point of view

Rhyme in Dylan Thomas’s The Hunchback in the Park

The hunchback in the park
A solitary mister
Propped between trees and water
From the opening of the garden lock
That lets the trees and water enter
Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark
 
Eating bread from a newspaper
Drinking water from the chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship
Slept at night in a dog kennel
But nobody chained him up.
 
Like the park birds he came early
Like the water he sat down
And Mister they called Hey mister
The truant boys from the town
Running when he had heard them clearly
On out of sound
 
Past lake and rockery
Laughing when he shook his paper
Hunchbacked in mockery
Through the loud zoo of the willow groves
Dodging the park keeper
With his stick that picked up leaves.
 
And the old dog sleeper
Alone between nurses and swans
While the boys among willows
Made the tigers jump out of their eyes
To roar on the rockery stones
And the groves were blue with sailors
 
Made all day until bell time
A woman figure without fault
Straight as a young elm
Straight and tall from his crooked bones
That she might stand in the night
After the locks and chains
 
All night in the unmade park
After the railings and shrubberies
The birds the grass the trees the lake
And the wild boys innocent as strawberries
Had followed the hunchback
To his kennel in the dark.

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The Hunchback in the Park

Cwmdonkin-2014-4 orderly


Structure, form, whatever ..?


Seven six line stanzas. Straight up! Shows routine. Even in the midst of the disaster that is his world, the hunchback in the park still shows the human need to seek out order in the chaos. Dylan Thomas knew about this. He chose to write the poem this way to show that there will still be order, even in a life as adrift from the rest of humanity as the hunchback’s.

Mr Bruff talks for ages here about Simon Armitage’s Clown Punk and other poems, but then he does say some stuff about the structure of THITP* – His analysis of THITP starts at 07:56 and he reminds us how the poem is, on closer inspection, structured in a much less ordered way than other poems like, for example, The Ruined Maid, On a Portrait of a Deaf Man or Give.

He also reminds us that it is important to link structure to meaning when we are thinking about a poem. Thomas deliberately chose a random rhyme scheme within an apparently ordered structure of stanzas to highlight the routine of the hunchback’s life, but also the instability that he has to live with.

Cwmdonkin_Park trees


Character and Voice, yeh ..


Because, when we look closer, we can clearly see that the order in this character’s life does not go very deep. It is true that, at first glance, there is structure in his world and in the poem, but when we look a bit more carefully we find that the character is struggling to keep it together. At the same time, if we consider the structure of the poem again, we see that the poet is aware of this and angry, perhaps, at the way the park visitors treat this man and, maybe, at how society treats the vulnerable in its midst.

Minimal punctuation and enjambment give an impression of restlessness and almost constant movement, but movement that is driven by random needs. There is a rhyme scheme, but this is random too, and some of the words don’t even rhyme properly.

Thomas chooses his words deliberately to give us an idea of the way the hunchback lives, forever teetering on the edge; cold, hungry, alone, scared, in danger ..


Language – Who’s talking? How?


Third person, eh? Gives a perspective that almost ‘tells’ us how to feel. We should feel sympathy for the hunchback. He is shunned by all elements of society and we should be ashamed of the way he is treated. How did he get like this? What is his history? We can only imagine these things, but Thomas’s use of language and imagery make it clear that we should feel sorry for him.


What’s it about? – On the surface ..


Tea cosy pete COJS56787815

Well, duh .. a homeless guy, innit .. and how all visitors to the park turn their backs on him or even actively get rid of him, kind of assuming it’s somehow his own fault or even if it isn’t his fault, thinking that if they associate with him they’ll somehow become ‘infected’.

The hunchback shuffles around the park every day, trying not to be too conspicuous because he knows that everyone he comes across will want him gone. And even when it gets dark and the schoolchildren, the mothers, the nannies, the nurses, the sailors, the park keeper have all gone, he needs to keep his wits about him, in the dark at night. Who knows what might happen. He even imagines that a tall statue in the park might protect him against whatever dangers there might be ..


What’s it about? – Themes ..


Again, not hard to understand in the twenty-first century. Homelessness is rife; as individuals, we can be cruel and uncaring; as a society, we tend to look the other way. We often don’t take the time to understand and know people who are less fortunate than ourselves.

GCSE Bitesize sez ..

People, especially children, can be very cruel. There is not one example of the man going out of his way to be unkind or rude to anyone. He gets annoyed and angry when the children tease him – which is exactly what they want.

We should not judge people simply on what they look like. This man is and looks different. We get the sense that this is why he is alone in the park, not for anything he might have done. This is sad to think.

Morals. The final picture of the man – who is regarded as so worthless that we never know his name – retreating to his kennel in the dark is tragic, and provides a damning moral comment on society failing those who need care.’

GCSE Bitesize on THITP


It looks like this ..


