Writing about Poetry. Hotel Room 12 th Floor. Task. Choose a poem which is strongly linked to a specific location. Show how the poet captures the essence of the location and exploits this to explore an important theme. Specific location : New York
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Hotel Room 12th Floor
from foreign places.”
MacCaig’s use of personification here helps to create an impression that the darkness that night time brings is an unwelcome invader, almost like an enemy army. The sense of unease that this brings is compounded by the use of present tense, which creates a sense of danger and immediacy. Midnight is used throughout the poem by MacCaig to symbolise the savagery and propensity to violence that is part of the human condition.
‘Hotel Room 12th Floor’, by Norman MacCaig, depicts one of the world’s most famous locations- the New York skyline. The speaker’s internal monologue creates a picture of modern capitalist society's most famous city, which becomes infected with creeping dread and despair. As the poem progresses, the violence which lies beneath the glitter of the Big Apple becomes increasingly apparent. This helps conveys MacCaig’s fundamental theme: man’s savagery and propensity to violence have never disappeared and are never far away.
At the poem’s outset, MacCaig uses unusual imagery to create a powerful impression of some of New York’s most famous buildings. In the first stanza, the speaker, who is isolated in his hotel room, looks out at the famous skyline and sees a ‘helicopter skirting like a damaged insect’. This original and striking simile is effective because it captures the movement of the helicopter and its size when viewed from a distance. It also makes the helicopter seem insignificant, as this astonishing feat of modern technology is reduced to little more than a fly. This is reinforced through the word choice of ‘damaged’, which suggests something imperfect or broken- much like MacCaig’s view of New York society.
At the start of the poem MacCaig adopts a light-hearted tone, and his powerful use of imagery creates a striking picture of the city during the day, in contrast to the terrors of the night. ‘..helicopter skirting like a damaged insect ..’. This simile creates a light-hearted atmosphere and has a humorous effect on the reader. This is because the helicopter is a huge piece of powerful machinery but MacCaig makes it seem minute. This is in contrast to the next image which is playful to an extent, but also has dark connotations:
”Empire State building, that jumbo size dentist’s drill,”
This metaphor may be conceived as harmless, but to some a dentist’s drill could be their worse fear. Also the fact that it is “jumbo sized” makes it seem terrifying. This gargantuan image overpowers everything it looms over, and would make passers by seem tiny and powerless. This is an example of foreshadowing, which prepares the reader for the steady progression, not just of day to night, but also in the poem from light to a more dark tone. These images bring the city to life, and are in stark contrast to the later images of “blood glazed on the sidewalks.”, but prepare the reader for the night. During the day MacCaig uses playful images and creates on the whole a humorous atmosphere. This is a clear contrast to when MacCaig is describing the events of the night, which he brings to life using more disturbing imagery.