John Foulcher’s poems make us ponder, if there is any hope for humanity and is there anyone that is truly innocent? His poems reveal to us the violence and brutality of the nature we live within and for us to question as to our own morality. In this essay I will analyse all six of his poems of which I studied. However I will only discuss the poems “For The Fire” and “Martin and The Hand Grenade” in detail. The theme of “For The Fire” is about the natural cycle of life and explores the interrelationships and differences between man and animal.
Within the poem the persona is collecting kindling wood for a fire and sees a kookaburra killing a lizard in a tall tree. He observes this but does not intervene or make judgement. However he exploits this situation by picking up the twigs and branches that fell because of the lizard’s beating. “For The Fire” is very simple in the delivery of its ideas, it has only 2 stanzas which add up to a total of 12 lines. Each thought is separated by a comma which makes it very easy to understand. For Example “Outside, gathering kindling, a chopping sound from the forest” there is a break between every action and description.
This follows Foulcher’s style in terms of accessibility. Overall the poem is very cold and emotionless and the use of words such as “hacks”, “flays” and “axe-blade beak” gives the reader a sense of the violence and brutalness taking place in nature. From the quote “Even now, all of it of its bones smashed. Oblivious, the bird flays it still” Foulcher uses imagery to suggests that animals are without morality and react to raw instinct. This isn’t so different when compared to the persona in the poem as he does not make any moral judgement in relation to the kookaburra’s action and even takes advantage of this event.
The poem suggests the idea of survival of the fittest. The world we live in is tough and savage and to some extent we must also be savage and cold hearted so as to be able to survive within it. “Martin & the Hand Grenade” is about a student who brings a disarmed hand grenade to a show and tell classroom setting. The grenade in armed form has the power to destroy everything in the room. He passes the weapon around the class and each boy gets to hold the “small war” in their hands.
Even though it is not mentioned specifically in the poem, it could be imagined that the teacher, presumably Foulcher himself stands horrified, thinking of what animals these “kids” may become. The quote “And each boys holds the small war” is an example of where Foulcher uses symbolism to show the student’s interest in death and destruction. Examples of puns are used the quotation “The dead weapon hurls across mind fields, tears the hearts ahead”. The phrase “dead weapon” looks very similar to “Deadly weapon” and “mind fields” which is used to describe the class room and its students looks similar to “Mine Fields”.
This is saying that the students are currently imagining the class room as a battlefield. Just like other poems from John Foulcher it is short and simple. There are 4 stanzas in the poem and they add up to 12 lines in total. Just like “For the Fire” where each thought is separated by a break. In this poem there is an idea that “If humans are not educated properly, they will become just like animals”, this relates back to the theme of human morality and the difference between humans and animals.
In the poem “Harry Wood”, the man growing up in poverty fights for his survival anyway he can even if it means eliminating anyone that stands in his way. He fired a man for messing with his elevator ropes and shoots kangaroos as a warning to any other animals wandering onto his pastures. However towards the end of his life he wishes a better life for his grandchildren, something that is more than mere survival. This is both similar and different when compared to “For the Fire” as they both deal with survival of the fittest. However at the end of Harry Wood it is suggested that humans are capable of complex thoughts and reflection.
The poem is again, quite straight forward in the delivery of its ideas and there is a sparring use of metaphors within the poem. “Bradman’s Last Innings” contrasts the two other character poems, “Harry Wood” and “Martin and the Hand Grenade”. Instead of displaying the violence of mankind, it presents the more civilised side of us. A quote from the text, “You gave people something the world lacked: rules to play by”. “Loch Ard Gorge” describes the life cycle that all living things go through. This also ties in with “For the Fire” suggesting that nature views us as nothing but fuel for the “Fire”.
The final poem I will discuss in this essay is “Summer Rain”. This last poem ties up all the poems I have mentioned above. The persona waits in traffic for the wreck of a recent traffic accident to be cleared up and watches as children conducting own little wars and then returning home forgetfully unlike the people involved in the accident. As the wreck is cleared he drives along the “unbroken road”. The poem states that even though nature is savage and mankind is flawed, there is hope for humanity and violence is needed in moderation to prevent more serious incidents as symbolised by the children fighting as opposed to cars crashing.
As symbolised by “unbroken road”, life goes on. John Foulcher’s poems ask us some fundamental questions about ourselves and the world in which we live in. Like all other animals, humans are savage and violent creatures with survival as our most nested instinct. However when our safety is assured we also have the capacity of something more than survival. Even though we live in a cruel and unforgiving environment and that no one is truly innocent, there is still hope for humanity.