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Concerns about Human Conditions in Poems, Summer Farm and The Cockroach by Poets Norman MacCaig and Kevin Halligan

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The poets Norman MacCaig and Kevin Halligan express their concern about the human condition in the poems ‘Summer Farm’ and ‘The Cockroach’. As they investigate the role and identity of the individual, the theme of self-reflection is revealed.

The title of the poem ‘Summer Farm’ is rather misleading. At first look, it brings us a feeling of warmth and good memories, which are usually related to the summer. ‘Farm’ evokes the same effect with the addition to the visual imagery of animals and nature. However as we begin reading we realise that ‘Summer Farm’ is not about a farm as we expected but the reader embarking on a journey of self-reflection. The peacefulness of the atmosphere is now gone and the tone is serious.

The poem divides into two parts. The first two stanzas dealing with nature and the last two concentrate on the poet who commences his process of self-reflection. The poem here plots a movement away from the real to the theoretical. In the third stanza the mention of the word ‘fear’ and the poet’s portrayal of himself as a ‘pile of selves’ add on to a more thoughtful mood. The poem is ended in such a way causing us to feel as though there is more to be said which disturbs us.

The use of the word ‘dizzy’ at the end of MacCaig’s chain of thoughts and the start of his ‘not thinking’ state, makes the reader feel as though the poet has been confused by his own thoughts. The third stanza indicates a change in the focus of the poem, which is the poet himself. In the
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