Choose any two poems you have studied that you feel give you a strong sense of the places they are set in.
In my opinion, both ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost and ‘Back In The Playground Blues’ by Adrian Mitchell evoke a strong sense of place. However, it is my view that Adrian Mitchell makes a stronger impact on readers in terms of evoking a strong sense of place through his adroit use of poetic techniques.
In the poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ we are presented with an autumnal setting ‘a yellow wood’. Frost describes how he has reached an intersection as the road ‘diverged in two’. This road and juncture that Frost has reached becomes symbolic of life’s journey and the choices that we make in life. He uses the diverging road as a metaphor in order to convey the difficulty of making decisions. He describes how he ‘looked down one as far as I could/To wear it bent in the undergrowth’ but decided to take the other road because it was ‘grassy and wanted wear’. Frost creates a tranquil setting. We can visualise the early morning scene in the undisturbed wood ‘in leaves no step had trodden black’. He employs repetition of the metaphor at the end of poem to convey his satisfaction with his choice:
‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference’.
However, I think Adrian Mitchell’s portrayal of the playground is much more effective than Frost’s autumnal wood. Mitchell is far more effective in bringing to life the brutality of the playground. Mitchell does this far better than Frost because of his effective use of alliteration, assonance, hyperbole, repetition and evocative imagery that appeals to the senses. Mitchell employs these techniques effectively in order to convey the brutality of bullying.
He uses alliteration in the opening line to conjure up the image of the playground ‘It was broken black tarmac’ and we are told that it was surrounded by ‘a high fence all around’. These words are repeated in the second line to emphatically highlight the prison-like feel of the place. It is a place that one feels trapped in. He employs hyperbole in the second stanza to depict the vulnerability of the child: ‘Got a mother and a father, they’re a thousand years away’. This effectively highlights how helpless the boy Adrian felt. He employs the visual image of the ‘Killing Ground’ to convey the cruelty and barbarity of the playground.
In the third stanza, Mitchell makes adroit use of repetition to underscore the senseless reasons as to why children are bullied. The repetition of ‘you get it’ draws our attention to the physical and emotion hurt caused by bullying. We are told that some people are bullied because they are Jewish; black; chicken; big and fat; small and he concludes that you can ‘get it’ apparently ‘For any damn thing at all’. The sadistic cruelty of the playground is cleverly evoked in his description of how the so-called rulers of the playground tear the legs of a poor defenceless beetle. The horror of this place remains with the reader long after reading the poem. Mitchell chillingly describes how he has ‘never found/Any place in my life worse than The Killing Ground’. I feel that this poem would strongly resonate with anyone who had ever be made a victim through bullying.