The language that is used in the two poems is quite similar. Both are written in modern day English, however the two poets use a great range of vocabulary and the poems have a very formal feel. The poets have both captured a feeling of disappointment and judgement very well through a good use of language. “Nothing remained but self confession” wrote Wole Soyinka. Nobody should have to “confess” that they are of a different colour, and when I read the poem that quotation was one of the main things that struck me. I was also shocked when the landlady says: “Are you dark? Or very light?” In the poem that sentence is written in capitals, probably to emphasise how rude the question is. As soon as the landlady finds out that he is “brunette” in colour, she assumes that he is very dark, refuses to make any further conversation and puts the phone down. In the poem the African man doesn’t really express any real disappointment, but as readers we now that he is emotionally hurt. Quotes such as ”shamed by ill mannered silence”, “surrender” and “Caught I was, foully,” reflect this. He shows how desperate he is towards the end of the poem. He starts to describe some his body parts that aren’t black:” Palm of my hand, soles of my feet, are a peroxide blonde.” “-One moment madam! – Sensing her receiver on the thunderclap.”
These quotes show how inconsolable he is, all this trouble just because of the colour of his skin. This also shows how absurd the question is, and we as the audience find it humorous, but when we are laughing, we are laughing at the landlady’s ignorance.
In the poem “Not my best side” (which is based on the painting of George and the dragon) the disappointment isn’t on such a harsh scale. The things that the characters are complaining about are almost childish: ”The artist didn’t give me a chance to pose properly,” complains the dragon. This seems very childish compared the difficulties that the man in “Telephone conversation” has to face. The dragon also complains about the state of his “conqueror”. ”Why I said to myself should my conqueror be so ostentatiously beardless, and ride a horse with a deformed neck and square hoofs?” Then he goes on to complain about the princess (his victim) “Why should my victim be so unattractive as to be inedible, and why should she have me literally on a string?”
I find the whole poem quite humorous as they all criticise each other. To start off with the dragon is disappointed that the artist didn’t let him pose. He’s also ashamed that he gets “conquered” by what he thinks is an under par knight, and he thinks the princess is so ugly that she is not edible! Although the poem does express a feeling of disappointment it’s funny, to see the three characters arguing. However the princess “took to the dragon”. But wasn’t really impressed by the knight. Here the princess shows a form of judgement. ”I mean what was he like underneath the hardware? He might have acne, blackheads or even bad breath for all I could tell,” she unfairly judges her rescuer. Then a feeling of disappointment came over her as she realised that she had to leave the dragon for the knight. The knight didn’t really show disappointment but judges himself as superior:” I have diplomas in dragon management and virgin reclamation.” “You can’t do better than me at the moment.” The knight seems pretty idle. However us as a society accept conventions and stereotypical roles. The knights in all fairy tales are brave, equipped to the brim and generally bigheaded.
The tones of the two poems are actually very different. “Telephone conversation” is a lot more serious due to the fact that it’s more personal and he can’t hide the fact that he is of different colour. As I have already said the tone/mood of “Not my best side” is a lot more humorous and childish due to the small insignificant things that the characters are arguing about, although they too have a serious point to make.
I find “ telephone conversation” so absorbing that it strangely makes me want to know more. Does the man find somewhere to stay? Is he mistreated again due to his race? During the poem I feel a lot more for him than any of the characters out of “Not my best side”, which I must say was more entertaining to read and I would also like to see how things turned out. After studying these two poems I have decided that there are many ways in which they portray a feeling of disappointment and judgement, mainly through a good use of the English language which establishes a great sense of the troubles that each of the characters are going through, and also the troubles that society may put individuals through.
By David Hughes