Belfast Confetti

‘Belfast Confetti’ is questioning violence with many rhetorical questions, whereas ‘Slough’ is calling for violence to level the city. “Why can’t I escape?” he doesn’t want to be a part of this action, “come friendly bombs, and blow to smithereens.” He wants rid of Slough. Despite this both poets love their countries fiercely- John Betjeman wants to protect the country from unwelcome change like the staleness of Slough. Ciaran Carson has written many poems about troubles in Belfast. His tone on these topics is always of anger, disbelief and regret.

In ‘Slough’ the writer instantly establishes that he despises what Slough has become. “Come friendly bombs”, he would be grateful for Slough to be destroyed. Like the bombs would be doing him a favour. At the end of the poem it is clear that he still holds the same views, “The earth exhales.” The world is rid of the parasite that dogs it at the heels. The phrase “friendly bombs” is an oxymoron. Bombs are tools of destruction and thus not friendly.

Betjeman likes rural aspects; there is a lack of nature in Slough. Everything is manufactured and tinned, even the minds and breath of the inhabitants. Betjeman criticises people like landlords and factory owners, stereotypical capitalist. He dislikes these pigs because they are evil, they “wash… in women’s tears” and “always cheat and always win.” He has sympathy for the pawns of these villains. Since it isn’t their fault. He has sympathy for these people but doesn’t like them. He says that it isn’t their fault but has a bitter tone describing what they do, “but belch instead.”

His hatred of Slough is not only shown in his choice of words but also in the tone he uses. The poem has a systematic structure and his tone remains constant throughout. This gives the poem a bitter and monotonous tone. This reflects life in Slough. Betjeman has set out his poem in set stanzas since this graphological structure shows the repetitive life in Slough. Betjeman begs for destruction in Slough yet it is unlikely. The violence in ‘Belfast Confetti is, however very real and has happened in the past. ‘Belfast Confetti’ describes a mans confusion in the aftermath of a bomb. His terror is amplified by not being able to escape from the madness. He is hindered by punctuation.

The title itself is an interesting collocation of words. Confetti is used at weddings to wish the couple luck. Yet this is far from the terror of a bomb, although nails’ raining down from the nail bomb is similar yet very different to confetti. Carson uses an extended metaphor to compare the debris from the bomb to punctuation. He uses this since punctuation is used to show enflamed emotion particularly anger and when there is too much emotion, violence breaks out. Exclamation marks are used in a sentence to make it loud and abrasive like shouting. This is used in this poem to personify the loudness of the bomb and the panic.

Hyphens look like the bullets flying past from a machine gun. Hyphens give the word a stuttering sound just like a machine gun. An explosion on the ground leaves a black scorch mark on the floor that looks like a star. “The explosion itself- an asterisk.” Carson’s poem is figurative, he uses metaphors to describe the absolute panic after a bomb that is a very real occurrence. Betjeman’s poem is the opposite. He uses extreme description to create a picture of something that could never happen. Betjeman and Carson are merely voices in a world we cannot control; we but observe senseless violence occurring around us.

Both poets lose control in their poems, “Why can’t I escape?”, “I was trying”, “It’s not their fault they do not know”, “The earth exhales.” In all of these, things are happening that cannot be stopped or aided by the poet. At first glance there appears to be no rhythm or rhyme in ‘Belfast Confetti’ this is because in stressful situations there is no order. Unlike this in ‘Slough’ has a very repetitive structure.

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