Memorial Annotation 1

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Selected Poetry of
Norman MacCaig
National 5 - Specified Texts
“Memorial”
“Memorial” by Norman
MacCaig
Learning Intentions
I will:
• Develop my understanding of MacCaig’s work by studying, in
detail, the techniques used by the poet and their effectiveness
within the poem “Memorial”.
• Identify the writer’s main theme and recognise how it relates to
my own and others’ experiences
• Identify and make a personal evaluation of the effect of
aspects of the writer’s style and other features appropriate to
genre using some relevant evidence and terminology.
Success Criteria
• I can:
• Confidently discuss aspects of MacCaig’s work (such as
language and imagery) using supporting evidence with
my group.
• Confidently answer a variety of questions on the work of
Norman MacCaig
• Confidently contribute my opinion and encourage others
to express themselves
Memorial
• A memorial is an object which serves as a focus for the
memory of something, usually a person (who has died) or
an event.
• Popular forms of memorials include landmark objects or art
objects such as sculptures, statues or fountains, and even
entire parks.
• The most common type of memorial is the gravestone or the
memorial plaque. Also common are war memorials
commemorating those who have died in wars.
Listening Exercise - Questions
2. What event, according to MacCaig changed ‘death’ from more
than just a concept?
(1)
3. What examples does MacCaig use to show he has not really
experienced death or grief until later in life?
(2)
4. Why do you think MacCaig has written this poem?
(1)
Listening Exercise - Answers
2. What event, according to MacCaig changed ‘death’ from more
than just a concept?
(1)
The death of his friends.
3. What examples does MacCaig use to show he has not really
experienced death or grief until later in life?
(2)
He has survived two wars and his parents both died in old age.
4. Why do you think MacCaig has written this poem?
He has written this poem in memory of his wife.
(1)
“Memorial”
Everywhere she dies. Everywhere I go she dies.
No sunrise, no city square, no lurking beautiful mountain
but has her death in it.
The silence of her dying sounds through
the carousel of language. It’s a web
on which laughter stitches itself. How can my hand
clasp another’s when between them
is that thick death, that intolerable distance?
“Memorial”
She grieves for my grief. Dying, she tells me
that bird dives from the sun, that fish
leaps into it. No crocus is carved more gently
than the way her dying
shapes my mind. – But I hear, too,
the other words,
black words that make the sound
of soundlessness, that name the nowhere
she is continuously going into.
“Memorial”
Ever since she died
she can’t stop dying. She makes me
her elegy. I am a walking masterpiece,
a true fiction
of the ugliness of death.
I am her sad music.
A closer look at “Memorial”
Structure
• Everywhere she dies. Everywhere I go she dies.
• No sunrise, no city square, no lurking beautiful mountain
• but has her death in it.
Structure
Short sentences add dramatic emphasis to opening.
• Everywhere she dies. Everywhere I go she dies.
• No sunrise, no city square, no lurking beautiful mountain
• but has her death in it.
Repetition of “Everywhere”
highlights how much the death
has affected the speaker. This
idea is continued with repetition
of “No” in following line.
Structure
• How can my hand
• clasp another’s when between them
• is that thick death, that intolerable distance?
Structure
• How can my hand
• clasp another’s when between them
• is that thick death, that intolerable distance?
Poet uses enjambment to highlight the
distance between himself and his wife.
Structure
• No crocus is carved more gently
• than the way her dying
• shapes my mind. – But I hear, too,
• the other words,
• black words that make the sound
• of soundlessness, that name the nowhere
• she is continuously going into.
Structure
• No crocus is carved more gently
• than the way her dying
• shapes my mind. – But I hear, too,
• the other words,
• black words that make the sound
• of soundlessness, that name the nowhere
• she is continuously going into.
Poet shows a
change of tone
here, suggesting a
growing fear of
death.
Structure
• I am a walking masterpiece,
• a true fiction
• of the ugliness of death.
• I am her sad music.
Structure
• I am a walking masterpiece,
Final line is simple
and
short
to
give
it
• a true fiction
more emphasis.
He compares
• of the ugliness of death.
himself to being the
• I am her sad music.
‘sad music’ of her
funeral.
Free verse is used throughout, which reflects the
poet’s confused feelings on her death.
Imagery
• The silence of her dying sounds through
• the carousel of language. It’s a web
• on which laughter stitches itself.
Imagery
• The silence of her dying sounds through
• the carousel of language. It’s a web
• on which laughter stitches itself.
Her death is now a web- he is unable to
free himself from its hold. The word
“stitches” suggests this hold is very
strong.
As a poet, words are
hugely important to
him.
What he saw as a
fun, bright, colourful
and musical ride is
now silenced by her
death.
Imagery
• No crocus is carved more gently
• than the way her dying
• shapes my mind. – But I hear, too,
• the other words,
• black words that make the sound
• of soundlessness, that name the nowhere
• she is continuously going into.
Imagery
• No crocus is carved more gently
• than the way her dying
• shapes my mind. – But I hear, too,
• the other words,
• black words that make the sound
• of soundlessness, that name the nowhere
• she is continuously going into.
Compares her death to a
crocus flower- beautiful,
natural and fragile.
Imagery
• No crocus is carved more gently
• than the way her dying
Compares her death to a
crocus flower- beautiful,
natural and fragile.
• shapes my mind. – But I hear, too,
• the other words,
• black words that make the sound
• of soundlessness, that name the nowhere
• she is continuously going into.
Later in the stanza the
imagery becomes much
darker- these black words
suggest a nothingness- the
poet believes there is
nothing after death.
Word Choice
• “is that thick death, that intolerable distance?”
Word Choice
• “is that thick death, that intolerable distance?”
The poet uses the word thick, which is
a strange word to use to describe
death. It suggests it is surrounding him,
like a fog perhaps. It also emphasises
the distance that keeps him apart from
others.
Word Choice
• “She grieves for my grief.”
• “the sound of soundlessness”
• “Ever since she died she can’t stop dying.”
Word Choice
• “She grieves for my grief.”
She is sorry that he will
be grieving for her.
• “the sound of soundlessness”
• “Ever since she died she can’t stop dying.”
Word Choice
• “She grieves for my grief.”
• “the sound of soundlessness”
She is sorry that he will
be grieving for her.
Absolute silence.
• “Ever since she died she can’t stop dying.”
Word Choice
• “She grieves for my grief.”
• “the sound of soundlessness”
She is sorry that he will
be grieving for her.
Absolute silence.
He is
• “Ever since she died she can’t stop dying.” always
thinking
about her.
Word Choice
• “She grieves for my grief.”
• “the sound of soundlessness”
The
poet
uses
She is sorry that he will
paradoxes
be grieving forwithin
her.
the poem.
These suggest that
Absolute
silence.
he cannot make
sense of his wife’s
death.
• “Ever since she died she can’t stop dying.”
Themes
• Thinking about the poem as a whole, what do
you consider the main ideas or themes of the
poem?
Key Themes
• Facing Death (either the
dying person, or the relative)
• Isolation surrounding
death/emotion
Class Discussion
Think about…
• Is it less of an ordeal for the dying person
than the one left behind?
• Dying is something we have to do alone,
despite being surrounded by loved ones?
• How realistic do you find the poet’s
feelings?
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