War Photographer By Carol Ann Duffy Poem

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War Photographer By Carol Ann Duffy (Poem Analysis) Essay, Research Paper War Photographer By Carol Ann Duffy (Poem Analysis) “In his darkroom he is finally alone with spools of suffering set out in ordered rows. The only light is red and softly glows, as though this were a church and he a priest preparing to intone a Mass. Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass. He has a job to do. Solutions slop in trays beneath his hands which did not tremble then though seem to now. Rural England. Home again to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel, to fields which don’t explode beneath the feet of running children in a nightmare heat. Something is happening. A stranger’s features faintly start to twist before his eyes a half-formed ghost. He remembers the cries of

this man’s wife, how he sought approval without words to do what someone must and how blood stained into foreign dust. A hundred agonies in black-and-white from which his editor will pick out five or six for Sunday’s supplement. The reader’s eyeballs prick with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers. From the aeroplane he stares impassively at where he earns his living and they do not care.” Subject Matter: A war photographer has returned from his latest job to his quiet home in England. He develops the spools of film he took in the front line. As the pictures appear, he remembers the horror of the situations he was in. He sends them off to the Sunday newspaper for which he works, and the editor chooses the ones he wants to print. As he goes on his next job, he knows

that his pictures may not do any lasting good because people who see them in newspapers do not care. Language: If you looked closely at the way language is used in the poem, you might notice: The way the poem is written in the present tense, as if it is happening now, to make the events more real and more shocking. The use of photographic terms – darkroom, spools – and the poem is clearly set in a photographic studio – The only light is red. What associations are there? The man is in his darkroom. This could suggest the darkness that fills his mind after all the terrible events he’s witnessed. spools of suffering set out in ordered rows. The “s” sounds (alliteration) emphasise the link between the films and the pictures they will reveal. The ordered rows remind us of

rows of bodybags, full of the victims of war. The red light is a reminder of the blood shed in war. There is a contrast between the situation the photographer is in now he is home in peaceful, simple, rural England and the nightmare heat of the country he was working in. There, fields were full of landmines and exploded beneath the feet of anyone who passed over them – not the feet of the enemy soldiers, but of innocent running children. The poem is written in a plain, matter-of-fact style, with no complex vocabulary. There are many stark statements – He has a job to do. Something is happening. …they do not care. Sound: There is some rhyme in the poem. How does it help emphasise the poet’s message? Try these: In stanza one, alone is alone at the end of a line, to

illustrate the photographer’s isolation in his darkroom. In stanza two, eyes rhymes with cries, so we can see what the photographer sees and hear what he hears. In the final line, we are told that the readers do not care / where the photographer goes, as if to say that they do not care where war is happening and where people suffer so much. Look closely at the order of other key words and phrases and see if you can work out why the poet chose to write them in that order. Form: The poem is written in four regular stanzas, which helps to emphasise the regular, monotonous pattern of the photographer’s job. It starts with him arriving home from one job and ends with him leaving for the next one, as if his life runs in a cycle. Ideas and Attitudes: Now that you have looked at the