To Robert Gray no point of detail can be too insignificant.

The strength in his poetry arises from a minutely fastidious attention to the facts of physical existence, and from an equally fussy concern for accuracy of language, and for the effects which can be achieved with it. ‘A labourer’ and ‘Flames and dangling wire’ explores and compares his most commonly used themes, techniques and the generated moods. His poetry is almost subliminal; he might not express in it in the context, but it’s automatically referenced to many things he states. Poems have their differences and similarities, but Gray’s unique style is deep and strong. 'Flames and dangling wire' is a moralistic poem in which Robert Gray warns the reader about the consequences of change. Change in our society which has affected the animals and the environment. The first few lines of ‘Flames and dangling wire’ are almost subtle and yet strong statement about where he is and what he sees. “Approaching the dump. All the air wobbles” suggests disturbing and unsettling tone in which he looks at. Gray might look at this one particular dump, but he links each line with sincerity and the importance of the vast situation. Gray explored large concepts in this poem while maintaining a small view of the situation. Gray isn’t trying to depress his tone, but rather, he’s comparing a lot of common things to sublime objects which creates a troubling mood. Mood changes are common in his poetry, as he sees a goal or resolution to any distressing theme. ‘A labourer’ gives a message of life. Not always a positive one, but it shows the hardships faced by one labourer in a rural society. From the beginning of the poem “he goes out early, before work, half asleep” it is understood that the labourer isn’t satisfied nor does he enjoy his everyday routine. Every single detail goes towards the disinclined approach of his work. The labourer might not like it, but he’s used to it, and when Gray writes “bone smooth axe” it becomes clear. The morning is suddenly not so fresh, his footsteps and actions make it dull and resilient. “Now he sinks to where it is” protests his movement and motivation. But this mood is interrupted during the end; where he sits ‘reluctantly’ to obtain his prize to see that the work paid off for his son. Techniques used by the poem ultimately help set the tone and themes expressed. Gray can never use too little of emotive language. Words such as “the air wobbles”, “the smell is huge” and “blasting the mouth dry” give the reader a powerful insight to the subject and relate it with even more powerful concepts. The emotion created with this technique draws attention to that certain object and emphasizes the view of the poet. Emotion is an essential part of Gray’s poetry because the atmosphere generated helps the themes and tone to get through. It has thoroughly helped in getting the message through in ‘Flames and dangling wire’. When he writes “the smell is huge”, it’s almost creating an illusion to give the smell a size and at the same time the negative effect of the smell. Gray uses these emotive words to create a negative and sublime poem. ‘A labourer’ has extensively used emotive language to engage us into someone’s daily routine. The movements are dull and create a depressing mood. From the beginning of the poem, it is made clear that this is a job the labourer doesn’t want to do by “He goes out early, before work, half asleep.” Gray uses this type of language to give objects a still and rested image, but at the same time, create a mood and dull character out of them. The similarity here is the way and why he uses emotive language for his subjects. Because of the emotive language, the mood is deep and the message is clearly seen, for example “and the new tiled roofs encroaching about” describes urban sprawl and it was achieved by the emotion used. Poetry needs to provoke thought, and Gray explicitly shows that in all his poems. The figurative imagery used in ‘Flames and dangling wire’ mostly relates to

change. The use of this technique provides some area to think about the concept he is expressing. When he writes “…as the turtle moves on the Galapagos shore” he relates the animals as being separated and unique from the idea of Darwin’s experiments. Using a simple relation, Gray portrayed the dump as where change in everything is taking place. The animals would be different to any other place, and would inhabit what is required to live in waste and destruction. This isn’t used to prove the adaptation, but to further explain the change our environment has gone through. The imagery is set like a riddle, and in result, makes the mood and theme stronger. The same technique is found in ‘A labourer’ when he expresses the reluctance of his everyday life and actions. “Roosters scream” gives the reader a look and feel into the struggling and destructive nature of the text. It doesn’t only explain the thought of the labourer, but also the environment and the struggle. Both poems explored an impact on the environment, but ‘A labourer’ is more inclined towards analysing and monitoring the hardships and common routine behind a hard job. During the end, it is learnt that he does it for his son, and after a days work, he sits, for breakfast. This explores philosophical views on life, and the sad truth about the inequality of society. Figurative imagery provided a very strong image to look and think into. Similes relate Gray’s ideas to our real understanding of the world. This is his most used technique and is found throughout each and ever poem. The only difference is what he compares it to. Gray has used similes in ‘Flames and dangling wire’ to show our waste, destruction and relation to previous times and ideas. He writes “and we come to a landscape of tin cans, of cars like skulls” to show that cars are now the dead material that pollutes the city. Skulls have no life, and that is exactly shown when he compares the old and abandoned cars. The main point he likes to make with all his similes is the small similarity with objects around us, and our lives and the way we live. ‘Flames and dangling wire’ has many other examples of similes such as “the rims beneath his eyes are wet as an oyster…” which shows the mans feeling, but comparing it to something that is doomed and is about to be caught and killed. Similes are evident everywhere in his poems and help create the negative mood he hopes for and create a mood change he wishes for. Gray starts of in the morning, when someone should be sleeping, but the labourer starts work. The atmosphere has already been created and now it’s evident, he does it everyday and he’s doing it because he has to. “The logs are like rolled roasts” relates the hard work for food, and gives the reader an insight to what he is working for. He works for food, in the morning mist with the changes in his mind. ‘A labourer’ had very few similes, but the poem was indented to show the experience of a hard working man, not the comparison of change. With this simile, it made clear throughout the poem that he works for something, and he is concerned for his surroundings. The change and experience in our environment is changing, and this is Gray’s main point of view. He explores the change and destruction of our habitat when he goes to the dump. He sees the change rather than exploring it and with the use of techniques and the right themes, he manages to get the message across, that we might have destroyed, and there will be a day when there will be nothing left, but one thing will stay, and that’s the mess and beauty we leave behind. “Driven like stakes into the earth” gives a forceful and deep meaning to how we destroy the environment. Gray seems to like the mood change, as it explores both sides and draws a strong and meaningful conclusion. ‘Flames and dangling wire’ furthermore has given us an insight to what shame we should be in. ‘A labourer’ is more about the experience of a hard working man, in which there is a reward. The rural change is subtly described when “roosters scream”. There are more

similarities than differences, as Gray’s main aim is to see through his eye, and express the meaning behind someplace or someone. He does this with similes, emotive language and figurative imagery. The only difference is the theme and the way he compares one thing to another. At the end, ‘A labourer’ and ‘Flames and dangling wire’ explore concepts and express a negative culture. Gray’s techniques are unique and express way beyond emotional thoughts which he uses uniquely in all his poetry.

Darshil Shah