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Analysis and comments on What Were They Like? by Denise Levertov

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Comment 26 of 116, added on November 8th, 2009 at 11:49 PM.

The reason that she put "Viet Nam" instead of "Vietnam" is because that's
how it is actually supposed to be spelt, the Americans just spell it
differently to everyone else for some reason.

Danny from United Kingdom
Comment 25 of 116, added on March 18th, 2009 at 5:23 AM.

It's a little sad that no-one has commented on the poem's structure. It's
one of the only aspects of the poem that set it apart from the truckloads
of anti-war poems available out there.

Note in particular the separation of the word "Vietnam" in line 1. Before
you attempt to analyse this poem, keep in mind its context. In the Vietnam
War, the nation of Vietnam was split into two warring factions, the
Communist North, and the Democratic South. Now that we have established
this fact, the separation of "Vietnam" in line 1, and the division of the
questions and answers into two distinct portions (as opposed to answers
immediately following questions, takes on a greater significance. These lay
down the theme of irreconcilable separation, although the nature of the
separation is still open to interpretation.

Ideological differences? Territorial rifts? It's up to you to explore. Try
looking at the poem from a different angle, and you might be surprised at
what you can find.

Of course, there is plenty more to analyse in the poem, such as the theme
of irrevocable loss, as well as the contrast between the polite, formal
tone of the poem and the unflinching brutality of the images it conveys,
but the structure of the poem remains the most unique aspect of Levertov's
work. At least, that's my opinion.

Joel from Singapore
Comment 24 of 116, added on December 16th, 2008 at 9:29 AM.

I relii like this poem we are studying it at the moment in english
please get bac ot me if anyone can explain it .. im begging

Jordiee from United Kingdom
Comment 23 of 116, added on December 15th, 2008 at 3:52 PM.

hi my fellow poem readers
i cant belive this poem, it is so traditional yet funny and also a bit
annoying if you get me. this poem will be the future of all poems. my life
lies in this poem and i will never forget the happiness i brought to me.
please get back to me if you want to discuss life and this poem .

peace out matt

matthew ratcliff from United Kingdom
Comment 22 of 116, added on November 14th, 2008 at 3:14 AM.

ows it anging blud. i am a cool guy

Ali G from Australia
Comment 21 of 116, added on November 14th, 2008 at 3:12 AM.

well this is the type of poem i like because it is slightly camp

Matt Parsons from Canada
Comment 20 of 116, added on November 5th, 2008 at 11:16 AM.

A great poem, really deep but very sad. Quite hard to study, I'm doing it
for English at the moment, but still good. Lauren, Georgia, don't be harsh.

Ellie from United Kingdom
Comment 19 of 116, added on September 22nd, 2008 at 12:04 PM.

I am doing this poem at the minute in English Anthology for GCSE, i'm sort
of understanding it...but i'm still confused...lol

Heather from United Kingdom
Comment 18 of 116, added on September 19th, 2008 at 9:46 AM.

This poem shows the reality of what happens in war.. the loss of lives show
exactally why people get agitated by it. The most effective line for me is
the one that says 'Who knows? Its silent now' to me this indicates that an
entire country was wiped out. Although we all know this was not the case
but still many many thousands of lives were lost... its not fair and is a
very delicate subject for many who have lost loved ones due to war... more
people need to respect that rather than post unappropriate comments about
it. This world would be a much better place if people thought about what
they were saying before they say it...


sophie from United Kingdom
Comment 17 of 116, added on August 6th, 2008 at 10:05 AM.

This poem was written during US involvement in Vietnam as a protest against
that involvement. It is despiaring, as though the questions are being
asked about a people that no longer exists.

Is it only about Vietnam? No: it is about war, not about a particular
place, and the results of war. And as it shouws, no one is invulnerable or
immune from those results.


Joseph from United States

This poem has been commented on more than 10 times. Click below to see the other comments.
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Information about What Were They Like?

Poet: Denise Levertov
Poem: What Were They Like?
Added: Mar 17 2005
Viewed: 882 times
Poem of the Day: Jan 19 2015


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