“Never Some Easy Flashback”

Wordsworth, Memory, and Metaphor in Paul Farley’s “Thorns”

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Abstract

This paper provides a close reading of Paul Farley’s 160-line poem, “Thorns.” The poem is read in dialogue with William Wordsworth’s celebrated Romantic ballad “The Thorn.” Special attention is given to Farley’s treatment of memory and metaphor: It is shown how the first, exploratory part of the poem elaborates upon the interdependent nature of memory and metaphor, while the second part uses a more regulated form of imagery in its evocation of a generational memory linked to a particular place and time (the working-class Liverpool of the 1960s and 1970s). The tension between the two parts of the poem is reflected in the taut relationship between the poet and a confrontational alter ego. Wordsworth’s importance for Farley is shown to inhere not only in the Lake Poet’s use of personal memory, but also the close connection between his poetry and place, as well as a strongly self-reflective strain that results in an interminable process of self-determination. Farley’s independence as a poet also comes across, though, and is for instance in evidence in his desire to avoid the “booby trap” of too simple appropriation of the methods and motifs of his Romantic predecessor.

Abstract

This paper provides a close reading of Paul Farley’s 160-line poem, “Thorns.” The poem is read in dialogue with William Wordsworth’s celebrated Romantic ballad “The Thorn.” Special attention is given to Farley’s treatment of memory and metaphor: It is shown how the first, exploratory part of the poem elaborates upon the interdependent nature of memory and metaphor, while the second part uses a more regulated form of imagery in its evocation of a generational memory linked to a particular place and time (the working-class Liverpool of the 1960s and 1970s). The tension between the two parts of the poem is reflected in the taut relationship between the poet and a confrontational alter ego. Wordsworth’s importance for Farley is shown to inhere not only in the Lake Poet’s use of personal memory, but also the close connection between his poetry and place, as well as a strongly self-reflective strain that results in an interminable process of self-determination. Farley’s independence as a poet also comes across, though, and is for instance in evidence in his desire to avoid the “booby trap” of too simple appropriation of the methods and motifs of his Romantic predecessor.

American, British and Canadian Studies

The Journal of Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu

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