not return. But life is fragile and the unseen can always occur, a car coming round a corner on the wrong side of the road. The atrocity in Manchester last week was totally unseen. An alien philosophy carried out by a warped mind contrary to the natural flow of decency and respect for humanity. My heart and thoughts go out to all those families in grief. For so many young people their future forever has been.

The Unlucky Christ – Peter Porter – Analysis

The Unlucky Christ

Wherever they put down roots
he will be there, the Master-Haunter
who is our sample and our
would-be deliverer. Argue this-
there were men before him,
as there were dreams before events,
as there is (or perhaps is not)
conservation of energy. So he
is out of time but once stopped here
in time. What I am thinking
may be blasphemy, that I
and like him, one who cannot
let go of unhappiness, who has
come closer to him through suffering
and loathes the idea. The ego now,
and must be like a ministry,
the sense of being chosen among men
to be acquainted with grief!
Why not celebrate instead
the wayside cactus which enriches
the air with a small pink flower?
Some people can take straight off
from everyday selfishness to
the mystical, but the vague shape
of the Professional Sorrower
seems to interpose when I try
such transport. The stone had to roll
and the cerements sit up
because he would have poisoned
the world. It has been almost possible
to get through this poem without writing
the word death. The smallest
of our horrors. When they saw him
again on the road, at least they knew
that the task of misery would be
explained, the evangelical duty
properly underlined. Tell them
about bad luck, he said,
how people who get close to you
want to walk out on you,
tell them they may meet one person
even more shrouded than themselves.
Jesus’s message at Pentecost
sounded as our news always does,
that there is eloquence and decency,
but as for happiness,
it is involuntary like hell.

Peter Porter (1929 -2010)

Everybody has heard of Jesus and many have had some introduction on Christian philosophy. So perhaps JC can be considered to ‘haunt’ life. Where haunt is to trouble, disturb or worry people. And indeed there were men before him without any specific knowledge on the life of JC akin to ‘dreams before events’.

PP, who was known as quite a depressive person, strongly identifies with the suffering and unhappiness in the life of JC. As if he, like JC, was chosen to be acquainted in this way –
                             ‘the sense of being chosen among men
                              to be acquainted with grief’

Grief is endemic in life – perhaps PP thinks he has had an undue share. His mother died when he was quite young and his first wife committed suicide leaving two young girls needing support. For those who know the poetry of PP unhappiness is a feature of many of his poems. PP stating that he has a stone of unhappiness caught in the lining of his pocket (see his poem What I have written I have written).

It is common to think of JC as the Professional Redeemer rather than the different perspective of being the Professional Sufferer.

But why not celebrate other aspects of life that are not linked to suffering? –
                               ‘the wayside cactus which enriches
                                the air with a small pink flower’
I think one reason is that we are often caught in a non-acceptance of death and want a life continuation. Perhaps we worry too much!

However JC did complete his ‘almighty task’ The cerements sit up being burial clothes. And his suffering was explained – did have a purpose. Life eternal. Nice that PP, a writer,
properly underlines the evangelical duty.

But PP is hung up on bad luck – and continues in that tone mentioning those that have been close in life and then they deceive. Perhaps inference can be made to his Mother’s early death or the suicide of his first wife.

The last line states his position – there is no control on happiness, happiness is involuntary and he has been fated. He has chosen to concentrate on the negativities – I think this is an unfortunate life-script.

And although JC was perhaps the most unlucky of all men there is one consolation he had support from the most powerful and we do not know how this manifested itself in his life experience on earth. I think JC did say ‘my yoke is easy’ but maybe this is quite hard for us unknowing mortals to understand.

PP a distinguished Australian poet who based his life in London and was at one time a candidate for the Professor of Poetry at Oxford. A Wikipedia link.