Continuum by Allen Curnow
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ï»¿Continuum The poem âContinuumâ by Allen Curnow revolves around the central theme of poetic inspiration, how it ebbs and flows. He describes himself and his thoughts on a particular night, when he is unable to sleep because his mind is alive and restless. He seems to be in the grip of a poetic impulse that struggles for expression within him. This poem is the medium through which he conveys his experience, and he does so in a very interesting manner. âContinuumâ begins with a striking image of the moon âroll[ing] over the roofâ and falling behind the poetâs house. It is an animated image of the moon, which has the lucidity of a childâs imagination and so successfully grabs our attention. But even as the reader reacts with mild surprise and pleasure at the novelty of this queer idea, the poet cuts us short with a very matter-of-fact and obvious truth: âthe moon does neither of these thingsâ.
âDark placeâ is an obvious allusion to the poetâs mind. Poetic thought has not yet illuminated the area; it strives to develop in the dark. There are two âbright cloudsâ present in this otherwise empty abyss. âBright cloudsâ is a contradiction as, while the first part of the phrase indicates a shining light enabling one to focus on something, the latter half makes us think of something obscuring the point of interest. It thus re-establishes the poetâs inability to think coherent thoughts. What is more, âcloudsâ makes us think of something hazy and vague. Thus we assume these âbright cloudsâ to be faint indications of the poetic inspiration that the poet is attempting to formulate. The word âdustedâ helps to illustrate the difficulty of the poetic process by means of its ambiguity. It could be taken to mean cleaned, as though the âmoonâ, the spirit of his poetic muse, is throwing light on his half-formed thought; alternatively it could refer to the lack of focus and obscurity of his thoughts, just like an object coated with a layer of dust.
The burden of restlessness that he carried due to his frustrating inarticulate condition has lifted. The poemâs resolution is told from the point of view of the ordinary, sleep-deprived man. Now that his muse has got the business of creative inspiration out of the way, he desires nothing more than to go âback to bedâ and sleep. The poet in him shrinks and fades away as his mind shuts all connection with the outside world and drifts off to sleep. However, the muse is described as a âcringing demiurgeâ, which makes us imagine the poet expressing disgust at his alter egoâs lack of appreciation for the poetic process. He âstealthilyâ creeps away from the scene with his âtoolsâ in hand. The poetic process has not stopped; it will continue to develop new ideas, but now it will not do so at the expense of the manâs sleep. It seems to be a comment by Curnow on how the creative process in a poetâs mind never really stops, not even in sleep. Throughout the poem âContinuumâ, he uses enjambment to depict the continuity of the poetic process and a poetâs struggles with its highs and lows.
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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
This is a useful piece of analysis, brimming with ideas about the meaning of this difficult poem. Some of the analysis is a little too speculative and not sufficiently supported by the textual references.
Paragraph control, sentence structure and lexis are managed at a very high level. Phrasing in particular is highly polished. Quotations are skillfully merged into the text of the essay.
The work here would merit 5 stars but for some of its more speculative elements and its unsatisfactory concluding paragraph.
Marked by teacher Jeff Taylor 13/08/2013
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