The hunchback in the park
A solitary mister
Propped between trees and water
From the opening of the garden lock
That lets the trees and water enter
Until the Sunday sombre bell at dark.
 
Eating bread from a newspaper
Drinking water from the chained cup
That the children filled with gravel
In the fountain basin where I sailed my ship
Slept at night in a dog kennel
But nobody chained him up.
 
Like the park birds he came early
Like the water he sat down
And Mister they called Hey mister
The truant boys from the town
Running when he had heard them clearly
On out of sound
 
Past lake and rockery
Laughing when he shook his paper
Hunchbacked in mockery
Through the loud zoo of the willow groves
Dodging the park keeper
With his stick that picked up leaves.
 
And the old dog sleeper
Alone between nurses and swans
While the boys among willows
Made the tigers jump out of their eyes
To roar on the rockery stones
And the groves were blue with sailors
 
Made all day until bell time
A woman figure without fault
Straight as a young elm
Straight and tall from his crooked bones
That she might stand in the night
After the locks and chains
 
All night in the unmade park
After the railings and shrubberies
The birds the grass the trees the lake
And the wild boys innocent as strawberries
Had followed the hunchback
To his kennel in the dark.


It sounds like this ..


This is a reading of the poem by Dylan Thomas himself. He puts on one of those old-fashioned poetry reading voices that sometimes sound a bit irritating these days.

This is a more modern reading of the poem by Martin Sheen. The film was produced to celebrate the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth in 2014. It was directed by Bram Ttwheam.


The Poet


The Granger Collection - TopFoto

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) – Yup, he only lived to be 39. He was from South Wales but wrote in English. He left school at 16 to work in journalism and published his first book of poetry, 18 Poems, in 1934. He lived a wild, alcohol-fuelled life which continued as he became famous. He was a popular speaker because of his deep, rich Welsh voice and was famous for being a kind of stereotypical maverick poet.  He died on a trip to the USA in 1953 after a heavy drinking session.


What do you think?


Go here for a This IS The Safe House Flash Fiction Writing Session based on The Hunchback in the Park.


trees above duck

*The Hunchback in the Park

Innocent As Strawberries

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

abbeypark bridge and cafeThis session is about imagining the world from another person’s point of view and describing their thoughts.

Activity

Imagine you had to hide somewhere in a park. It’s night time. You have nowhere else to go. Where would you hide?

What would your last thoughts be before finally falling asleep?

Stimulus

abbey park map

Click on the map to go to Google Maps.

As well as the map of the park, the stimulus for this session is Dylan Thomas’s poem, The Hunchback in the Park.

The poem is about a homeless man who uses the park on a daily basis to pass away his days and to sleep. He is a lonely man, rejected by everyone who uses the park because he is deformed and ugly. He is an outcast. The poem describes how the poet imagines his feelings of loneliness and rejection to be.

At the end of the poem, the hunchback settles down for the night. He is frightened and alone. There could be people in the park who are out to get him!

Have a look at this for more detail about the poem.

Guide

abbey park - young people meeting by the lakeThis is an exercise in getting into the mind of a particular character.

You should read the poem two or three times. Read it out loud. Get someone else to read it and you listen while you’re reading the words.

Try to work out all the different types of people the poet describes who come into the park.

Think about how the ‘Hunchback’ feels when he sees these people. What goes on inside his head as he tries to keep safe?

Think about what we know about the ‘Hunchback’ from what the poet tells us.

Think about what we don’t know about him.

How old is he?
How long has he been living in the park?
How did he end up there?
Has he got any friends, family, children?
What has happened to him?

bandstand through treesImagine what it must be like to have to keep out of sight from everyone for fear of what they might do to you.

How frightening that must be!

Imagine how difficult it would be to get to sleep, no matter how tired you were.

Write down the last thoughts of the ‘Hunchback’ as he finally drops off to sleep at night in the park.

Word count and process

This could, of course, be a single word!

But maybe you could extend your writing a bit further than that. A sentence? Twenty-five words? You could extend it into something longer. You could be quite dramatic and it could become more of an extended internal dramatic monologue. 250 words?

You, the writer, will decide.

Abbey Park Bricks and LightsIt will be first person, of course. At least, it probably will.

When you have something down, take time to read what you have written, change words, add words, delete and edit.

Take a break. Come back to it later and do the same thing. You might feel like extending the piece a little bit. Do it! Write more!

Don’t forget to check your writing for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Does your writing always make sense?

Make sure you are happy for people to read your writing!

What next?

italian-dog-logo2.jpegIf you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!

Practitioners of the City

‘Practitioners of the City’

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

walkers are“Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking.” (Rebecca Solnit)

wanderlustActivity:

Think of somewhere you walk to often and write one single sentence about it.

Stimulus:

The stimulus for this session is the activity above along with the questions below.

Of course, you can ignore questions you don’t like and you can add questions of your own that you like better.

