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04/01/07. LO: To explore how McMillan uses imagery and structure to communicate emotions related to the loss of his mother. Appealing to the Senses. Touch . Sound . Visual. Less revealing – makes reader curious over significance of the date.

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04 01 07


LO: To explore how McMillan uses imagery and structure to communicate emotions related to the loss of his mother.

appealing to the senses
Appealing to the Senses





Less revealing – makes reader curious over significance of the date.

This date is ‘seared on the poet’s mind’ but not the reader’s. Death of mother is revealed towards end of poem.


Also, it becomes another ‘line in the poem’ that ‘retracts’ and ‘reflects’ the poem.





Personification suggests violent awakening


Metaphor for dark night

The telephoneshatters the night’s dark glass. A

I’m suddenly awake in the new year air B

And in the moment it takes a life to pass A

From waking to sleeping I feel you there. B

Lack of capital letter shows no cause to celebrate – his father died at similar time of year in 2001

We’re all vulnerable to death

Juxtapose – he wakes, she ‘sleeps’


An event that they were expecting, but still a shock

Enjambment = slower pace

My brother’s voice that sounds like mine C

Gives me the news I already knew. D

Outside a milk float clinks and shines C

And a litplane drones in the night’s dark blue, D

Like he told himself about his mother

Suggests early morning

  • Positive aural images, suggests:
  • Early morning
  • Or he’s been up all night
  • Or, that life continues

Repeated references to light reflect positivity in light of mother’s death

Juxtaposed with negative image of ‘drones’


Aggressive verbs and adjectives reflects raw emotions

And I feel the tears slap my torn face; E

The light clicks on. I rub my eyes. F

I’m trapped inside that empty space E

You float in when your mother dies. F

He now fills the place of his parents. Generations dying, sense that he’s next in line.

Caesura increases the tension.

It happens to us all. ‘float’ suggests gentle, natural transition to fill the space of our parents; to be the next to die.


However, it doesn’t end as it carries on. Passage of time continues, with becoming granddad

Rhyming couplet fits traditional form

Parents dying

Feeling that the story ends just here, G

The stream dried up, the smashed glass clear. G

Oxymoron – forces reader to consider meaning.

‘stream’ signifies continuity/ passage of time. ‘drying up’ links to his feeling of something ‘ending’. Or possibly his tears ending.

Links to line 1. Dark glass of night ‘smashed’ by the telephone. ‘Clear’ signals he realises it doesn’t ‘just end there’. Leaving more positive ending to poem.

relationships with parents about the passage of time about families about parents
Relationships - with parents; about the passage of time, about families, about parents.


  • Loose sonnet form (for his mother she said she liked ‘proper poems that rhymed’ so he wrote this for her after her death.)
  • 14 lines but divided into stanzas – perhaps to reflect separation from mother and son.
  • Regular rhyme fits the traditional sonnet form – apart from line 5 and 7, which could suggest speaker’s disorientation. Also strict shape reflects his connection with his mother.
essay question
Essay question

How does the poet use structure and imagery to convey his feelings about the news of his mother’s death?

  • To understand the ways in which McMillan has used imagery and structure to explore emotions experienced on the loss of his mother;
  • To engage with the way time seems to stand still and the accentuation of the senses so that they are more acute.
compare to
Compare to…

… another poem which uses brief, yet striking images and sounds.

… another poem which relates to relationships with parents