FeliksSkrzynecki Personal Pronoun and familial personal descriptive ‘gentle.’ suggests affection. My Gentle Father Kept pace only with the Joneses Of his own mind’s making – Loved his garden like an only child, Spent years walking its perimeter From sunrise to sleep. Alert, brisk and silent, He swept its paths Ten times around the world. Joneses/Society Free from stigma Simile/hyperbole Sibilance Sibilance The use of hyperbole at the end of stanza one links to Immigrant Experience.
FeliksSkrzynecki Vivid memories of a father from the perspective of an awed child. Hands darkened From cement, fingers with cracks Like the sods he broke, I often wondered how he existed On five or six hours’ sleep each night – Why his arms didn’t fall off From the soil he turned And tobacco he rolled. Simile Personal Pronoun Reminder that the immigrant experience is one of first and second generation. Hyperbole There is the strong suggestion of a cultural and generational divide. Task: Find an example of a text with an immigrant experience that mirrors this one. You should find something to show the difference and dissonance between first and second generations.
FeliksSkrzynecki His Polish friends Always shook hands too violently I thought … FeliksSkrzynecki, That formal address I never got used to. Talking, they reminisced About farms where paddocks flowered With corn and wheat, Horses they bred, pigs They were skilled in slaughtering. Five years of forced labour in Germany Did not dull the softness of his blue eyes. Cultural Exclusivity Ellipsis to create stream of consciousness Generational Alienation Historical Context Link to ‘Gentle.’ Note: the use of enjambment throughout the poem. Suggest the effect of the use of enjambment in lines 9-10.
FeliksSkrzynecki I never once heard Him complain of work, the weather Or pain, When twice They dug cancer out of his foot, His comment was: “but I’m alive.” Stoicism Immediacy through speech Note: The tone of admiration in this stanza. Where else do we see this tone of admiration. You may also notice that whilst there is the suggestion of respect and affection this leaves the persona excluded from the father’s experiences and in a way incidentally and accidentally alienated from the father’s world. Task: List all incidents like this in the text.
FeliksSkrzynecki Growing older, I Remember words he taught me, Remnants of a language I inherited unknowingly – The curse that damned A crew-cut, grey-haired Department clerk Who asked me in dancing-bear grunts: “Did your father ever attempt to learn English?” Return of Personal pronoun Memories and legacy – suggestion of loss and lament. Emotive alienation through ‘curse.’ Satirical representation of an unwelcoming society. Bureaucracy is scorned here. Task: What is the effect of direct speech at the end of this stanza?
FeliksSkrzynecki Cyclical return to home On the back steps of his house, Bordered by golden cypress, Lawns – geraniums younger Than both parents My father sits out the evening With his dog, smoking, Watching stars and street lights come on, Happy as I have never been. Note: the existence outside Australian society. Shunning of policy of assimilation Task: What does this last line connote about the conflict between the migrant experience of first and second generation migrants?
FeliksSkrzynecki School education ‘kicks in’ and affects the ability to connect with his parents language. At thirteen Stumbling over tenses in Caesar’s Gallic War, I forgot my first Polish word. He repeated it so I never forgot. After that, like a dumb prophet, Watched me pegging my tents Further and further south of Hadrian’s Wall. Feliks corrects the persona at first and then eventually concedes defeat. Hadrian’s Wall: This is a reference to the wall built on the English and Scottish border by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. This is used as a metaphor by skrzynecki to suggest the alienation of the son from the father as he becomes more embroiled in the dominant culture and forgets his parent’s heritage.
Questions • There are emotions conveyed regarding the immigrant experience throughout this poem. How are they conveyed by the author to encompass both the experience of Feliks and his son? • How does this experience convey a sense of belonging or exclusion/alienation? • How does the use of non-native plants such as cyprus and geraniums metaphorically convey a sense of belonging/not belonging?