Selected Poetry of Norman MacCaig -

Selected Poetry of Norman MacCaig -

Selected Poetry of Norman MacCaig National 5 - Specified Texts Visiting Hour by Norman MacCaig Whats Happening? The poet is visiting a dying friend or relative in hospital, and tries to avoid his emotions on his way to the

ward. When he arrives, he is overcome by grief and anguish, and leaves the visit feeling it has been pointless. Key Themes Facing Death (either the dying person, or the relative) Isolation surrounding death/emotion The overall structure of the poem

contributes to the atmosphere and mood Verse 1-3 are short, staccato and create a sense of place, atmosphere and the poets feelings Verse 4 sense of busy hospital Verse 5 main action, sense of hush in the presence of dying woman. Verse 6 opening of floodgates of poets emotions in face of his inevitable loss. Useful Terms Synecdoche - A figure of speech in which a part is

used to represent the whole (for example, ABCs for alphabet) or the whole for a part (Spain won the World Cup"). Synaesthesia - an attempt to fuse different senses by describing one in terms of another (Example: the sound of her voice was sweet) Free verse - lines with no prescribed pattern or structure Enjambment - the continuation of a sentence over a line-break. Enjambment is one way of emphasising a particular word or phrase Useful Terms

Connotation - the implied or suggested meaning connected with a word Caesura - a strong pause within a line. It is often found alongside enjambment. If all the pauses in the sense of the poem were to occur at the line breaks, this could become dull; moving the pauses so they occur within the line creates interest. Guttural - Produced in the throat; harsh-sounding Plosive - consonant produced by stopping the flow of air at some point and suddenly releasing it (as `p'' and `d'' in `pit'' or `dog'') Oxymoron - joining contradictory terms (as in `deafening

Imagery nostrils/ as they go bobbing along Synecdoche is used, since not just his nostrils are moving along, as the image would suggest. This emphasises the overpowering nature of the hospital smell, since it has blocked out his other senses. white cave of forgetfulness Metaphor, suggesting the white curtains or sheets are cave-like (impenetrable). This conveys the isolation of the woman, and the poets exclusion from her. withered hand/ trembles on its stalk Metaphor, suggesting the womans body is brittle and frail, by comparing it to a dying flower. The image suggests the

womans body has deteriorated, but contains hope for regrowth (afterlife), as well as showing the love with which the poet looks on the woman. Imagery glass fang Metaphor, suggesting the intravenous drip is vampire-like. The horror in this image is shocking, which shows the poets grief and distress at seeing the womans condition, and being unable to help her. black figure in her white cave Metaphor, referring to the universal image of Death, figure also suggesting the womans blurred vision. This emphasises the

isolation of the woman, as well as her impending and unavoidable death. the round swimming waves of a bell Synaesthesia, as a visual image describes a sound (signalling the end of the Visiting Hour?). swimming could suggest the poets dizziness (confusion) or tears. This is from the womans point of view, so further shows her isolation, and the poets isolation from her. Structure Free verse is used throughout, which reflects the poets confusion and suits the narrative style of the text (there is an introduction to the character and

setting, followed by development, climax, and an epilogue) The verses deal with the poets progression through the visit, from his entering the hospital and making his way to the ward, up to him leaving after the visit. Also, each verse reveals more of the poets emotions. The first line of the poem is effective in grabbing the readers attention, by referring to a very vivid and distinctive sensory image; The hospital smell which the reader can associate with. Structure

What seems a corpse/ is trundled into a lift and vanishes/ heavenward Enjambment is used here to emphasise the last words of the lines, carefully chosen to suggest a finality in death; corpse containing very little connotation of life, and vanishes further stressing the poets view that death is absolute. heavenward therefore seems incongruous, although this is simply an example of MacCaig trying to avoid the seriousness of the visit by creating whimsical images. I will not feel, I will not/ feel, until/ I have to. Repetition is used to suggest the poet is chanting

under his breath in order to avoid his emotions. Structure here and up and down and there the unusual word order is another example of the poet trying to lighten the mood, while also emphasising the number of nurses he sees. It suggests MacCaig is looking all around to find a distraction from his thoughts. so much pain, so/ many deaths / so many farewells Repetition of so stresses the frequency of the nurses unpleasant dealings, which supports the high esteem, perhaps envy, with which he regards the ability of the nurses to cope. Ward 7. The abruptness of this non-sentence jolts

