1 First Stanza: "weather evocative as scent /
the romance of dark stormclouds / in big
skies over the low wide river / [indentation]
of long shadows and longer shafts of light"
1.1 The first stanza starts off with intense visual
imagery of the landscape - alluding to the
more specific and fleeting objects the
narrator mentions in the poem.
1.2 "scent" -
visual with the
1.2.1 Even the sense of smell is
able to transport the
narrator back in time. Even
the weather is able to
trigger memories for the
1.3 "romance of dark
stormclouds" - contrasting
connotations of romance and
dark stormclouds. Also it is
quite interesting that
Glasgow is described as
romantic in this case as the
city is not usually affiliated
1.4 "big skies over the low wide river" -
"big", "low" and "wide" evoke the sense
of awe and nostalgia the narrator
experiences as she looks at the
photographs. The first stanza is almost
setting the scene for the rest of the
1.5 "[indentation] of long shadows and longer
shafts of light"
1.5.1 The indentation creates a pause when reading and
hence emphasises the length of the shadows. This
further's Locchead's goal of making the first stanza
have an atmosphere and aura that evokes the
mammoth, cinematic scene that sets the city in the
2 Poem's Background:
Much of Locchead's
poetry is inspired by
her Scottish heritage.
The old photographs
that the title refer to
transport the reader
back to a past
ultimately the poem
reflects on the
elusory passage of
3 Form and Structure: Free
structure) and six stanzas of
3.1 The poem's syntax is unbroken and
has an atmosphere of breathlessness
to it - connecting to how the poem is
looking back at the past. Enjambment
is used within and between stanzas in
order to imbue the poem with this
sort of breathlessness.
3.1.1 Synaesthesia is used extensively in the
poem - especially sight in order to evoke
the other senses, in order to emphasise
the sensory nature of the poem. This
poem links well to the theme of art /
perception versus reality in this way.
4 Second Stanza: "of smoke fabulous film-noir
stills of Central Station of freezing fog silvering
the chilled, stilled parks of the glamorous past
where drops on a rainmate are sequins in the
lamplight, in the black-and-white"
4.1 Enjambment has been used between
the first and second stanza in order to
allude to the passage of time.
4.2 "smoke fabulous film-noir stills"
4.2.1 "smoke" alludes to the
visual and olfactory
senses which again help
to enhance the poem's
appeal to the senses.
4.2.2 "fabulous film-noir" alludes to the past
glamour of Glasgow ("glamorous past"
later in the stanza also does this) and the
allusion to the 1940-50 genre of film called
Film Noir, which was stylised black and
white cinematography helps the reader
visualize the photographs further.
4.3 alliteration of "f" and assonance of "i"
throughout the stanza - ("fabulous
film-noir", "freezing fog", "chilled, stilled"
4.3.1 Makes the aural nature of the poem richer, alluding
to the past glamour of Glasgow.
4.4 Neologism of "silvering"
adds to the atmosphere
4.5 The "sequins" on the "rainmate" make the
ordinary object (a rainmate is something
that protects a woman's hair from the
rain) seem glamorous. Even something so
mundane is glamorous in the fascinating,
sophisticated photographs of Glasgow.
5 Third Stanza: "your young, still-lovely
mother laughs, the hem of her
sundress whipped up by a wind on a
beach before you were born"
5.1 Enjambment between the second and third
stanzas seems to evoke a sense of nostalgia
- as if the narrator is moving his / her eyes
around the photograph spotting different
objects which evoke memories.
5.2 The second stanza, which
depicts the dark streets of
Glasgow transitions to a windy
beach and someone's mother.
220.127.116.11 Invites the reader to visualize their mother in the
past. This sort of elusive thought connects with the
idea of the elusive passage of time.
5.3 "whipped up by a wind on a beach before you were born."
5.3.1 Alliteration of the "w" and "b" sounds
reflect the sense of touch that it is
6 Fourth Stanza: all the Dads in hats are making for Central
at five past five in the snow, in the rain, in the sudden
[i]what-a-scorcher[i], in the smog, their belted dark
overcoats white-spattered by the starlings
6.1 "all the Dads in hats"
6.1.1 Re-links to the idea of parents in their youth, in
the past, just like how it is described in the previous
6.1.2 "in the snow, in the rain in the sudden
[i]what - a - scorcher[i]/in the smog."
18.104.22.168 suddenly there is description of men heading to the train after work
6.2 "overcoats white-spattered by the starlings"
6.2.1 "The reference to the starlings in the final line of this verse alludes to the poem The Starlings of
George Square by Edwin Morgan. Lochhead was tremendously influenced and inspired by the work
of Morgan and this reference is a little homage to him. In this humorous poem, Morgan describes the
nuisance created by the birds that flocked around George Square. Although their excrement and
noise was a perpetual annoyance, Morgan finds something uplifting and joyous about why these
birds loved our urban cities so much. Lochhead’s reference alludes to the nuisance caused by the
birds by commenting on the white-spattered overcoats of the men in the city while also cleverly
changing the setting from Central Station to George Square." - BBC Bitesize
7 Fifth Stanza: "starlings swarming in that perfect and permanent
cloud above what was never really this photograph but always
all the passing now and noise and stink and smoky breath of
7.1 The starlings become the main
focus of this penultimate stanza
7.2 There is alliteration in the description of the
"starlings swarming/in that perfect and
7.2.1 The alliteration seems to allude to how the
birds' presence gives the narrator comfort in
that their permanence in the scene of
Glasgow helps to counter the inexorable
passage of time.
7.3 "was/never really this
photograph/but always all the
7.3.1 "... she seems to assert that photographs can only
capture a fleeting, transient moment. They can
never truly convey the constant flux and change
of time - something that is elusive and impossible
to grasp." - BBC Bitesize
7.4 "The passing now and noise
and stink and smoky breath of
7.4.1 Seems to provide comfort to the narrator as the
olfactory sense - the sense of smell, and smell of the
smoke is something that is tangible and something
that she can rely on.
8 Sixth Stanza: "wee boays, a duchess,
bunting, there’s a big launch on the
Clyde and that boat is yet to sail"
8.1 Lochhead offers us one final image as she describes a
ship launch on the banks of the Clyde.
8.2 "wee boays, a duchess,
8.2.1 The festive, convivial mood of
the day in the line is captured,
but the elusive nature of the
passage of time is again
8.3 While in the photo, "that boat is yet to sail", in reality, many
years have passed since that day.
8.3.1 There is something both
hopeful and wistful in the closing
lines, feelings that are often provoked
when we look at old photographs.