Project 3, Exercise 1: poetry and theme

Poetry and theme

The quick answers to the three questions are easy enough. Which poem...

  • Speaks about place in relation to identity and exile? (c. The Lost Land by Eavan Boland)
  • Purely evokes a sense of place? (a. The Herefordshire Landscape by Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
  • Makes a social comment about progress and place? (b. Slough by John Betjeman)

Some rough notes on the three poems

The Herefordshire Landscape

  • heavy use of senses to give a sense of place: sight, touch and smell
  • no particular rhyme scheme, but a regular rhythm and metre
  • a romantic and picturesque presentation that evokes a mood, perhaps a nostalgia


  • simple, repetitive rhyme scheme
  • a bit childish and nasty?
  • alienation drives this
  • use of technique of anaphora ("tinned...tinned...tinned") to drive home disgust with modern, metal, manufactured
  • all the pre-packaged items are produce which, along with the cow, are absent from Slough which no longer supports agriculture or anything natural (not even grass for grazing)
  • the call to "friendly bombs" is an unexpected inversion and suggests the degree to which the poet has been pushed, as does the invocation of Death as a character

The Lost Land

  • the narrator seems to be at some distance from land already
  • who are "they"? family? friends? neighbours?
  • the fact that the narrator doesn't know what "they" saw suggests that he did not ask or did not have the chance to = separation
  • "at the landward rail" suggests longing and unwillingness to turn away
  • "last sight of a hand" -- searching for a human connection that will soon be lost
  • "the underworld side" -- not the landward side; crossing the Styx? a voyage to a kind of death? (relationships, family, belonging, identity?)
  • "Ireland. Absence. Daughter." -- all that leaving place represents