Comparison of two Poems – “About his Person” and “Cataract Operation” Essay

Simon Armitage was born on the 25th of May 1963, in the town Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Armitage studied at Manchester University and acquired a BA in Geography and an MA in Psychology. After several different jobs, including a probation officer, Armitage decided to become a modern poet and writer. He writes mainly about people and places, and has written many novels, including the well-known “Little Green Man”. His poems and novels have now made him a renowned poet as well as writer.

Armitage has written a book full of poems named “The Book of Matches”. All the poems included are said to be have been written in the time that it takes for a match to fully burn. The two poems; “About his Person”, and “Cataract Operation” are two of these poems. They are very similar in some ways, and very different in others.

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Although Armitage mainly writes poems with similar content, “About his Person” and “Cataract Operation” are both quite different.

“About his Person” is about the possessions found on a dead man. It shows that from anyone’s possessions, a lot can be learnt about that particular persons life or personality. In the poem, some of these possessions include; “a library card”, “a giveaway photograph”, “a shopping list”, and “a final demand”. From these and other possessions, much can be learnt about how the man died, why he died, and what kind of a person he was. Although, as Armitage likes to do, this poem leaves you with no actual answer of how the man died, instead, it leaves you with a horde of unanswered questions.

However, “Cataract Operation” is about the everyday objects and things, which a person sees for the first time after a cataract operation. The person observes with delight the burst of an early morning. Although both poems talk about objects, the actual objects they talk about are different. “About his Person” is just a list of possessions; “a library card”, “a final demand” etc. Whereas “Cataract Operation” is about normal everyday objects/things from a different view; “the sun”,

“a pigeon”, and “a washing line”.

Whilst Armitage includes a variety of themes in his poems, the themes in these two poems are very different.

“About his person” has a sad feeling to it, the mood is lonely and quite low. This is shown when it says “no gold or silver”, meaning he has not been married, or is no longer married. There are two main themes in this poem, the theme of death and the theme of love. The theme of death occurs when such words such as “beheaded”, “slashed”, “expiry”, and “final demand” are used. Yet the theme of love occurs when words such as “heart”, “photograph”, and “ring” are used.

On the other hand, the themes in “Cataract Operation” are very different to those in “About his person”. The main theme in this poem is life and a new beginning, nothing like the theme of death in “About his person”. There is a clear contrast between the themes of both poems.

The language of both poems; “About his person” and “Cataract Operation” both have their similarities and differences.

In “About his person”, Armitage uses simple yet very effective language, for example; “that was everything”, it is very short, and straight to the point. There are also very few poetic techniques used. Armitage uses just one simile throughout the poem;

“a rolled up note of explanation

planted there like a spray carnation”

This simile creates an atmosphere of death, yet it also represents love. A spray carnation symbolises flowers at funerals, but it can also represent flowers used for love or a joyous occasion.

Armitage also uses a few metaphors to fully emphasise the theme and tone of the poem, as metaphors are normally more effective than similes. An example of one of these metaphors is; “banked in the heart of a locket”. This metaphor again symbolises love.

Personification is also used in “About his person”. Armitage uses personification to create a mood and tone of death. For example;

“a rolled up note of explanation

planted there like a spray carnation

but beheaded, in his fist

A shopping list”

Here, Armitage described the shopping list as “beheaded”, this is personification as a shopping list cannot be beheaded. In the above quote, enjambment is also used, one line runs into the next.

On the other hand, in “Cataract Operation”, the language is more complex and consists of many more poetic techniques. Armitage uses similes, metaphors, repetition, alliteration, personification, assonance and enjambment. However, Armitage does not over do it with these techniques, he uses just enough to create a realistic and enjoyable atmosphere.

Like “About his person”, “Cataract Operation” only consists of one simile; “The sun comes like a head, through last nights turtleneck”. Here, Armitage compares the sun rising to something coming out of a turtleneck jumper.

Armitage also uses Metaphors in “Cataract Operation”, like in “About his person”. One of these metaphors is,

“A pigeon in the yard turns tail

and offers me a card. Any card”

Here, it says the pigeon offered him a card, when a pigeon can do no such thing.

In the above quote, an internal rhyme is also used, “yard” and “card” are both in the middle of two lines and rhyme. Alliteration; (“turns”, and “tail”), and repetition; (….card. Any card”) are also used in the above quote. Assonance, another poetic technique, is also used in the line; “the cancan of a ra ra skirt”. The letter “a” is used five times in the same line.

Although many more examples of similes, metaphors, alliteration, repetition ect. are used in “Cataract Operation”, unlike in “About his person” where very few poetic techniques are used, the most used technique in “Cataract Operation” is personification. Armitage describes nearly everything with a living characteristic. For example; “the monkey business of a shirt” or “the cheerio of a handkerchief”.

Although Armitage uses a wide range of structures for his poems, the structure of “About his person” and “Cataract Operation” are very similar.

“About his person” consists of 10 stanzas, each two lines long. Each of these stanzas is also a rhyming couplet. The rhyme scheme for the poem is aa, bb, cc, dd, ect.

Cataract operation also consists of 10 stanzas, which are also two lines long each. However, the stanzas in “Cataract Operation” are not rhyming couplets and there is no rhyme scheme. On the whole, the structure of both poems is quite similar.

Overall, the two poems “About his person” and “Cataract Operation” are more different than similar. The content of both poems is different, even though both poems are about objects and things. The themes of both poems are completely opposite; death and life, there Is a clear contrast between the two. The language between the two is similar, yet also different. Both poems consist of poetic techniques yet “Cataract Operation” uses many more. And finally, the structure of the poems is the only clear similarity between the two.