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The Almond Tree by John Stallworthy

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The Almond Tree by John Stallworthy "The Almond Tree" by John Stallworthy is a very hard-hitting, emotional poem, incorporating the themes of birth and death. The subject of the poem is a father's deep though before, during and after the birth of his first son, who is born disadvantaged with Downs Syndrome. This personal experience of the poet provides the motivation, which allows him to write a wonderful poem, littered with poetic techniques and raw emotion. Stallworthy manages to evoke many thoughts in the mind of the reader and demands sympathy through a variety of techniques. The poem is divided into eight random length sections which can then be combined forming three main stages, each reflecting upon a different aspect of the father's experience. The rhyme and rhythm schemes differ immensely between the three stages and each replicates the mood of the persona at that moment. Although the theme and moods fluctuate drastically through these stages, one thing remains constant - the symbolism of the Almond Tree and therefore the significance of the title: it is to this the persona returns to focus his feelings. ...read more.


The shortened sentences and basic rhymes, added to the alliteration of "scissored" and "slicing" - two words which have connotations of cutting, in keeping with the shock of the bad news to follow - build up to the climax of the doctor's words: a crushing blow to the father! The joy of before is short-lived and brought to an abrupt end. This news eclipses everything and is even compared to death: "How easily the words went in-/ clean as a bullet/ leaving no mark on the skin, /stopping the heart within it." The father is irreparably mentally wounded yet hardly visibly scarred. Suddenly the thoughts of birth are replaced with thoughts of death. At this point the symbolism of the Almond tree becomes significant: in dying the tree rejuvenates, and so the man is at the dying stage, but ultimately will be 'reborn'. The mood becomes very negative as the persona struggles to some to terms with the news. A continuous, regular alternating rhyme scheme develops and again the Almond tree plays a part. Just as the father appears to be ascending from his physical being, the tree, again in it's personified state, intervenes: "The almond waving me down." ...read more.


The word-choice also becomes more emotive and the transition of the father is clear. He decides, in keeping with the Nietzschean philosophy, that these events must contrive to make him a better person: he has, effectively, grown through the pain. His aspirations for the child change from his previous, selfish ones to those of a typical loving parent; reflected in the term of endearment: "We will tunnel each other out ... my little mongol love" The son is no longer simply a mongol but the love of the father's life and the pronoun shift, of "you" to "we" show the father's total acceptance of his son and his unfortunate condition. The father's 'rebirth' has proved a learning experience and for me, shows there is always hope. Stallworthy has taken a truly personal moment - a moment of intense emotional experience - and through the medium of poetry he has involved his reader's on this journey, indeed the journey of life. The Almond tree is the focal point of his journey; symbolising optimism, rejuvenation and hope for the future and with this in mind he manages to convince the reader that: "To live is to suffer,/ to suffer is to live." ...read more.

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