The first poem we studied was ‘Strongman’ by Tony Curtis. The poem was about a father and son relationship and the father’s subsequent death. In the first verse the son talks about his memories of when he was a child and used to play with his father. He describes him as being superhuman and you can tell by the description and the way he talks about his father that he looks up to him. In the second verse the son is saying that his father has changed from being very strong to being weak and now he has to look after him.
He describes him as being like ‘plywood’, which is very weak whereas in the first verse he says he has a ‘chest like a barrel’, so he is now much weaker than he used to be. The mood in the first verse is a happy mood as the son talks about his father playing with him and his brothers. This mood is shown by the writer saying, ‘home from work, would stretch his arms and hang his five sons from them, turning like a roundabout’. He is being described as a roundabout, which is a fun thing for children.
In the second verse it is a sad mood because his father is dying and is weak, this is shown by the line, ‘slipped under a frame of bones like plywood’. This suggests his fathers bone have become like plywood, which is saying they are very weak. The poet wants to share with us that everybody gets old and weaker. He is telling us that the relationship between father and son has swapped. Their has been a switch in roles as the father used to be the strong one who would look after his son but now he has become weak so his son is now looking after him and having to do everything for him.
Detailed Analysis The title ‘Strongman’ is effective as it is relevant to the poem. It is relevant as in the poem the son is talking about how much physical strength his dad had. He says things like, ‘turning like a roundabout’, which suggests he was big and turned as a roundabout would, which is with a lot of power. He also says his father has a ‘chest like a barrel’, which gives the impression he is broad and solid and these words are associated with the word strong. Verse one emphasises the father’s physical strength by giving the impression that he is a superhero.
It also says he has a ‘chest like a barrel’ and that he is a carpenter. This suggests he is like wood, which is a very strong and the metaphor of wood is used again when the writer says, ‘with a neck that was like holding on to a tree’. He is describing him as being like wood, which makes him seem very broad and solid. The wood metaphor has been extended in the second verse, but this time the father has become weaker and now the son looking after him so the writer describes his bones as ‘a frame of bones like plywood’, which is a weak type of wood.
It is the ‘final hour’ and his son is having to do everything for him. ‘To lift him to the lavatory’. The son, who was once lifted by his father, is now having to lift his father just to go to the lavatory. He is helpless, and his son knows that so he says to him, ‘No trouble, no trouble Dad’. He is also reassuring him, direct speech. The last line is very emotional and also effective as it uses the second person. ‘You said’. It is as though somebody is relating it and by using ‘you’ instead of I is more effective. The ending is also emotional and sad as ‘he died in the cradle of your arms’.
It makes you think of how huge the sheer contrast from the first stanza where his father is extremely physically strong to the second stanza where the son is having to do every little thing for him and then he dies right in front of him, in his arms. Response I think the poem was very effective and it made it easier to understand more about its themes. It did this by showing the huge difference between the two stanzas and also by the great description it gave of when the father was very broad and powerful to when he was old and helpless.
It also helped by showing that the father and son have swapped positions in life. I think the most important line or sentence was, ‘slipped under a frame of bones like plywood’. I think this is the most important line because when you read in the first verse about him being so physically strong and using wood to describe him and then you see that he describes him as a ‘frame of bones like plywood’ you really see the difference in the father from the first stanza to the second!