Choose a poem in which the creation of mood or atmosphere is an important feature.
Show how the poet creates the mood or atmosphere, and discuss its importance in your appreciation of the poem as a whole.
A poem which creates a particular mood is ‘War Photographer’ by Carol Ann Duffy. The poem is about …. The poet makes use of word choice, imagery and structure to initially create the mood and then to show the various things the photographer reflects on: the horrific things he has seen, how his home life compares to his working environment and how he feels about his job.
At the start of the poem, the photographer is in his dark room where the poet creates a sombre reflective mood. In stanza one the photographer is “In his darkroom… finally alone”. This could have the meaning of self isolation because he is in a room by himself and not wanting to be disturbed. The word choice of ‘finally’ here suggests the poet feels some relief to be alone in his darkroom. It could also be argued that the ‘darkroom’ could be a metaphor for his head, his mind and the dark thoughts therein. The mood is one of sadness during the development of these photographs because they are mostly gruesome scenes that he has taken while spending time over there. In fact the undeveloped spools are referred to as “spools of suffering.” These spools are filled with images of immense pain and the photographer sets them out in “ordered rows.” This could symbolise the mass graves of dead people he has seen in warzones but could also show an attempt by him to create order from chaos. This effectively creates a sombre and reflective mood and helps the reader appreciate the difficulty of the man’s job where he longs to get away from the warzone and spend some time in safety, alone and consequently ends up isolated from others.
The photographer begins in the second stanza to reflect on the horrific things he has witnessed in the warzone – this continues the serious and sombre mood of the poem. The photographer thinks back to the warzone and contrasts it with “rural England” where there are “fields which don’t explode beneath the feet/of running children in a nightmare heat.” This phrase and specifically the word choice of ‘don’t’indicates a place where these scenarios do occur. Where people are seriously threatened by explosions and are continuously faced with the dangerous situations and exposed to regular violence.
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The poem opens in the intimate, tranquil setting of the photographer's darkroom.
He is compared to a priest and there is a definite sense of ritual in the way he develops his film.
He sets out the film: in perhaps in an attempt to restore order to the chaotic images contained within them.
He handles them with the same respect with which a priest would prepare for communion and there is a definite spirituality to this process.
This religious imagery is effective in not only conveying the dedication the photographer feels towards his occupation but also because, like a priest, he too is often exposed to death and suffering.
The of the darkroom has connotations of the light that burns continuously in Catholic churches to symbolise the presence of Christ and also of blood– a sight that the photographer must be all too familiar with.
Aside from the function of the light to help process the films and protect the images he has taken, there is more than a suggestion that the darkroom is a place of sanctuary for the photographer, just as a religious or spiritual person may look for the same kind of solace in a church had they been confronted with the same horrors that the photographer must endure.
However, instead of preparing for mass, the photographer is developing images of war– evidence of inhuman behaviour which only serves to contradict the fundamental teachings of the Church.
The final line of the stanza ends in a list of the places where he has recorded images of conflict.
Duffy's deliberate use of full stops here helps to “fix” the images – the final part of the printing process - into the mind of the reader.
The stanza ends with the quotation which comes from the New Testament and reinforces the religious imagery as well as emphasising the fragility of life.