* Obviously, some of you may use wheelchairs to get about. At The Safe House, we are sure that, if you are one of these people, you can still take part in this session. Please, let us know if you have any comments about this.

However you get about, the next time you do, you could think about these questions:

Where do you go? Why do you go there? Who do you go with? How do you feel as you walk there? Why do you feel this way? How often do you go there? How long does the journey take? Does the journey involve other forms of transport as well? What are the sights you expect to see when you take this walk? Do you take the quickest route? Do you always take the same route? Do you take a detour from the quickest route? Why? Are there parts of the walk that you particularly like? Are there parts of the walk that you dislike? Do you walk quickly? Or slowly? Do you usually have an animal with you? Why?

You could use any of these questions to stimulate your writing.

You, the writer, will decide.

Guide:

This is about your world. Maybe, when you go on the walk you could remind yourself of the questions before you leave. Then, as you’re walking, you could make notes, either in your head, in a notebook, on your phone, whatever.

When you are ready and in a good location, choose just one of the questions and write a sentence in response to it. A single sentence.

It could begin:

‘I go there because …’

Or … ‘I go with my … and we …’

You might start like this:’ ‘I sometimes take the long way round so that …’

Or you could write: ‘I always see the … with its …’

Or … ‘I don’t like the bridge because …’

Or … ‘I always feel … because …’

You, the writer, will decide.

Word count and process

It’s just a sentence, so we’re probably not talking much more than 50 words. It could be really short.

When you have thought about your walk and noted answers to some of the questions, choose one and write a sentence as your answer.

Take a moment. Read what you have written. Think of the words you have used. Are there other words you could use to say what you want? Change words, add words.

Take another moment. Do the same again. Then check your sentence for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Does your sentence make sense?

Make sure you are happy for people to read your writing!

The length of the thinking process depends on the length of your walk, of course. And other things. The writing of the sentence should maybe take not more than around 10 minutes. You might do it more quickly.

underpassWhen you have written a sentence, of course, you could pick another question and repeat the process. That way your writing might build up into a longer piece. You could transform your writing by changing it from first person to third person. Write about your own walk from the point of view of an ‘external’ narrator.

What next?

If you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!

4. With Expert Eyes

  1. (A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

yui
The idea for this session came from Maria Popova’s Brainpickings review of a book by Alexandra Horowitz called ‘On Looking’.

Activity:

Take a walk (real or virtual), and record sights, sounds, smells, from a particular point of view.

Stimulus:

The stimulus for this session consists of two UK postcodes.

They are:

  • LE1 3PH
  • LE4 5AQ

Guide:

Use the internet, probably Google Maps, and find the route from the first postcode to the second. Google Maps will give you two routes. Choose the second route, which takes you down Church Gate.

It looks something like this:route

Follow the route. If you live in the region, you could follow the route in real life. If not, you can still take part in the session by clicking the yellow man on Google maps. By doing this, you will be able to take the walk ‘virtually’!

Imagine, as you walk (or ‘walk’), that you are one of these:

Your dog

Your brother

Your mother

Your dad

A three-year-old girl

An eighty-three year old man

A builder

A bus driver

An architect

A skateboarder

A cyclist

A homeless person

A historian

A geologist

An entomologist (?)

A person in love (!)

A person who is lost.

01 church gateWhile you are travelling along the route, make notes, either in your mind, in a notebook or with a memo app on your phone about what, as that person (or animal), you might focus on during your journey. What would this person’s (or animal’s) attention be drawn to? What would be her, his or its point of view.

When you have finished your journey, take your notes and turn them into a narrative of the journey from the point of view you have been adopting.

You could begin by stating the day, or the time, or both:

‘It was a Wednesday morning, about eleven o’clock when I left the Clock Tower. I …’

Or you could write in the third person:

‘It was a Wednesday morning, about eleven o’clock when Florrie left the Clock Tower. She …’

You, the writer, will decide how your journey starts and ends.

Word count and process

03 st margarets way underpassWe might be aiming for a 500 word piece of writing here. Of course, it could be shorter or longer. You, the writer, will decide.

After the journey, find somewhere comfortable where you can read or recall the notes you made and also write the piece.

Try and keep writing for about five minutes and then take a short break. Then write for another five minutes and take a short break. Keep on until you are at your destination, or too exhausted to go on!

04 abbey parkHave a longer rest. Have something to eat, something to drink. Writing, like a walk through the streets, will take it out of you. You need rest and refreshment before you go on.

When you are able, spend some time re-reading, re-writing, deleting, revising, re-reading, re-writing, deleting, revising again and again for as long as you can.

When you have done this and you are feeling ready, spend time proof-reading again for any spelling, punctuation and grammar problems and to check it makes sense. Make sure you would be happy for other people to read it. Save what you have written.

What next?

Brian at VictoriaIf you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

share@thisisthesafehouse.com

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!