Initial Thoughts: Persona could be an adult looking back on their childhood, and reliving a memory at the beach - 'How old are you now?', 'Those older, those shaking hands' adult could be speaking about a child who has died/been kidnapped; 'the child, not in sepia, lives', speaks about child in 3rd person, not 1st the adult looking back at the past regrets something; 'What would you have to say, of all people, to her given the chance? Exactly.'
How is this poem similar to Duffy's other poetry? theme of regret; last lines theme of childhood: adult sees child and is reminded of their childhood theme of memory and loss: person has lost memory, disassociates themselves with the child (it is themselves as a child) - struggling to remember theme of emotional pain: 'Mean Time' = relationship that's gone wrong, time steals things from us, 'Before You Were Mine,' shows feelings evoked from remembering the past
How is this poem different to Duffy's other poetry? time is a barrier/obstacle between person and their memory theme of old age memory is indistinct; not clear - shows narrator's confusion?
There are 5 stanzas in the poem:Stanza 1: 7 linesStanza 2: 12 linesStanza 3: 5 linesStanza 4: 8 linesStanza 5: 14 linesThe random, irregular verse pattern (sections) reflect that memory comes in short, irregular bursts.No set rhythm pattern also reflects the sporadic nature of the narrator's memory, as does the line length being relatively short, with a few longer lines.
poem speaks directly to 'you' (apostrophe) - are they speaking to themselves? the addressee of the apostrophe is portrayed as awkward; 'What would you have to say..." (nothing said) 'Exactly.' very little personal information given about the addressee of the instructions; person cannot remember?
The Title: 'Beachcomber' the title refers to the girl in the poem 'Beachcomber' is slang for a homeless person; perhaps narrator feels homeless without their memory poem recollects a distant past
Stanza 1: first line suggests extreme concentration in order to do something; deep thought, trying to retrieve a memory; 'on the tip of my tongue,' person unable to remember because of old age, a health condition or trauma 'scare yourself' is an unusual idea followed by an almost familiar expression, 'within an inch of the heart' - almost familiarity shows struggle to remember perhaps afraid to lose memory; memories that appear that are unfamiliar must be scary age is referred to directly; 'how old are you now?', like visiting the person in their memory, long time since they have seen each other enjambment to next stanza; thought/sentence unfinished Stanza 2: introduces the subject; the child 'sepia' suggests old photographs, but 'not in sepia' suggests poet is talking about a living child, not a picture; memory loss causes the persona to look back at old photographs to 'prompt' her memory and sees her memories for the first time having a memory box with photographs in it is common on dementia wards 'lives' implies that it is independent of the persona, important to see the child outside of the photograph next line identifies the child as a girl she is placed geographically, on a beach, alone bucket and spade suggest she is occupied, not lonely, information comes to the persona slowly, memory unfolding list of things in bucket show detail persona remembers, Duffy uses lists in her poetry crabs being caught is a childish activity - shows the girl's age in the memory 'don't move' is an instruction for the reader and perhaps themselves, otherwise they will lose the memory, as it is very fragile, like a wild animal they are trying to catch/observe 'trow' = think or believe in Middle English, used by Chaucer in 14th Century, used to show distance between memory and 'you' Stanza 3: another instruction for the reader gets them to focus on clearer recollection, so they can always find the memory; no need to externalise the sound by describing it; hold it firmly in your head image of platinum; metallic and reflective 'Earth seemed to turn away' -play on words, Earth does turn, passing of time; suggests rejection, of the child, writer or reader? something abhorrent is occurring abrupt change from the scene to the child itself Stanza 4: emphasises reason to focus; 'harder' shows concentration return to narrative about child's actions short phrases; real childhood experience being recollected present tense; makes it live listening to the shell is a childish activity Stanza 5: reminder that the child is simple memory 'nearly there' - so near yet so far or so near and no nearer directly addressing 'you', answering on behalf of 'you', elderly person who cannot speak for themselves 'of all people' - nothing in common with the child, no reason to speak to them
Equivocal meanings vagueness in poem demonstrates that memories are vague short and simple words are appropriate for both a child or a person with memory loss questions left unanswered produces frustration and malice key words are given their own lines; isolated
Barrier of time between memory and present - 'Before You Were Mine' unanswered questions; 'The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team', ends on a question, producing frustration and depression Passing of time - dementia patient no longer the child in the photograph Loss/grief - loss of memory Memory - of themselves as a child Direct address - second person pronoun 'you' Mean time - time has robbed patient of memory Regret - not warning their younger self that they are taking their memory for granted