Imagery is a powerful thing and when presented properly can really enhance the reader’s experience of the text they are reading. This is expertly illustrated in Edwin Morgan’s poem “Glasgow Green” in which Morgan deals with the darker side of Glasgow’s city life and recreates a truly unpleasant scene of a homosexual rape.
Morgan begins the poem by creating a dark, oppressive atmosphere in which he weaves an undercurrent of threat and violence. He then goes on to use Glaswegian slang to convey the situation through the rapist’s point of view and to add more emphasis on just how violent the situation is. The next verse shows Morgan putting stress on the fact that there is no phycological sense of safety. He goes on to change his style of writing in the next verse by the use of elevated language to convey his emotions on the situation and a sense of urgency in his need to help. Morgan uses clear biblical references to further extend his meaning, adding greater depths to what he’s saying and the image he’s trying to create.
In a poem setting a scene is more difficult than in a novel and so therefore have to be more clever about the way in which you go about it. It has to be more subtle and yet once pointed out easy to understand. Morgan acieves this in the first stanza through his use of alliteration and personification.
“Clammy midnight, moonless mist.”
This has connotations of unpleasantness, cold sweat brought on by fear and by his use of the word “moonless” we now have a frightening picture of a park at night in pitch darkness. The alliteration of the letter “m” creates a mumbling atmosphere in which no one can see. “mist” gives an illusion of water, wetness, washing and cleanliness but Morgan’s use of it is to create the exact opposite image. He uses it as a sinister image adding yet another obstical and furthering the opressiveness of the situation. I think he has used this effectively because it allows me to create an acurate image of the situation for myself.
However, Morgan then extendes my knowledge of the situation by including personification:
this is evidence that humanity is all around. To sweat coldly is to be in a cold sweat and this only happens to us when we are at our most scared. It is a contrast because we usually associate “sweating” with being too hot and it is the mechanism that our bodies use to cool us, and yet in this Morgan uses it to convey the growing fear and horror. This i found to be an interesting way to introduce a setting and it worked well in the fact that i could feel the emotions that Morgan wanted me to feel and see the scene the way he intended. For me it added another layer to the story with which only increases my enjoyment in reading it.
Morgan goes on to give a stark insight into the reality of the situation by speaking from the rapist’s view point which suceedings in shocking and also creating an incident in which no one really can imagine what would be like to be in. Morgan uses repition to drive home the point that we have to face up to the fact that this kind of incident is a part of life
“Christ but i’m gaun to have you Mac
…, turn over you bastard
This is a rather unsual but effective way of adding a different dimension to the incident. We are not expecting it therefore it is perfect to create the correct emotions induced by an incident such as this. His use of the word “bastard” adds a very violent reality to it that would not have been acomplished by any other word as it would not have had as much impact.
On the other hand though Morgan uses repitition to make the reader understand that this a part of life and we need to learn to live with it. This may been seen as harshness on Morgan’s part but he is only doing the reader a favour, trying to teach them about the world in which we live which can only be a good thing. He brings the situation home to the reader by saying:
“…it is life, the sweat
is real, the wrestling under a bush
is real, the dirty starless river
is the real Clyde.”
Morgan is striving to create an incident in which we can believe is real no matter how unpleasant. He phrases this in a way that sugests he is gently trying to remind the reader of something they already knew, they already knew of the darker side to the streets of Glasgow but chose not to notice until Morgan brings it to their attention in a way they cannot possibly ignore. The repitition of “is real” gives a sense of urgency, urgency for the reader to understand and to be aware of the violence in Glasgow.
There are many techniques open to poets to use to convey their scene, all with varying degrees of difficulty and significance but none as simple or difficult to arrange as the use of the structure of the poem itself.
“…through washing blows where the women watch by day, and children run, on Glasgow Green.”
Through Morgan’s choice of words the reader is able to discern that he is describing a much different, happier scene than the incident illustrated earlier but it is through his way of structuring the end of the stanza that gives the most incite into the imagery he is creating. The structure weaves out then in, out and in; this is mirroring the movements of the sheets as they blow in the wind, flapping around the playing children who are running in and around them. I find this the most intriguing way of creating an atmosphere because as something so simple it has given me the reader much in way of description which only lends a hand to my imagination; it adds sounds, the flapping in the breeze as well as the playful ways of children; all coming together to create a rather inviting pleasant place to be.
In conclusion, through the use of many poetic techniques “Glasgow Green” by Edwin Morgan suceeds in recreating an incident of homosexual rape in a place we the reader know well, Glasgow. I throroughly enjoyed this poem because it has hidden depths to which you must sink before you grasp the true craftsmanship of Edwin Morgan and his unusual but effective way to visualise a scene and then recreate in the reader’s mind was interesting and held my attention throughout.
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