Choose a poem which could be considered as having a powerful message. Show how the poet effectively conveys this message through his or her use of poetic techniques.
‘War photographer’ by Carol Ann Duffy is a poem which has a powerful message. It describes a war photographer and his efforts to educate people about war. The poet uses many striking techniques, such as imagery and word choice to convey this message.
The war photographer is trying to communicate to people the horror of war. His message is that war must stop. We see how important this message is in the first stanza when Duffy compares the War Photographer to a priest and his darkroom to a church:
“The only light is red and softly glows,
as though this were a church and he
a priest preparing to intone a Mass.”
The simile of a priest suggests that his job is sacred or holy. He is showing suffering in the hope that it will prevent further suffering. This simile effectively conveys the importance of his job and the message of his photographs.
The powerful anti-war message is continued in the second stanza with the contrast between rural England and the war-zones that the photographer has returned from. “Rural England” suggests quiet and peaceful countryside. This is very different to his experience abroad:
“to fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat.”
The image of mines exploding under “running children” is shocking and helps to convey the powerful anti-war message. The choice of the word “nightmare” with its connotations of fear and terror powerfully suggests the horror of war.
Although the photographer has a very important and powerful message it seems that not many people are listening. When the photographs are published in the newspaper we are told of the reaction of the readers:
“The reader’s eyeballs prick
with tears between bath and pre-lunch beers.”
This suggests that the reader very quickly forgets the photographs and perhaps doesn’t do anything about the suffering that they portray. The effect of this is rather shocking as it shows how easily people can forget about others’ suffering. This helps us to think about our own reaction to images of suffering.
‘War Photographer’ by Carol Ann Duffy effectively conveys a powerful anti-war message. It does this by showing how important the war photographer’s job is by comparing him to a priest, by using shocking images which show the horror of war and by showing the indifferent reactions of newspaper readers to the photographers images which shocks us into reassessing our own reactions to war. It is a powerful and effective poem and helped me to consider the important role of a war photographer.