(Note that analyses can vary widely, hence these annotations must only be used in conjunction with your own analyses).

Annotations of History by John Burnside





Summary of the poem:

Title: Suggests an event significant enough to be written down in the past — but also contains different perspectives.

Tone: pensive, thoughtful, tranquil

Summary: The poem starts off with a timestamp — somewhere in Scotland at the time of 9/11, which seems to have sent ripples across the world. In the face of such a tragedy, the speaker largely focuses on little details of the surroundings of a beach; such as kites flying, the movement of the waves, the marine life, and observations are made about attempts at salvaging things. The poem incorporates natural elements of air, wind and water, creating a tranquil atmosphere. The poem attempts to illustrate that it is in the little details that our lives are ultimately made, and appreciation of the little things may be the antidote to hatred — despite our presence being the source of harm.

Structure: Free verse: no rhyme scheme, no rhythm. combination of fragmented and orderly. Fragmented — observations of the world around him. Orderly (a quatrain): attempts at rationalising those observations into thoughts.

Themes: Life, transience, nature.

Devices used: repetition of ‘Today’, sibilance in the 3rd stanza, symbolism of the beach, Christian allegory (‘redeemer’), contrast (title and ‘Today’, human/natural world, innocence/guilt), much spiritual language used. This poem is mostly straightforward and simplistic in language.

Links to other poems: From the Journal, The Fox (contrast in tone!)


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