Makes us think of death and honouring someone through a permanent reminder of them



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Memorial makes us think of death and honouring someone through a permanent reminder of them

Dramatically simple word choice and sentence structure. Initially seems a paradox



Everywhere she dies. Everywhere I go she dies. Repetition for emphasis- he cannot escape awareness of the death of his loved one. Juxtaposition of “I” and “she” emphasises the close relationship/ bond

No sunrise, no city square, no lurking beautiful mountain Repeated use of the negative emphasises how inescapable and ubiquitous her death is for him. Places listed- not normally associated with death*

but has her death in it. Her death follows him everywhere



The silence of her dying sounds through paradox- silence/ sounds. A silence so profound it makes an impact

the carousel of language, it's a web metaphor. Carousel= fairground ride lighthearted/ colourful/frivolous- going round in a pointless fashion. His grief over rides everything else- makes it seem pointless.

His grief/ awareness of her death is like a woven piece of cloth .Any feelings of joy are caught on this and seem wrong. Also idea of trap- spider web

on which laughter stitches itself. How can my hand

clasp another's when between them Asks question- how can he deal with normal human interaction ( handshake) when her death / his grief comes between him and others

is that thick death, that intolerable distance? Like a physical impenetrable barrier between the living and the dead, him and her

*City square- bustling with people, sunrise- beautiful and uplifting, mountain- awe inspiring beauty and magnificence. Grief has tainted even these places for him- it pervades every facet of his existence.

Before she dies, she attempts to shield him from the pain of her death

She grieves for my grief. Dying, she tells me use of assonance and alliteration tie the words together

that bird dives from the sun, that fish She explains the awful reality in a beautiful way. Images of Nature. Death is part of the natural cycle. Fish leaping heavenwards?

leaps into it. No crocus is carved more gently Metaphor- Delicate, beautiful spring flower- nature coming alive again. Carved/ gently suggests it has been created with love and care

than the way her dying her dying words to him are like the crocus- simple and beautiful, and carved into his mind- life must go on, try not to suffer too much- positivity in tone

shapes my mind. – But I hear, too, Change of tone (the word and the dash show this). He can also

the other words, hear negative words ( in his mind)

black words that make the sound connotations of bleakness and depression

of soundlessness, that name the nowhere paradox is used (and alliteration). Places emphasis on the word “nowhere”- for him death is the end. Silence, non existence.

she is continuously going into. In his mind. He cannot stop thinking about/ reliving her death- his loss is never ending.

Ever since she died

she can't stop dying. She makes me this paradox sums up repeated experience of loss.

her elegy. I am a walking masterpiece, metaphor - like a painting of grief

a true fiction metaphor and oxymoron- like a book/ story

of the ugliness of death. Blunt brutal words- no sense of comfort in his memories of her

I am her sad music. Metaphor- fits with the idea of a memorial in the form of a lament- music written to express the loss of someone. The three metaphors sum up the idea that his whole life is dominated by her memory, that he is a living tribute to her (a memorial). They are all related to creativity- he has also created this poem which is in a way also a memorial to her.

Norman MacCaig

This poem is a lament for the dead, for a beloved person in MacCaig’s life. It deals with the sense of loss that pervades every aspect of his life.

This poem is an elegy, a poem or song that is a lament for the dead, for a beloved person in MacCaig’s life. That person is probably MacCaig’s sister, Frances, who died in 1968 as this poem was published in 1971.

Memorial is a sad and beautiful poem about how the sense of loss of the poet’s dear one pervades every aspect of his life. Her death, he makes clear, is not for him an event that has its place in the near past, already a part of history. Instead the process of her dying stays with him constantly: the opening states, Everywhere she dies and in the final stanza, she can’t stop dying.

MacCaig’s poetry is often characterised by its lightness of touch, his playful use of language, particularly metaphor – but always to razor-sharp effect. Here, he retains razor-sharpness in his use of metaphor, but the playful, light touch is entirely absent. Instead he is immersed in the intolerable distance of death, painfully conscious of its "ugliness", and painfully conscious too of the all pervading absence of his dear one.

MacCaig was an atheist. As such, in the face of death, there were no easy comforts for him of promises of life or resurrection beyond the grave. For him death presented an awful finality. Still, the act of writing such a powerful, memorable and skilfully constructed poem was itself an act of literary art that in a sense raised the poet’s consciousness above the profound, melancholic state he experienced at this time.

Form and structure

This poem is written in free verse, and like all of MacCaig’s poetry, the themes and central ideas are readily accessible through conversational style and the simple language. Written from a first person stance in the past tense, the poem is divided by stanzas into three main sections.

In the first stanza, the speaker introduces the subject of his meditation, the death of a loved one.

In the second he reflects and explores the impact of this painful experience while reaching a conclusion of sorts in the final stanza, by reiterating the assertion made in the first line of her death being everywhere, ever present, and by linking to the title, with the (metaphorical) idea of him being a living memorial to her.

The fluidity and looseness of the structure also helps to reinforce the key message of the poem which focuses on death and the grieving process.



Death of a loved one itself represents a formlessness, a loss of structure, the disintegration of close bonds of love and affection. Hence the poet reflects this in the way he constructs the poem.


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