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Republic of Yemen - Taiz Taiz University- Centre for Languages and Translation M.

A English Programme- Third Semester Stylistics

The poem

Half an hour after

by Mark O'Connor From book: Reef poems When you come to think of it, sed Dr Hippo Much too late of course, sed Professor Sprong, flicking off his trouser cuff. What's just happened was all but inevitable. We never stood more than a 40% chance of ducking the thing in our lifetimes. It's sad really, sed Professor Sprong watching the goldfish die in their broken bowl, The species, one thought, had such potential. Well it's now use crying over spilt uranium, lisped Dr Hippo, regarding the ruins of the Senior Common Room. Rum though, to think of all those bodies Out there, and no one around to bery them ever. Not our job, thank God, sed Sprong but if we last out the hour We'll be able to finish this port. No more Anglo-Saxon declensions ever! And the funny thing is I still don't really feel enything.

"Half an hour after" is a poem published in The Reef book in 1976 and credited to the Australian poet and environmentalist Mark O'Connor who was born in 1945 Melbourne, Australia and grew up as a son of a judge. He graduated in English and classics from the University of Melbourne, then taught briefly but has spent most of the time since as a full-time writer, especially of poetry. Inspired by nature and the glorifications of Australia, he has published several books of poetry on regions of Australia such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Blue Mountains, often collaborating with renowned nature photographers. Mark's work is widely represented in contemporary Australian anthologies of poetry, and in international publications. He has also written dramas and articles. Mark has won several national and international prizes and awards. In 2000 he was given a grant from the Australia Council to write poetry about the 2000 Olympic Games. In addition to his own poetry, Mark is now translating Shakespearean verse into modern English. O'Connor's poetry draws strongly on the external natural scene, and the diversity of flora, fauna and landscapes. Interwoven with those externals, however, are frequent, sensitive insights into the nature of existence itself. O'Connor has also won a reputation as one of Australia's major contemporary nature poets. This paper is a stylistic analysis of 'Half an hour after' and it shows O'Connor's fear and concern about the Australian environment by drawing a gloomy portrait of how life would look like if one took the risk of using uranium for negative purposes as producing nuclear energy. It gives a general interpretation of the poem first and then provides a stylistic analysis on a variety of language levels such as; phonology, lexis, syntax, semantics, and discourse. Finally, the study offers a conclusion and some internet resources that assessed the researcher to get a systematic picture of her interpretation. This study is undertaken by a student and all the provided interpretations are the extraction of hours of contemplations on the poem.

What first attracts our attention in this poem is the simple and informal dialogue between two academics; Dr. Hippo and Professor Sprong, in spite of expected formality due to their academic position. They seem to be either friends or have worked together for a long time since when Dr. Hippo starts the first sentence Professor Sprong completes it. The simplicity of the poem lies on the fact that the poem is written using mono- or disyllabic words with the exception of some technical terms that were used on a purpose as well which we'll talk about later on. O'Connor might have written the poem in this form because of his intention of making it memorable as he always says "Poetry is memorable speech: rich and evocative memorable speech, on subjects of some general importance, with a perpetual slight surprise from line to line. Since the technical terms used in the poem are mostly used in science and the speakers are referred to as a professor and a doctor, it can be interpreted that our heroes are scientists. The title of the poem "Half an hour after" suggests that an event has taken place half an hour ago. It does not tell us about the essence of this event but gives us the impression that what matters is not the event itself but the consequences of it and how it affects its surroundings. Although, what has just happened is not clearly shown in the poem it can be said that it's a kind of explosion that destroyed life on earth. Perhaps the poet chooses 'half' particularly to refer to the already-passed time for normally it takes us at least half an hour to be able to see the damages of an explosion. Scientifically, it takes only seconds for an explosion to obliterate humanity. The poem is about death and destruction. Pessimism overwhelms the whole poem and the tones of the speakers and can be seen through words as: inevitable, ruins, die, broken, crying over, bury, etc. Everything is destructed except two survivors, the speakers in the poem, who seem to be lucky to be alive or it can be that they knew such a thing would happen so they kept themselves in a safe shelter. The latter interpretation leads us to think of them as the causers of the whole devastation.

