Conflict Poetry

Rioters in Belfast
Rioters in Belfast

Analysis of the Poem

The use of the word confetti in the title of the poem is ironic as confetti it is used for celebrations, such as weddings. It is used, however in this instance, to refer to the nails in IRA bombs of the time.

The first word ‘suddenly’ gives the poem an initial panic and immediacy.

The poem is in two stanzas possibly to represent the two sides of the conflicts in Northern Ireland. The break up of lines could also be seen to represent a breakdown of society in the country or the physical destruction conflict creates. This idea is supported by the enjambment between lines 16 and 17 ('What is / My Name?'), which could represent the breaking of reason as the structure is broken. It could also represent the breakdown of logic from structure to panic. This presentation enables Carson, the poet, to emulate the confusion caused by bomb explosions such as the one in the poem. The multiple interpretations of the stanza layout shows how there are many interpretations in wars themselves, questions of all description would be running through the character's head and this portrays the psychological as well as physical confusion, bomb explosions cause.

In lines 11 and 12 ('I know this labyrinth so well - Balaklava, Raglan, Inkerman, Odessa Street -') the writer discusses the labyrinth of streets, each a real Belfast street, but all named after a previous battle against Britain, symbolizing the inescapable nature and prevalence of war. Furthermore, the labyrinth, an idea taken from Greek mythology, makes reference to the evil hidden in each street, via unknown bombs and the dangers lurking.

In line 13 the rhetorical question ‘Why can’t I escape?’ refers to both from the character's dangerous physical location, providing immediacy and present context as well as from conflict in general, and feelings of helplessness.

In line 14 ‘Dead end again’, could be seen to represent lack of political thinking and restricted freedom of thought. War never leads to anything, the poet is saying.

The extended metaphor throughout the poem is punctuation – ‘A fusillade of question-marks’ (line 18), ‘An asterisk (which is normally used in language to highlight a mistake) on the map’ (line 5), ‘Trying to complete a sentence' (line 7) and ‘Blocked with stops and colons’ (lines 9 and 10). This could be done for one of the following reasons:

  1. Communication has been seen to have broken down between the two sides, hence punctuation is no longer required, when they do not speak.
  2. A loss of understanding on both sides' parts.
  3. Loss of language and the ability to discuss things anymore, hence why they are fighting.
  4. To highlight extreme emotions as this is the role of punctuation, to add dramatic effect.
  5. To represent the dramatic events in the poem as punctuation serves to create dramatic events in text.
  6. Language is being used wrongly to curse and to attack one another.
  7. Carson cannot complete a sentence since force is used as communication has broken down. There are no words to punctuate.


There is no rhyming structure throughout the poem. It is considered a poem too unstable for a rhyming scheme to be appropriate. However, the two key sounds f and k are repeated throughout as a way of employment of sound imagery. For example, the repeated k sound could represent the bomb explosions or the police fighting back against the surging tide of rioting.


The poem begins with exclamation marks in the first line ('Suddenly as the riot squad moved in it was raining exclamation marks') and ends in the final line, line 18, with question marks ('A fusillade of question marks'). It seems an unusual way to progress. For example in many essays: a question at the beginning is answered by the end. In this poem it is the complete opposite. This shows the topsy-turvy, volatile, back-to-front world that war creates. Furthermore it returns to the ideas that it is impossible to communicate in these circumstances.

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Comments 3 comments

whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 3 years ago from United States

This is an interesting poem, so full of intensity and action. The use of punctuation is remarkable and unique in its format. Thank you for sharing his volatile piece. whonu


To Start Again profile image

To Start Again 3 years ago

Interesting adding in the analysis of the poem. Lends a hand to the reader who may be unsure of what is hidden within its words.


Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 3 years ago from Minnesota

Incredible poem with such thoughtful images. Thanks for the informative analysis.

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