In school we were given a poem called ‘Children’ by Nancy Keesing, and had to pen an essay analysing it, and saying how the poem was memorable. We had to include its themes and use TOMPLIST (a device that helps analyse poems) – T for Theme, O for Orientation (of the author), M for Meaning, P for Purpose, L for Language, I for Imagery, S for Structure and T for Tone. We also had to defend our analysis and interpretation of the poem using visible quotes. We were made to write in a particular essay format called PEAL – Point, Evidence, Analysis and Link (to the next paragraph/point of the same paragraph). Anyway, we discussed this poem in class, and turns out that my interpretation of the poem wasn’t really what our teacher expected. Anyway, I think I defended my opinion and interpretation well, so I decided to share it with you. First of all, here is the poem for you to judge yourself:
Long-summer scorched, my surfing children
Catch random waves or thump in dumpers,
Whirling, gasping, tossed disjointed.
I watching, fear they may be broken –
That all those foaming limbs will never
Re-assemble whole, together.
All under such a peaceful sky.
All under such another sky
The pictures show some village children
Caught at random, tossed, exploded,
Torn, disjointed, like sticks broken,
Whose jagged scorching limbs will never
Re-assemble whole together.
And here is what I think of this poem:
The poem ‘Children’ by Nancy Keesing leaves a hollow feeling in the reader because of the strong emotions of devastation highlighted by the powerful imagery and carefully selected language which contributes to the main themes of violence around the world and how often bystanders are too scared to intervene and to stop gruesome wars.
The powerful imagery in this poem makes readers shudder when they read about how the children brutally died ‘under such a peaceful sky’. The stark contrast between the sky and the sea below it is very shocking and rather sad. The use of the word ‘such’ simply emphasises this same contrast – it reveals the grief of the speaker as s/he probably wonders how something so grotesque and sad could happen under something so beautiful, and due to this strong contrast of the tranquil sky and the limbless children, this event seems much more grim.
The excellent use of language devices to evoke feelings of grief in the reader is clear when the speaker talks about how the limbs would never ‘re-assemble whole, together’, in the form of a refrain. What leaves a lasting effect on the reader is the brilliant use of the comma, the slight pause after the word ‘whole’. The pause separates the phrase into two parts and allows the word ‘together’ to seem somehow distant and actually not together, which reinstates the main idea of disunity. However, are the children mentioned before simply children? Maybe not. Keesing subtly places a metaphor in the poem when the speaker talks about his/her ‘surfing children’. Maybe those aren’t simply frolicking kids; maybe they signify our world as a whole. Therefore, the author doesn’t simply mean that the children’s limbs are disjointed – it stands for the disunited people of the world, floating apart in each other’s blood and tears.
The themes of this poem are violence and wars, and the individuals who grieve and sympathise with these wars, but are far too afraid to speak out against them. The speaker represents all those frightened individuals when s/he is simply ‘watching, fear[ing] they might be broken’. The speaker simply watches on, frightened and deeply concerned, but helpless. The author tries to tell us that that is exactly how we shouldn’t be – we should be able to freely express our beliefs and punish what we assume to be morally wrong as a society (for a valid reason). The author tries to tell us that violence will be the end of us all if this continues. Respecting each other’s beliefs and opinions, we humans must unify and put a stop to this hate.
The word ‘hate’ has become so common that nobody thinks of it as a serious issue anymore. People fling it around casually to express their feelings about things or people they dislike. The words ‘violence’, ‘war’, and ‘bloodshed’ mean nothing to us, as does the phrase ‘Citizens killed’. We are taking this abuse far too lightly – we must resist it. But if we are not together as a species, how will we understand which mistakes to correct? Yes, freedom of speech, free will and liberty are all very important. We have simply misinterpreted these concepts to be that we must condemn anyone with opposing beliefs. No. Of course people will disagree with you – there are seven billion of us out here! We simply have to live with this disagreement, and not mercilessly slay whoever contradicts any of our own beliefs. We must unite and work together to survive on Earth. We must unite to maintain peace. But, most importantly, we must unite because if we don’t, eventually, we will be blown apart and left as jagged, scorching limbs who will never re-assemble whole, together.
Our teacher told us about how the poem was actually about a parent, worrying about his/her rebellious children drowning in the ocean while worse disasters happened to other undeserving, innocent children in a village somewhere, probably mocking parenthood. I was very surprised to know what a dramatic difference there was between my interpretation and my teacher’s. I obviously see more reason to my own, although the other one makes sense, too. I’d be fascinated to learn about my classmates’ understanding of the poem, and anyone else’s, too. From my perspective, it was rather sad and serious. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be like that, but that’s okay. I mean, snowflakes are pretty, right? And not one of them is the same as another.
Angelina Robertson is a twelve year old, grade seven student who lives in Bombay. She loves reading books and listening to music. She prefers writing short stories to poems. This is her first published essay. She blogs occasionally athttp://annabethchasefan678.blogspot.in/