the reader, just as we can imagine it affected MacCaig; this effect is heightened by the caesura it causes. This is the turning point of the poem, as he has now reached his relative and must face his emotions. Structure A withered hand/ trembles on its stalk Use of the pronoun diminishes the humanity of the woman, suggesting the poet does not feel the relative is truly alive; her body is merely an empty shell, while she is effectively dead. There are further examples in the rest of the verse, which

serve to emphasise his point. books that will not be read/ and fruitless fruits Enjambment causes the last line to seem like a bitter addition, which summarises the poets despair at the hopelessness of his situation, and the Word Choice combs my nostrils gives a sense of the pervasive power of the smell, and his feeling of being invaded; showing his discomfort. green and yellow corridors colours have connotations of sickness, which further stresses the poets discomfort in

these surroundings. corpse holds little relation to life, suggesting the finality of death. The harshness of the sound; with a guttural c and plosive p, shows the poets distress and the painful emotions he is facing. heavenward incongruous with the poets beliefs, expressed in the previous lines; simply an example of MacCaig using humour to avoid his emotions. miraculously suggests MacCaigs admiration for the nurses abilities, while showing his own worry about the way Word Choice farewells the ending of the verse on this draws

attention to the word, which underlines the purpose of his visit. Defined as good wishes on parting, the word is suggestive of the possibility the people will meet again, and that those departing are going on some kind of journey this perhaps shows the poets desire to believe in an afterlife, especially at such troubling times. white cave holds connotations of isolation through confusion or sensory blankness (e.g. white noise) not guzzling but giving the horror of the glass fang image is continued in the word guzzling, but is reversed by the positive word, giving. The use of the guttural g sound in the alliteration conveys the harshness of the poets interpretation; he clearly sees

the process as intrusive and pointless. Word Choice clumsily dizzily shows the poet is overcome by his emotions, leaving him confused and dazed. fainter showing the womans vision is blurred; she can see him getting fainter with distance. Also a pun, since the poet may be so upset he is starting to feel faint. fruitless fruits the final words are an oxymoron: how can a fruit be fruitless? This captures the poets despair at the

pointlessness of the womans death being prolonged, and his inability to help bringing Class Discussion Think about Is it less of an ordeal for the dying person than the one left behind? Dying is something we have to do alone, despite being surrounded by loved ones? How realistic do you find the poets Practice Critical Reading

Individual Task On the next slide are some textual analysis questions all about Visiting Hour by Norman MacCaig. You should answer these questions, referring to the text in your answers. Remember you should attempt ALL the questions The hospital smell combs my nostrils as they go bobbing along (lines 1 3) 1. Comment on the poets use of imagery in these opening lines.

Why is it effective? (2) 2. What seems like a corpse is trundled into a lift and vanishes heavenward (lines 5-7) Comment on the poets use of word choice in these lines. What do these words tell you about the poets mood at this point? (3) 3. In verse 5, the poet finally reaches he ward where his relative lies. What is the effect of the sentence Ward 7.? (2) 4. Re-read verse 5. Identify ONE image used by MacCaig and

Placemat Activity Compare and Contrast Part of the Critical Reading exam will include a section in which you have to COMPARE and CONTRAST. You will now work in your groups to discuss the two poems that we have studied so far (Assisi and Visiting Hour) and think of ways that they are similar and different. You can comment on ideas, imagery, word choice, theme etc.

Higher Order Thinking Skills cc I can remember facts about the information. Why did Norman? MacCaig write Visiting Hour? Who was St. Francis of Assisi? How would you describe the beggar in

Assisi? Remembering I can explain the ideas in the information. ? What was Assisi about? Why didnt the speaker want to go into the hospital ward in Visiting Hour?

Understanding I can use the information in a new way. Can you show?that the speaker in Visiting Hour was overwhelmed when he entered the hospital? How do you know that the speaker was disappointed in the priest? Applying I can break down the information to understand it better.

? How did the speaker feel in Assisi? Why do you think that? c What might have happened if the tourists had not had ignored the beggar? Analysing I can say what I think about the information and back up

my opinion. Would you have ? ignored the beggar? Why was the speaker impressed by the nurses in the ward? Evaluating I can use the information to build new ideas. What other ending could there have ?

been Assisi? What could we do to help the beggar who is sat outside the church? Creating

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