Cataract Operation Simon Armitage

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Cataract Operation Simon Armitage


The title refers to the removal of a dull film from the eyes. This is a poem about sight and awareness.


Another poem of twenty lines, being made up of ten couplets. Again the poet plays with rhyme as in the pun “hens” and “lens”.


The poem is rife with cliché, metaphor and puns. The poem starts with a very distinctive simile:

“The sun comes like a head

through last night’s turtleneck.”

This not only gives the reader a comical image of the sun coming up but links this time of day with waking up and hurrying to dress up in yesterday’s clothes. By changing everyday ordinary things into extraordinary images, the poet creates a vivid picture and a sense of movement. He does this through his choice of words, his use of colloquial expressions and his use of metaphor. Notice how he describes the pigeon. The expression “turns tail” is particularly effective because it suggests that the pigeon is turning and “taking flight”, all in one quick movement. Comparing the tail to a magician fanning out a pack of cards also works well because it expresses the magic of a brief moment when the pigeon opens out its tail feathers.

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The theatrical metaphor is continued with “a pantomime of damp, forgotten washing” which now plays out the entertainment, where these ordinary things are transformed. So, as the wind stirs the washing, the poet imagines a bull fight enacted with the crimson towel, a can-can danced by the fluttering ra-ra skirt, the mischievous behaviour of the shirt, which flaps animatedly in the wind pegged only by its sleeve, waving of a handkerchief like an informal goodbye, and imagines a parade of hens are a company of soldiers strutting round the courtyard. Parts of the pictures are real and some are imagined. ...

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