Poetry Paper

Living a peaceful and graceful life is often the dream many individuals seek to achieve. In fact, finding joy in interaction with other people is a satisfactory feeling that enhances one’s reason to live. However, death compromises the possibilities of realizing this dream as it brings about the feeling of deprivation. Inevitability of death makes dealing with this phenomenon challenging, unbearable and painful. In the poem, “At My Father’s Funeral”, John Burnside explains the feeling of happiness experienced during the grieving and funeral period after losing his father. Through masterful utilization of tone, rhyme, word selection and attitude, Burnside succeeds in expressing his delight about his father’s demise. On the other hand, Michael Longley expresses contrary concerns about the loss of a close person. In the short poem, “The Wheelchair”, Longley outlines his grieving experience after the loss of the twin brother. Generally, both poets give incomparable explanations of pain caused by death. Without a doubt, Michael Longley and John Burnside argue that the impact death has on an individual depends on different factors, and it does not sadden everyone.

Death sparks the development of sadness among the bereaved relatives and friends, yet satisfies others. This situation is largely accredited to the fact that an individual is compelled to come to terms with the nature of the unpleasant reality concerning the loss of their loved ones. For instance, the character in the Longley’s poem does not want to acknowledge that he has been deprived of his brother’s presence. He recalls some of the happy moments they had together when his sibling was alive, and this memory saddens him. “It was I who wept when you were chastised”. In the period of loss due to death, this kind of sadness is prominent among the bereaved individuals. However, Burnside expresses contrary feelings about his father’s death. Instead of experiencing desolation, the character in his poem is glad that his father is dead. He mentions, “we didn’t think for a moment about crushing his feet so he couldn’t return to the house”. This line vividly illustrates contempt the character feels for his father is so deep that he even wishes he never came back to life. In such a way, the development of sadness after one’s death is purely subjective and depends on the relationship an individual had with the deceased. Besides, death brings about the feeling of loss to some people and satisfaction to others. Although losing a beloved one is believed to be a painful experience, claiming that the situation is similar to everyone would be an erroneous assumption. In “The Wheelchair”, the persona is saddened by the loss of his sibling, and he even curses death for taking away the loved person. The words “Where am I pushing you, dear brother, where?” demonstrate the poet’s intending to show how death creates a void in the lives of people who lose their beloved ones. On the other hand, not appreciating the dead person can result in a contrary feeling. For instance, if an individual greatly disliked the dead person, the feeling of remorse and sadness about the loss is impossible. Burnside makes this scenario clear by expressing persona’s excitement at the death of his father. In a normal scenario, it would be ethical to be saddened by the loss of the father. In fact, most people would have difficulty coming to terms with the new reality after the death of a close person. Nonetheless, this poem redefines a normal scenario by outlining the excitement of a son losing his father. The author shows that the people at the funeral did not want to hear any more words from the deceased: “We wanted to seal his mouth with a handful of clay”. Consequently, the impact created by the loss of a loved one is variable.


Both poets utilize different compelling styles in their poems to show that death is inevitable. In fact, the aspect of helplessness and not coming back to life leads to conclusion that death eventually strikes at everyone’s door and its impacts are irreversible. In “The Wheelchair”, the author utilizes rhetoric questions to reveal the level of helplessness felt by the persona and impossibility to revert to former life. For instance, the poet uses a rhetoric question “You were the naughtier of the twin, were you not?” to illustrate persona’s remorse and compel the reader into sharing the grief with the persona. On the other hand, Burnside capitalizes on irony to demonstrate the relevance of his message. As mentioned earlier, one would expect that individuals should feel saddened by the loss of their loved ones. This is, however, not the case in the Burnside’s poem. At the beginning of the poem, one assumes that the persona is grieving for the loss of a loved one. However, after mentioning that they did not want him to come home, the irony utilized in the commencement becomes evident. The last section of the poem reveals that it was impossible for the persona’s father to come back to life. This claim ascertains inevitability of death. Hence, despite adopting different stylistic approaches, both Longley and Burnside communicate inevitability of death to the reader.

