In this poem, Armitage explores an incident when he had his ear pierced as a teenager, and his father's shocked reaction to it. This poem is about coming of age, asserting your own identity, and seems to show he has a bad relationship with his father. Actually Armitage shows closeness to his father: he can easily create a sense of his father's voice, which he does using a lot of colloquial language.
Armitage takes the earring out, years later, feeling that there's no need to be shocking now. The ear piercing is a rite of passage, or ordeal: the poet has hurt his own flesh which 'weeps'. The physical wound links to his father's upset - that his own flesh (his son) has done this.
This is an essay written to help a student prepare for the OCR GCSE English Literature poetry exam. It's not finished, and is about 350 words long - a side and a half of medium handwriting.
Quotations are underlined. Technical terms are highlighted. Find a list of technical terms in poetry, aka the poetry revision list, here.
Do not cut and paste this and hand it in to your teacher, please!
What does the poem tell us about relationships?
The poet narrates a true experience with his own father from when he was a teenager. In the final stanza the poet looks back, aged ‘twenty nine’. The poet marks the time shift by shifting from past into present tense. This poem is a nostalgic look back at a defining moment from Armitage's childhood, his relationship with his father and how he feels about it now.
However, his son can almost read his father's thoughts, which suggests a kind of closeness: ‘my father thought it bloody queer’. ‘bloody queer’ can’t be the way the poet would describe himself, as it seems too harsh and violent. It seems to fit with the colloquial, judgemental phrases that his father uses. The poet is close enough to his father to be able to 'become' him - for these lines in the poem. ‘queer’ is used to condemn something that doesn’t conform. The whole poem is about rebellion.
to be continued...!