Although we know nothing about the topic they are talking about since they refer to it obliquely; as 'when you come to think of it', 'what's just happened..', 'ducking the thing..', as we read through, we gradually perceive that both have witnessed a kind of disaster that caused the death of species and the destruction of the room they are in and the bowl of the goldfish. In line10 O'Connor gives us a hint about the identity of this disaster by having Dr. Hippo saying 'well it's now use crying over spilt uranium' so we understand that it's an explosion since uranium is used to produce nuclear energy. By presenting only two speakers, who seem to have spilt uranium, and creating a pessimistic situation where everything is destroyed and everyone is dead, O'Connor gives us the impression that those two survivors have caused all the destruction. Once we get to line 15 we understand that death won't skip those two since one of them is implying that they only have a little time to live, 'but if we last out the hour/ We'll be able to finish this port'. When we reach the last line we get to know that the same speaker is going to die since he feels nothing and nothingness implies death. Strangely enough, both scientists seem to be irresponsible for in the third line Professor Sprong is flicking off his trouser cuff while talking about a serious issue that caused the damage all around. His carelessness is apparent as he, though observing all those dead bodies is wondering about who will bury them in spite of the fact that he's capable of doing it, thinks that 'Not our job, thank God,". Both are drinking alcohol; 'rum though', 'to finish this port', as well. Probably, they don't want to feel responsible of what happened and try to escape the dreadful reality by drinking and trying to forget about it. Having known that Australia has no history of nuclear power though it is, according to, the world's third-ranking producer, behind Kazakhstan and Canada with a production of over 7000 tons of uranium oxide concentrate but its uranium is sold strictly for electrical power generation only, a question comes to our minds as readers of this poem whether the already-mentioned hypothesis of the explosion is accurate or not. Well, bearing in mind that this poem was written during the 60s and 70s of the twentieth century and at that time particularly the Australian successive government had an immense interest in using uranium to produce nuclear power for military purposes, one can assume that O'Connor wanted to show how much damage they would face if they developed that interest.


1. No rhyme Each line ends in a different sound and we cannot find any kind of alliteration except in line 10 where we have the lisp of Dr. Hippo and a repetition of the sound /s/ which turns to be read as /th/ regarding the doctor's lisp. The absence of rhyme and phonological regularity in the poem brings out the sense of hopelessness and melancholy. The alliteration in line 10 is created intentionally by the poet to make the speaker's lisp under the stress of talking about uranium the main element used in causing the disaster and to make it apparent for the readers to show the importance of this line and its contribution to the whole poem. "Well it's now use crying over spilt uranium," 2. Spelling Once we read the poem for the first time we notice that there are many words that are pronounced as spelt and that attracts our attention. Consequently, we think that it's intentioned but the fact that in the 1960s and 70s there was a spelling reform movement popularized in Australia by Harry Lindgren and the Australian writers followed that reform and started writing in such a way forces us to think twice. However, this graphological deviation has served the poet by making the poem easily read and therefore memorized. Line 1 2 13 18 Word sed (said) sed (said) bery (bury) enything (anything)

1. Pronouns Most of the pronouns used in the poem refer to both speakers, a repetition of "we" and "our" is found through the poem but in the last line of it we get the pronoun "I" referring to Sprong only who becomes emotionless by now and that reflects the fact that he is about to die since being emotionless parallels with being dead. Line 5 6 14 15 16 18 Pronoun we our our we we I

2. Lexical groupings Death: die, bury, dead bodies, finish, cry over, sad - these words are all associated with death and they are significant in the poem because they add the pessimistic flavor all over the poem and emphasize the effect created by the poet. Drink: rum, port the two words refer to drinking alcohol and it is generally known that people drink either to forget or because they are hopeless or carless and that is the actual state of the speakers in the poem. Nature: goldfish, species, uranium - these terms have to do with nature. They are symbols of life but since they are either dead or spilt in the poem we come to understand that it's the end of life on earth and consequently we get a crystal clear picture of the poet's purpose of writing such a poem; environment should be our main concern. Getting the goldfish, particularly, die in the poem is a sign of damaging

plants either in water or earth because the waste of the goldfish increases the level of ammonia and nitrogen which are necessary for the life of plants. Technical terms: Although the poem is written in an informal style, we find some technical terms used here and there such as uranium, species, declensions. The poet's purpose of using them is to create the effect of being rich and mysterious and to give us a hint of the identity of the speakers in the poem; scientists. For O'Connor, being mysterious is one of the crucial characteristics of a good poem; he defines poetry as 'It usually offers both an intrinsic verbal charm or beauty and also some new understanding, or at the least new sensibility---being new, and true, and rich, (and often slightly mysterious) all at once. It is of course the combination of new and true that is hardest to achieve.'

