Choose a poem which describes a scene or incident vividly

Intermediate 2 Critical Essay
Section C - Poetry – 45 minutes - 25 marks
Answers to questions in this section should refer to the text (quotations) and to such
relevant features as:
word choice, tone, imagery (simile, metaphor, personification), structure, content, rhythm,
theme, sound, ideas . . .
Choose a poem which describes a scene or incident vividly. Briefly state what is being
described and then go on to show how the poetic techniques used make the description
Poetic Techniques
Link to Task Question
Edwin Morgan’s vivid visual poem “Glasgow 5 March 1971” deals with the themes of violence,
crime, apathy and responsibility.This poem is all about street violence and how people don’t get
involved. “Glasgow 5 March 1971” is a very dramatic visual poem about a “young man and his
girl” who get pushed through a window by some thieves and are not helped by the passing
drivers. The poet is commenting on the individualism of modern society and telling us not to
stand by and watch others suffer and that we need to stop the violence in our society. It is about
how society accepts violence without objecting, whilst pretending to object. In this poem,
Morgan freezes a dramatic moment in time in a vivid manner. This essay will show how the
poet uses an attention-grabbing opening, effective word choice and imagery to capture a
moment in time which changes everything. It will then go on to show how realistic violence,
everyday characters and an underlying message help to present the poet’s ideas and to add
excitement and emotion to the incident he describes.
The first way Morgan dramatises the incident is through an attention grabbing opening. The
very first four lines pull the reader into the moment:
“With a ragged diamond
of shattered plate glass
a young man and his girl
are falling backwards into a shop window.”
Morgan uses enjambment to create a sense of urgency to the poem. It becomes fast paced and
exciting. The careful choice of words such as “ragged” and “shattered” have connotations of
damage, and give us the impression that something is wrong, although we do not yet know
what. This hooks the reader makes the opening lines seem breathless.
Excellent visual imagery is another way in which the incident described is brought to life:
“Their arms are starfished out
braced for impact,
their faces show surprise, shock
and the beginning of pain.”
This is one or Morgan’s “instamatic” poems, in which he freezes a single moment in time, like a
photograph made from words. In this moment, he uses a metaphor “starfished” to describe the
way their arms are spread-eagled for balance. The present-continuous tense is used. This
creates the impression that it is happening in front of the reader, or perhaps is even a statement
by Morgan that this kind of violence is always going on in our society. Finally, the visual
imagery of the poem adds to its impact. The couple’s expressions are detailed by the poet to
build on the drama, caught in the moment between the onset of shock and the arrival of pain.
In “Glasgow March 1971”, the poet creates a particularly vivid description of a violent incident.
One of the most powerful ways he does this is by describing the injuries to the victims:
“The young man’s face is bristling with fragments of glass”
Morgan uses a metaphor to create a disturbing picture of the young man’s face. The shards of
glass seem to make a beard, there are so many. This is effective because it shows us how many
pieces are embedded, and how badly he will be scarred. Perhaps this is also symbolic of how
this incident will change the young man and make him feel older/sadder. This is a very realistic
scene, and this horrible image is one of the ways the scene is made vivid and memorable.
Morgan makes the scene seem realistic by using everyday, familiar characters who readers can
recognise and identify with. For example, those attacked in the poem are described as “a young
man and his girl”. The word “young” has connotations of innocence, and when combined with
“diamond” suggests a couple perhaps out buying an engagement ring. Perhaps the most
dramatic image is of the young girl’s leg which is “caught” on the glass and “spurts arterial
blood” over her “white wet look coat”. This tells us the girl’s life is at risk and she needs urgent
first aid attention. The bright red blood running down the fashionable white coat is symbolic of
the girl’s innocence and youth being soiled. Even if she survives she will be mentally scared by
the prospect of unprovoked violence creeping up on her and if she dies her boyfriend and family
will suffer the consequences of guilt and grief for a very long time. The reader feels sympathy
with these characters and anger towards the two “youths” who carry out the attack. They are
described as showing “no expression”. This makes them seem callous and inhuman, like
robots who are programmed to “complete their operation” or military plan. They do not feel
any emotion towards their victims. The word “operation” is also a pun on the cuts they have
caused their victims and the fact that the girl will need life-saving surgery. This makes me think
that these callous looters are also very damaged. Perhaps they have had an abusive childhood or
poverty or drugs have dulled their emotions and turned them to crime. Perhaps Morgan is also
suggesting that they, too, need our help. The clear and realistic presentation of victims and
villains in the poem is one of the ways it is so striking and thought-provoking.
Finally, Morgan’s underlying message in the poem makes us think about our own role in the
violence. The closing lines introduce this theme:
“In the background two drivers
keep their eyes on the road.”
Morgan is suggesting that although there were witnesses, no one is stopping to help. This is
perhaps a biblical allusion to the Good Samaritan without the happy ending. Here there is no
Good Samaritan: the two drivers do not intervene, they just keep living their own lives. I think
Morgan is attacking apathy and trying to urge us to get involved and to help. The drivers could
represent the relatively rich who are insulated from street crime by their jobs and cars. Yet,
even Morgan, in writing the poem, plays the role of voyeur. He too is watching and recording,
rather than helping. This hypocritical perspective is yet another way that this poem is so vivid
and powerful.
Therefore, in conclusion, I have established that “Glasgow 5th March, 1971” is a poem which
brings an incident vividly and memorably to life, through the attention-grabbing opening,
effective imagery, realistic descriptions of violence and characters, and a clear message. I
found “Glasgow 5 March 1971” thought-provoking as it made me I could understand and
identify with the characters, the setting and the themes of street violence. All this adds up to
Morgan’s message that modern cities have become anonymous places where there is little
community and individualism has replaced the helping hand of community. The drivers
ignoring the girl’s plight show that they are self obsessed and getting home after a hard day’s
work is more important that stopping to save a life. This is a sad state of affairs. I think Morgan
also wants the reader to wonder at how the criminals can be so lacking in emotion. What made
them that way and what will stop them creating more misery? Above all I think Morgan is
saying if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. One day the drivers may
become victims and they will surely want someone to come to their aid. Morgan’s “Glasgow 5
March 1971” highlights that evil happens when good people do nothing. This vividly
memorable poem has made me more aware about how we should all be more responsible for
the well being of each other.