The word choice and tone in the presentation of the poem help to express the persona’s overall feeling about the loss caused by death. In fact, both poets capitalize on these poetic devices to make their poems more appealing to the reader. In “The Wheelchair”, Longley keeps a good selection of words to enhance readability of the poem while augmenting the reader’s opinion about the negative impacts of death. He mentions, “I look down at your yellowy bald patch and recall your double-crown’s tufty hair”. In this case, the rhyme “yellowy” and “tufty” enhance readability of the poem. However, the rest of the words and the tone were used to evoke sad emotions and a similar attitude to death as that of the poet. Similarly, Burnside is selective about the word choice for the presentation of the poem “At My Father’s Funeral”. Since the poem is mostly based on irony, the poet makes an adequate selection of words to fit the described scenario. For instance, the combination of words in the line “And terror coming loose and drifting like a leaf” describe death as a mystery. However, in the rest of the poem, the persona expresses his delight about his father’s demise.

Death can evoke a feeling of hopelessness or optimism from the people close to the deceased. As much as the conventional opinions held about the impact of death are concerned, it is worth acknowledging that the nature of the relationship between by the affected people contributes to how people feel about death. In the first case, Longley expresses the level of hopelessness felt by the persona after the death of his twin. Through a vivid description, the reader is placed at a better position to appreciate the message being communicated. The phrase “Pushing you in your wheelchair to the sea” might not be aimed to communicate the literal meaning. Instead, the poet’s primary intention was to make the reader understand the scope of void and hopelessness caused by the loss of a dear person. On the other hand, Burnside capitalizes on the use of irony and contextual description to appeal to the reader. At the commencement of the poem, the persona is saddened by his father’s death, as it can be assumed from the words “To cover his eyes with the ash of the last”. Through irony, however, the poet redefines the persona’s feelings about death. Instead of being saddened by the event, the persona is optimistic about a happier future in the absence of his father. Consequently, it is justified to claim that death can evoke both hopelessness and optimism among the people involved.

The memories about the deceased cannot be erased after his/her death. In fact, both poets achieve a commendable level of success in explaining this phenomenon. In Michael Longley’s poem, the persona recalls every last detail about his sibling, which enhances enthusiasm about dealing with the situation. While he cannot meet his brother in future, these memories are inerasable. Consequently, it can be claimed that Longley sought to convey the idea of immortality of one’s soul as opposed to body’s mortality. “It was I who wept when you were chastised”. Through appropriate utilization of words, the author of “The Wheelchair” makes the reader believe that thanks to immortality of the soul dealing with death is not as hard as it might be anticipated. Similarly, Burnside’s ironical poem leads the reader to believe in the immortality of the soul. Thus, the persona expresses his fear of having an encounter with the father after his death. Consequently, the poet expresses a series of ideas the persona evaluated to minimize the chances of his father coming back to life: “We wanted to seal his mouth with a handful of clay”. This selection convinces the reader that immortality of one’s soul is an undisputed phenomenon.

Death is an irreversible phenomenon as its effects cannot be avoided. This aspect of death is properly communicated in both poems by means of different approaches. In the first poem, Michael Longley expresses distress caused by the persona’s family loss. In fact, he supports the overall description of the irreversibility of death by selectively providing memories of he shared with the deceased. “You were naughtier, were you not?”. In this illustration, the tense is past, and it does not give any indication of having a similar encounter in future. The poet uses appropriate lexical means and tone to convey his message on inevitability of death. On the other hand, Burnside narrates from an ironical perspective. Through his word selection, one would notice that the persona’s attitude towards his father was resentful. Therefore, he did not desire to have any form of reconnection with him. The fact that the persona is pleased at his father’s death makes the reader recognize that death cannot be reversed.

There are multiple feelings evoked on different people by the demise of a person, especially a close one. It would be erroneous to assume that everyone is saddened by such a loss. Michael Longley and John Burnside use commendable styles in their poem presentation to convey the diverse effects of death. Apart from the feeling of loss and hopelessness, death can evoke satisfaction and optimism in other people, which depends on the nature of the relationship between the deceased and the affected people. On the other hand, there are certain aspects about death that cannot be altered regardless of one’s perspective. Primarily, death is irreversible and inevitable. Both poets are quite successful in explaining this aspect in their poetic presentations. Nonetheless, it should be concluded that the impact of death on any individual is purely subjective, and it not reasonable to assumed that the phenomenon saddens everyone.

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