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Natalie Houston

1995 Poetry


Poetry is often written as a result of reflecting on an intense emotional experience or a significant event.

Examine the techniques used by one poet to convey the significance of an experience or an event, which gave rise to a poem, or sequence of poems.

The Almond Tree by Jon Stallworthy describes through the eyes of an expectant father?s supreme emotional joy at the prospect of the birth of this child. The excitement and joy turn to despair and hopelessness when he is told that his son is a Mongol.

The poem begins on an optimistic tone and the poet conveys this prospect by giving life to objects, which are normally dull and go, unnoticed;

Trees of black iron and lights as green as peppermints

The poet uses a fairytale image to create a lack of realism in order to re-enforce the optimistic tone

As if I were the lucky prince in an enchanted wood

However the poet uses this technique further on in the poem to convey his devastation when realising the he will not be able to communicate with his son because of his disability;

Never to come ashore into my kingdom speaking my language

In my opinion this creates a good contrast to that of his image at the beginning of the poem. Jon Stallworthy uses a clever use of personification as another technique in order to portray his hopes

The tower held up its hand the college bells shook their heads in blessing

This once again stresses his anticipation and excitement at the prospect of becoming a father. The poet also uses personification as he describes the symbolic almond tree waving him.

For the tree was waving me waving me upstairs

As before this is in direct contrast to further on in the poem when the almond tree is once again waving at him;

And the almond waving me down

This contrast I believe conveys the significance between the two emotions that the poet is facing. When the almond tree is waving the pet up stairs his emotions lack reality. However when the Almond tree is waving him down it is a direct balance to before and he is brought back down to reality.

In order to create tension as the poets excitement increases at the birth of his son the poet uses imagery and that becomes physiological as the poet recreates the process of birth by using words like; spinal, bone white and blood tide. The poet attempts to capture the rhythm of labour with

Walls shuddering ?shuddering womb?wave after wave wave after wave beat on the bone coast.

This also introduces the image of the sea, which is continued throughout the poem

Lashed down ship shape?my son sailed from me

Are both in contrast to the previous mention of ships as once again this technique portrays the poet?s two very different emotions.

One of the more used techniques that Jon Stallworthy uses in this poem is a metaphor and he uses this technique along with imagery to convey his happiness when his son is born as he compares his new found happiness to wealth;

My bright farthing coined by our love?how you enrich us

He describes his son as his best poem and welcomes him to his white sheet. In my opinion this represents a new beginning however this does not last for long as he is then told that his son is a Mongol. The manner in which he is told that his son is a Mongol is straight to the point and very clinical. He uses words such as scissored and slicing which both indicate his primary bonding with his son have been cut.

Your son is a Mongol

Is detached blunt and straight to the point and can be seen as monosyllabic.

As clean as a bullet

Describes how this information destroys his life.

This was my first death

Explains that he will experience this death more times in suffering. In order to relate the poet?s lack of acceptance Jon Stallworthy describes the man as having an outer body experience. The following words end in assonance, which gives the poem a slower pace.

As the symbolic Almond tree brings him back to reality it begins to bud which I believe symbolises birth and life the tone becomes a more hopeful one as;

Bud after bud split

Is the poet?s rebirth and understanding growing. He sees it as beautiful labour like a mother giving birth and the trees full blossom like a ship in full sail. From this technique I think that the poet can now see himself blossom in the sense of understanding.

Fathered by m son

Only when he recognises this can he turn to acknowledge the son he was about to reject.


The Almond Tree By Jon Stallworthy

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