- Slides: 16
Remains Simon Armitage
Overview • This poem is written from the point of view of a soldier (possibly from the Gulf war, but it’s been deliberately left nameless so could be relatable to several wars). • He experiences a situation where there is a possibly armed robber, ad he and three fellow soldiers shoot the robber. • In the following weeks, he has to walk past the spot where the death happened and can still see the blood on the ground. • Even when he gets home, he cannot escape the distress of the event, failing to block out the images even with alcohol and drugs.
Context • Simon Armitage’s poetry is known for its colloquial style, strong rhythms and voice. He often uses the monologue form in his poetry to create immediate and moving characters. The reference to 'desert sand' suggests this poem is set in the Gulf War. • This particular poem lacks the humour of some of his other work and instead presents a dark and disturbing image of a soldier suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. • Armitage made a film for Channel 4 in 2007 called The Not Dead and has a collection of poems of the same name, from which this poem is taken. In preparation for this work, he interviewed veteran soldiers of different wars, including the Gulf War. The reference to ‘desert sand’ in this poem suggests that it reflects the experiences of soldiers in the Gulf War.
Verse by verse annotations Straight away the voice is familiar and informal. It sounds like someone telling an anecdote. This implies this isn’t the only awful event that happened to this soldier. This is him trying to reassure himself that what he did was justified, but… Wording here suggests he had no choice- it was an order. On another occasion, we get sent out to tackle looters raiding a bank. And one of them legs it up the road, probably armed, possibly not. …this is the doubt in his mind that is bothering him. This is repeated later on in the poem, to emphasise his worry and guilt. Informal language used, to keep up the familiar tone. Makes narrator relatable to reader.
Verse by verse annotations The word ‘well’ is usually part of spoken language, so it reminds us that a soldier is telling the story, making it seem more real. The repetition of ‘all’ and ‘three’ is used to emphasise that it wasn’t just this soldier who shot the looter. He might be doing this to ease his guilt. By using no names, it shows that: - the soldier isn’t trying to blame them, - The specific details aren’t important, it’s the feelings - It could have been any of the other soldiers Well myself and somebody else are all of the same mind, so all three of us open fire. Enjambment (letting a Three of a kind all letting fly, and I swear sentence finish on another line/in the next stanza) Used to show the soldier starting to get caught up in the story, so continuing into the next stanza without stopping.
Verse by verse annotations Possible exaggeration to emphasise how greatly this image has affected him. Repetition in present tense emphasises how this image haunts him and he can still see it. Very violent verb used here to emphasise the violent death. I see every round as it rips through his life. Graphic image created- again, could I see broad daylight on the other side. be exaggeration. So we’ve hit this looter a dozen times And he’s there on the ground, sort of inside out, ‘sort of’ makes it seem like it’s so horrific, he’s struggling to accurately describe it.
Verse by verse annotations Metaphor – the soldier is describing the dying man to be so in pain, that he seems to actually be the pain This verb seems very careless, which seems disrespectful. pain itself, the image of agony. One of my mates goes by and tosses his guts back into his body. Then he’s carted off in the back of a lorry.
Verse by verse annotations This seems an odd phrase to have in the middle of a poem. It’s representing that although that should be the end of the effects of the shooting, it’s not- he’s still affected by it. This is further shown by the sentence not ending, and adding ‘except it’s not really. ’ This image is really effective as ‘blood’ has gory connotations of violence, while ‘shadow’ is something that always follows you. End of story, except it’s not really. His blood-shadow stays on the street, and out on patrol I walk right over it week after week. Repetition for emphasis. Then I’m home on leave. But I blink Short sentence to show quickly he is expected to adapt to being at home. Leaving the stanza on ‘blink’ makes it seem almost in slow -motion- what happens when he blinks?
Verse by verse annotations Verb ‘burst’ sounds fast and violent. This phrase has been added on to the sentence to show this image/ phrase is so embedded into his brain, that it’s in his dreams. Repetitionremember this phrase from earlier in the poem? and burst again through the doors of the bank. Sleep, and he’s probably armed, possibly not. Dream, and he’s torn apart by a dozen rounds. And the drink and the drugs won’t flush him out. Repetition of ‘and’ to emphasise how many ways he’s tried to get rid of the dream.
