S-Cool Revision Summary
S-Cool Revision Summary
This is a love poem but also a confessional piece. Not only has Armitage to confess the crime of maiming the young woman, perhaps now his wife, but also the fact that clever excuses came, and come, too readily to him: 'Don't believe me, please'.
In effect he's saying watch out for me; help me to be honest.
This is clearly an incident the poet feels guilty about.
Or could 'bothered, as in 'I can't be bothered', be sarcastic?
The pain he describes is though very real; it makes you wince when reading it.
But there is also a note of tenderness and warmth, in the last line in particular.
A sonnet, but an unconventional one. He adapts the form to suit the unusual subject matter: his unusual form of love.
The sensual imagery makes the scene vivid and painful.
The rhymes create the emphatic rhythm, and help to put some pattern, order and control on strong heart-felt emotions.
This poem is about how there is good and bad in all of us, and how it should be difficult to judge people fairly.
It is about how we judge people, inevitably, from the outside.
It deals with the problems of how we weigh one bad act against other good ones, and it makes us think about whether we should forgive people, or whether we should hold the bad things they have done against them.
Armitage seems to avoid offering his feelings about this character. He lays out the details in a simple, factual sort of way.
But he makes sure one line stands out.
The balance at the end is, perhaps his own view.
Armitage cleverly uses repetition and ordinary language.
Ironically he uses the form of a sonnet, more usually associated with love.
He uses contrast effectively. Using positive things, 'and praised his wife for every meal she made.' To make the negative as surprising and shocking as possible:
'And once, for laughing, punched her in the face.'
The poem is about the choices we make in our lives, and how we are often attracted to adventure.
Armitage suggests however that it is the experiences not the places that really matter.
The vagueness of the last stanza, 'I guess', 'That feeling, I mean' seems to refer to the vague feeling everyone gets sometimes, of wanting a different life. That awareness that we could be doing more and living more fully.
There is a slightly wistful tone to the poem, as Armitage imagines what he might have done and remembers what he has.
The vague sensation of the last stanza conveys this state of mind: thoughtful, and slightly nostalgic.
Armitage again uses ordinary everyday language.
He uses repetition of 'I have', 'I have not' to create a sort of mantra, a kind of rhythmical chant.
Armitage also shows his skill at bringing experiences to life, through his use of accurate details, sensual imagery, and subtle variations of rhythm.
The subject of this poem appears to be how difficult it is to understand other people's lives.
Although at first it seems we might be able to piece together this character and his story the 'clues' prove to be very tricky.
Like 'Poem', 'I am very bothered' and 'It ain't what' it deals with questions of identity. What makes us us; our actions, our belongings, our desires?
Perhaps too the poem is questioning how death is treated in popular crime fiction, where the whodunit element is more important than the human suffering it usually revolves around.
The use of puns and the detective element of the poem might encourage us not to take it too seriously.
But the subtle suggestions of violence coupled with the last lines make us feel some genuine emotion for this character who has lost love and his life:
'No gold or sliver,
but crowning one finger
a ring of white unweathered skin.
That was everything.'
The form of the poem imitates a police list.
The language cleverly avoids being pinned to one meaning. The details are elusive, we cannot complete the picture. Armitage achieves this through using puns, and language that hints at metaphorical meanings.
The rhymes move from being half rhymes to full ones in the middle of the poem to half rhymes again.
This creates the sense of things not being quite resolved, all the pieces not quite fitting together. The half rhymes at the end draw attention to themselves, allowing us to stop and think about their meaning.