Uneen Poetry

Unseen Poetry -sample question and answer


POETRY (70 marks)
Candidates must answer A – Unseen Poem and B – Prescribed Poetry.

A UNSEEN POEM (20 marks)

Answer either Question 1 or Question 2.

The Fist

The fist clenched round my heart
loosens a little, and I gasp
brightness; but it tightens
again. When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? But this has moved

past love to mania. This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
plunging howling into the abyss.

Hold hard then, heart. This way at least you live.

Derek Walcott


1. (a) Walcott expresses powerful emotions in this poem. Choose one emotion present
in the poem and briefly explain how it is conveyed. Make reference to the text in
support of your answer. (10)

(b) Write a brief personal response to the final line of the poem.
Hold hard then, heart. This way at least you live.
Support your answer with reference to the poem. (10)


2. Discuss the poet’s use of language in “The Fist”. Your answer should make close
reference to the text. (20)


*In the follwing sample answer, play close attention to content (Personal response + relevant quotation + language of poetry)

2. When I first read this poem, It seemed clear to me that this was a poem about love. The problem was that it’s also a poem where the language really gives it quite an aggressive atmosphere. It seems to me to be quite an intense poem, but then again I suppose so is love itself!

What also came to my mind on first reading of the poem is the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Verbs like ‘clenched’, ‘tightens’ ‘gripping’ and ‘plunging’ lend the poem a dark and oppressive air, very reminiscent of ‘I felt a funeral in my Brain.’. To me, this language suggests a sense of imminent violence, as if the speaker of the poem is dangerously close to being permanently hurt by the ‘pain of love’. One thing I found extraordinary about the rhetorical question ‘When have I ever not loved the pain of love?’, is that it seems to suggest that not only does he accept this suffering caused by love, but he in fact appears to welcome it.

Another aspect of the language that really hit me immediately were the two metaphors, the ‘clench of the madman’ and ‘the ledge of unreason’. These really gave me the impression that the poet’s suffering for love had come to the point where he was almost losing his mind, teetering dangerously close to ‘plunging into the abyss’. I have to admit that even though the language at times seems over-dramatic, I really liked the urgency and intensity that the words brought to the poem – capturing perfectly the intensity of love itself. Even the onomatopoeic ‘howling’ evokes images of crazed creatures of the night.

What I really liked most about the language in the poem was the last single line stanza. The idea that even though the suffering associated with love is almost brutally unbearable, if he can just ‘hold hard’ then you can ‘live. I think that finishing the poem with the word ‘live’ is telling us that for all its ups and downs, and even for all the pain and suffering that often comes with it, in the end to ‘love’ is to truly ‘live’.





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