Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home Essay

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home by Craig Raine

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home by Craig Raine is poem full of symbolism, which is used by the author to attract the readers attention to the unusual characteristics of the usual things.

The entire poem consists of colorful and whimsical metaphors, which describe usual and habitual things which surround us in our everyday life. It takes time and requires imagination in order to “guess” what the author means under certain metaphors of his poem. The title of the poem is very symbolic. Only after the reading of the poem it becomes evident that Martin, who writeŃ‹ this letter is not a person from Earth since he does not know basic things and basic names of the things, which make our reality. Raine describes our reality through the eyes of an alian, who does not know the names of the things and their functions. What is notable, the author treats all things described like objects, which possess thoughts and feelings. Everything we read about in the poem, including books, phones, cars and so on is described like living objects.

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Rich with metaphors and symbolism, this poem creates a unique world instead of our habitual reality. First three stanzas speak about the book. The author compares them to birds, “Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings / and some are treasured for their markings - / they cause the eyes to melt / or the body to shriek without pain” (Raine, lines 1-4). Caxtons, which he uses for common name is a name of a first publisher. Next several stanzas speak about a fog. The author does not name it directly, and describes it as a time, when “Mist is when the sky is tired of flight and rests its soft machine on ground” (Raine, lines 7-8). Rain he compares to television. Next stanzas speak about a car, naming it a “Model T”. Raine gives a car magic power and according to him it is able to free the world for movement. The readers can guess that Raine speaks about the car when they read about locks inside and its ability to move. Speaking about watches he descirbes them as the very time, which is either tided to hand or put into box.

Tenth, eleventh and twelfth stanzas speak about the phone. Raine calls it a “haunted apparatus” and names different way people use in order to make it keep silence. “If the ghost cries, they carry it / to their lips and soothe it to sleep / with sounds” (Raine, lines 21-23). Bathroom is compared to suffering room. This metaphor creates a very unexpected connection between its true function and the one, described by the author. He makes very good and exact observations about children and grown ups, who use this room, but gives other function to it. “Adults go to a punishment room / with water but nothing to eat. / They lock the door and suffer the noises / alone” (Raine, lines 26-27). This unexpected twist of the meaning makes it difficult for the readers to understand the true name of the “suffering room” described by the author. In last two stanzas Raine describes dreaming like “reading about themselves”. He knows that people usually see themselves and their close ones in their dreams and speaks about it in his last stanzas.

The poem is a very skillful interpretation of common objects and mechanisms, which surround us every day. Here the author perfectly passes to the readers feelings of a person, who does not know true functions of the mechanisms described and creates his own explanations to the world around him. Knowing nothing about the world around him, the author of the letter explains what he sees and the readers can very vividly see that reality and objects, which surround them, can have much more than one interpretation. Most of the people spend little time thinking about things, which surround them. Raine not only reflects about things around him, but also creates new interpretations. New vision of the reality breaks our usual ideas about things and objects and that is one of the main functions of this poem. Raine achieves this effect due to unexpected use of metaphors and symbols. He breaks usual connections between the subjects and creates new ones.

The poem goes deeper than describing our everyday life as a succession of bright and unusual metaphors. Raine wants the readers to understand that paying to much attention to the mechanisms around us, we miss an important part of our life.

Routing and busy lifestyle prevents people from real world, which became for them only a combination of symbols of different things. Usually people do not think about time, they look at their watches and hurry up. They do not think about their journey when they sit into the car, they think only about the destination. Raine does just an opposite. He switches readers’ focus to the functions of different objects around us and pays no attention to their forms and names. As he wrote himself in one of the interviews, “I’m not interested in ingratiating myself with the reader as an entirely sensitive, right-minded, liberal poet who could figure in the New Statesman and not shame anybody. I’m not interested in writing poems which end with thumping statements; I’m interested in making objects. I think poems are machines in the sense that Baudelaire called Delacroix’s paintings machines; they have to work as artistic objects. (Haffenden 185.) That is the main purpose of Raine’s writing – to make artistic objects out of mechanisms, which surround people in their everyday life. In his poem Raine proves that any mechanism can be turned to an artistic object and he seems the main function of an artist in creating this new connections between different mechanisms and reality. These unexpected connections brake usual way of thinking and make people see unusual sides of the usual things. That is one of the main function of an art in general – creating another perspective of the reality and passing it to people – and Raine does a perfect job creating this different perspective.
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