Some Old Photographs

Max Lee
Mind Map by Max Lee, updated more than 1 year ago
Max Lee
Created by Max Lee almost 4 years ago


Some Old Photographs Analysis

Resource summary

Some Old Photographs
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" - connecting the visual with the olfactory.
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 narrator.
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 with romance.
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 poem.
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 photographs.
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 Glasgow, and ultimately the poem reflects on the elusory passage of time.
3 Form and Structure: Free verse (non-rhyming structure) and six stanzas of equal length.
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 of 'richness'
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.
5.2.1 "your young- still-lovely mother laughs ..." 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 appealing to.
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 stanza.
6.1.2 "in the snow, in the rain in the sudden [i]what - a - scorcher[i]/in the smog." 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 George Square"
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 permanent cloud."
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 passing now."
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 George Square"
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, bunting"
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 alluded to.
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.
9 By Max Lee
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