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Discuss how successfully does Liz Lockhead convey autobiographical detail in The Offering, The Prize and Teachers?

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Introduction

Examine these 3 poems, The Offering, The Prize and Teachers. Discuss how successfully Liz Lockhead conveys autobiographical detail. All the 3 poems, The Prize, The Offering and The Teachers, contain strong reminiscences about childhood, they all have cynical views and criticise something from the past. They make you not want to be a child in the past. Also, they reveal how the rules and rituals of the adult world were incomprehensible to a child. Although in her introduction to the poems, Lockhead states that the poems reflect her own experience as a child, she does not use the poetic voice of "I", but uses "you" in all three poems. This draws the reader into sharing the experience more and gives it a more conversational tone. In "The Offering" the author is remembering having to go to church on Sunday, and the changing attitudes to going to church. The reader is pulled straight into the poem because the title forms part of the first verse. Lockhead recalls being bored in church and fiddling with a hymn-book that you could get a "purple dye or pink" from by wetting your finger. She shows the change in attitude to religion, the bible is now relegated to the function of containing "pressed rosepetals". ...read more.

Middle

The format of the three poems is similar in that the sections are of different lengths, not in rigid verses or rhythm with rhymes. This is effective in giving the impression of thoughts tumbling out. The spaces between the verses give extra impact to the line following, as in "The Offering" "Never in a month of them..." Which shows you her determination not to go back. And in "The Teachers" "We grew bulbs on the window sill" Which give us a break to show her drift of thought from the Dutch who were unfamiliar, in the child's experience, to the growing of bulbs, which was familiar. "Sunday" is given similar prominence. The repetition of this word in "The Offering" shows her dread of this day. In the same poem she also repeats the word too, "too sweet, too bland". This gives an increased effect. Another technique she has effectively used is varying the length of the line in each of the stanzas. Sometimes the style appears disjointed and uncoordinated as the memory flits from one teacher to another in "The Teachers". However, she is setting the key features. Often what we remember is not the routine but the unusual so she remembers the foot-binding and paddy fields in China. ...read more.

Conclusion

The poems are written from a child's point of view, and so contain a child's anxieties of trying to conform to adults' rules and to make sense of the world. In "The Prize" "Martha and Mary on the coloured frontispiece", seems confusing and suggesting that she did not realise they were from a bible story. Also, in "The Offering", she uses measurements literally and figuratively, repeating the feeling of confusion. "you'll still find you do not measure up" "...you never quite understood the one about..." and "you'll still not understand" All of the poems finish with last lines that convey a final poignant point that sums up the whole poem, in "The Offering" she says: - "And the offering still hard and knotted in your hand" This adds to the pointlessness of attending church, she couldn't understand what was going on and also didn't contribute to the collection. In "The Teachers" "Spelling was easy when you knew how" Which reinforces the emphasis on being correct rather than any creativeness. and in "The Prize" "till we knew off by heart the Highway Code" Which again focuses on rote - learning rather than understanding the purpose and the meaning in a practical way. Hence, Lockhead uses context, form, tone and vocabulary very effectively to portray elements of her childhood. Darren Andrews ...read more.

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