3. Repetition: Think/ Feel: By making Hippo using 'think' twice, in lines 1 and 12, O'Connor is trying to show that he is a stupid character since his mind doesn't provide him with the strength to take an action and that stresses his passivity and hypocrisy. On the other hand, we find 'thought' used by Sprong and that shows Sprong as a character who used to use his mind in the past but no more since he uses some expressions that reveal his sentimental character as 'it's sad really', 'the funny thing is', 'I still don't really feel enything'. So Sprong is no more a thinker but an emotionalist whose sentimentality doesn't serve him as well, and he is, as his friend, hypocrite since he's taking no action as well.

Sed/ Lisped: In the whole poem the poet reports the dialogue using 'sed' with an exception to one sentence where he reports Dr. Hippo as 'lisped'. It's the only place where he lisped which means that he doesn't have a lisp problem. It proves, however, that he was under stress, of being part of the disaster, which caused him to lisp. 'Well it's now use crying over spilt uranium,' is the sentence that tells us about the explosion, as said earlier, and which confirms that Dr. Hippo is actually responsible of what happened.

4. Names and titles Mark O'Connor has selected the names of the speakers carefully and skillfully; none of the two names: Hippo and Sprong are real English names. His creation of the names has to associate with the personality of each character; firstly, Hippo is a dull, careless person who thinks he thinks but he doesn't actually, furthermore, he has no emotions at all since hippos are big, fat, strong animals that have a thick skin that kills their sense of feeling. Secondly, Sprong's name parallels with strong and, therefore, contradicts his personality of being more sensitive than Hippo in the sense that he uses some words associated with feelings as 'sad', 'feel', 'funny'. The poet seems to have preferred Sprong to Hippo in making Sprong a human being who has some feelings towards what happened and in getting rid of his title 'professor' in line 14 and referring to him as Sprong only. The titles, also, are given to the speakers as Dr. Hippo and Professor Sprong to assure that our heroes are not ordinary people but scientists who knew how the disaster came to be.

The tense: most of the speech is communicated using the simple present to lay emphasis on the speakers' present forgetting about the past, as the present tense can be used to refer to the specific situation. There is no action in the poem except when Professor Sprong is 'flicking off his trouser cuff' which shows his negative reaction towards the disaster.

Internal deviation: the first three triplets of the poem end in a full-stop so that every triplet starts in a new remark and the speakers have a moment to think about what to say next. However, the last lines of the fourth and fifth triplets deviate from the norm created by the poet and the sentences are linked to the coming ones. This reflects the turning point in the poem when the speakers start drinking in line 12 and become more careless due to the effect of alcohol and they think no more about what to say rather they want to speak with no pauses as to take advantage of the time left before they die.

Line 3 6 9 12 15

Sentence structure flicking off is trouser cuff. of ducking the thing in our lifetimes. "The species, one thought, had such potential." "Rum though, to think of all those bodies "but if we last out the hour

The whole poem is a semantic deviation in the sense that both speakers take a passive attitude towards the disaster that has just happened. Sprong is flicking his trousers, Hippo is careless about the dead bodies, Sprong thinks it's sad to watch the goldfish die but doesn't show his sadness by taking any action rather he thinks it's not their job to bury those dead people, Hippo says 'it's no use crying over spilt uranium' though he should regret spilling it at least for it's the main reason behind the destruction around. Even the name of Dr. Hippo implies that he is a stupid person who cares about nothing since 'hippo' is a fat animal whose name is associated with dullness, though he is a doctor and he is supposed to be clever.

It is noticeable from the very beginning of the poem that we have a discoursal deviation; O'Connor starts the poem in a conversational form where the two speakers are continuing talking about a certain issue for which they are referring using 'it'. In a normal discourse we have an introduction, supporting remarks and a conclusion but in this poem the poet has deviated from the norms in order to emphasize the importance of the consequences of 'what has just happened.'

Comprising all the analyses of the language levels in this paper, it is evident that all of them have worked in harmony to produce such a glamorous poem. Mark O'Connor is aware of the fact that the readers of the poem won't get its message directly. He has deviated from the norms; external or internal, to create a splendid poem that combines both simplicity in its form and complexity in its content. To do it as perfectly as O'Connor has done, one needs to have a strong belief on the message s/he intends to send. O'Connor makes us breathe, feel, and think about his message; ruining our environment leads to our destruction. Congrats! O'Connor.