Verse by verse annotations Alliteration to draw attention to this event being continuously in his head. Is this literal or metaphorical? Is it talking about the man literally being buried behind enemy lines, or is the narrator saying that by still being in his head, that the man has invaded his space? he‘s here in my head when I close my eyes, dug in behind enemy lines, not left for dead in some distant, sun-stunned, sand-smothered land or six-feet-under in desert sand, Alliteration drawing attention to the man’s homeland. Reference to Gulf War?
Verse by verse annotations but near to the knuckle, here and now, his bloody life in my bloody hands. Repetition of ‘bloody’emphasising his guilt and the violence of war. Heavy reference to the present tense- how soldiers are still being affected now (PTSD). Possible reference to Lady Macbeth and her feeling so guilty about the death she arranged, that she hallucinates blood on her hands.
Key quotations “we get sent out” - Passive verb- they didn’t have a choicelack of power - Links to ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ as they didn’t have a choice and were following orders. - 1 st person plural- he wasn’t alone, but now seems isolated. “his bloody life in my bloody hands” “and he’s probably armed, possibly not” - Repetition to emphasise the violence of war - Adjective ‘bloody’ creates a gory image - Ending the poem on this, shows that the poet wanted this to be the lasting image of the poem. - Repetition of this, first at the beginning (almost to justify his actions, and then regretting it) and then in his sleep (showing how often he’s gone over this). - Possibly representing his thoughts on war - other countries are probably armed, but then considering the civilians ‘possibly not’?
Key ideas • Links to power • Power of army over soldiers- he felt he had no choice in the situation • Power of war over soldiers- leading to bad dreams and PTSD. • Power of an image on the mind- vividly remembers the image but not the people • Links to conflict • Actions in a conflict/ thoughts and feeling on someone who has experienced a war (conflict). • Conflict between the justification (‘he was probably armed’) and his guilt (‘possibly not’).
Structure/form • 7 four line stanzas- regularity perhaps reflecting military precision of soldiers, or possibly the soldiers trying to control his thoughts. • Last stanza is only 2 lines- makes them stand out- poet wanted these two lines to be the lasting thought for the reader. Possibly representing that he can no longer control his thoughts. • Enjambment between stanzas starts when he starts to recall the kill, showing that’s when he starts to emotionally unravel.
Links to other poems Prelude: Stealing the boat The Charge of the Light Brigade Exposure Poppies Similarities - Both narrators are affected by the power of events that have happened to them. - Both events affect their dreams. - Both set in wars. - Both describe how the soldiers are ordered and, sometimes, blindly obey. - Both have a negative view of war. - Both set in wars - Both set from the soldiers’ perspectives - Both create sympathy for soldiers - Both create graphic images of the war. - Both written about the effects of war - Both written in 1 st person, creating a personal, relatable tone - Both focus on memories. Differences - The narrator in - 3 rd person in TCOTLB - Exposure focuses on Prelude seems to creates a less relatable how the weather grow from voice. affects the soldiers, experience, whereas - Repetition in TCOTLB rather than the killing. the soldier seems creates almost a chant or - Exposure focuses on broken by his. song feel, whereas the effects during the - Prelude not set in a Remains has been written war, rather than after conflict, but a natural to sound like an anecdote. it. place. - Poppies is written from the perspective of a mother who has not experience war - Poppies has no description of war.
Links to other poems Similarities War Photographer The Emigree Kamikaze Bayonet Charge My Last Duchess - - - - Differences - Both have negative views of war. Both characters have been emotionally affected by war, particularly by people they’ve seen die. Both set postconflict. - WP is in 3 rd person, creating a less personal tone. WP’s character is not involved in the conflict. - Both describe the power of a memory. Both describe places affected by war. Both written in 1 st person, giving personal and emotional responses. - - Both describe actions in war. Both describe soldier’s reactions to being ordered to kill. Both describe how soldiers were affected after the conflict. - Both set in wars. Both about being sent to kill others. Both have a negative view of war, leading to questioning its pointlessness. - - The Emigree has a positive memory, whereas in Remains the memory is negative. The Emigree has not been affected by the war. - - In Remains, the character is successful in their killing. In Remains, the soldier is judgemental of himself, whereas - Bayonet Charge is in 3 rd person, avoiding a personal tone. BC focuses on during the war, rather than after effects. - Both are from the point of view of someone who has killed someone (monologues). Both are talking about the effect/ consequences of that death. Both had someone /something with power over them. Both are controlled by a feeling. MLD is not set in a war/battle. The Duke doesn’t seem to regret or be in conflict over his actions. The Duke has more power over his