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Identify Key Content in both 'Poppies' and 'War Photographer' and Explain How They Compare

In this worksheet, students will identify the key themes in both 'Poppies' and 'War Photographer' and explain the similarities between the two poems.

'Identify Key Content in both 'Poppies' and 'War Photographer' and Explain How They Compare' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA, Pearson Edexcel

Curriculum topic:   Poetry, Poetry Anthology Collections

Curriculum subtopic:   Power and Conflict: 'Poppies', Conflict: 'Poppies'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

For this activity, you will need to turn to the poem 'Poppies' by Jane Weir and 'War Photographer' by Carol Ann Duffy. Both poems can be found in the Power and Conflict section of your anthology.

 

Both poems contain powerful emotions, but what links them the most is that they are both told from the perspective of someone not involved in the fighting, but still facing the consequences of it.

 

soldiers            camera

 

The main themes running throughout the poems are grief, war, loss, memory, childhood, innocence and adulthood.

 

In the following questions, you will look at the similarities between the two poems.

 

You should always refer to your own text when working through these examples. These quotations are for reference only.

cemetery with poppies

 

In order to identify the similarities in 'Poppies' and 'War Photographer', we need to understand their meaning. Read the poem 'Poppies' and match the questions to the correct answers below:

Column A

Column B

Who is the speaker in this poem?
A songbird
What does the mother recall playing with her son?
Blackthorns
What does she compare his gelled hair with?
Being Eskimos
What does she remember pinning to his lapel?
A poppy
What does the speaker release from its cage?
The mother

 

modern day soldiers

 

Now read the poem 'War Photographer' and match the questions to their answers below:

Column A

Column B

Where has the narrator just come from?
The narrator goes to the dark room to process the ...
What does the narrator do as soon as they arrive h...
The narrator is shocked and saddened by the suffer...
How does the narrator feel about the conflict they...
He feels that they do not understand how bad the c...
How does the narrator feel about the people back i...
The narrator has been in a country of conflict tak...

Powerful emotions are shown in both 'Poppies' and 'War Photographer'. Both narrators are deeply traumatised by conflict and express their sadness and grief. 

 

Let's have a look at the mother first in the poem 'Poppies'. Think about how she is experiencing feelings of loss, as a result of her son growing up and going to war.

 

Which quotations do you think express her powerful emotions, and which do not?

 Quotations associated with powerful emotionsQuotations NOT associated with powerful emotions
"Steeled the softening of my face"
"A split second and you were away"
"I resisted the impulse"
"Later a single dove flew"
"All my words flattened rolled"
"My stomach busy"
"Reaching the top of the hill"

Now, let's compare the powerful emotions expressed in 'Poppies', with those expressed in 'War Photographer'.

 

The narrator of 'War Photographer' is also not directly involved in the violence, but they also feel the misery and powerful emotions associated with the effects of war. Although their experience of war is different from the one described in 'Poppies', their emotions are equally as powerful.

 

The quotations below are all from 'War Photographer'. Which ones express powerful emotions, and which ones do not?

 Quotations associated with powerful emotionsQuotations NOT associated with powerful emotions
"Spools of suffering set out in ordered rows"
"His editor will pick out five or six for Sunday’s supplement"
"Between the bath and pre-lunch beers"
"His hands which did not tremble then though seem to now"
"He has a job to do"
"A hundred agonies in black and white"
"He remembers the cries of this man’s wife"

Memories are an important feature of both 'Poppies' and 'War Photographer'. Both narrators are thinking back to a memory which causes them sadness and pain.

 

love heart on tree

 

Let's have a look at the mother first in the poem 'Poppies'. Think about how memories of her son cause her sadness; both happy memories of him as a boy and the painful memory of the day he went to war.

 

Which quotations do you think express her memories, and which do not?

 Quotations associated with MemoriesQuotations NOT associated with Memories
"Play at being Eskimos like we did when you were little"
"On reaching the top of the hill"
"After you'd gone I went into your bedroom"
"The dove pulled freely against the sky"
"Hoping to hear your playground voice catching on the wind"

Now, let's compare the memories expressed in 'Poppies', with those expressed in 'War Photographer'.

 

Both poets use memories to describe the pain and sadness they have experienced due to war. 'War Photographer' is different, as the narrator actually viewed the conflict, although they were not part of it, and we get the sense that they are finding it very difficult to live with the memories of what they have seen.

 

The quotations below are all from 'War Photographer'. Choose two quotations that are associated with memories.

"A half-formed ghost"

"In his dark room he is finally alone"

"The only light is red and softly glows"

"He remembers the cries of this man’s wife"

Both 'Poppies' and 'War Photographer' use very visual imagery to describe the emotions being felt. Every emotion is linked to a memory or an action.

 

child splashing in puddle

 

Let's have a look at the imagery used in the poem 'Poppies'. Think about how the mother describes every action before she walks her son to the door, it's almost as if we can imagine her trying to hold on to him.

 

The quotations below are all from the poem Poppies. Choose one quotation which you think creates the best visual imagery.

"Three days before Armistice Sunday"

"A split second and you were away"

"On reaching the top of the hill I traced"

"I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals, spasms of paper red, disrupting a blockade of yellow bias"

Now, let's compare the use of visual imagery used in 'Poppies', with the visual imagery in 'War Photographer'.

 

old photograph

 

Both poets use visual imagery to give the reader a really clear impression of the suffering that is caused by war. The narrators of both poems use descriptive techniques to create an impression of both their own sadness and the violence that is associated with conflict.

 

The quotations below are all from 'War Photographer'. Choose two quotations that you think create really strong visual imagery.

"The only light is red and softly glows"

"He has a job to do"

"A hundred agonies in black and white"

"His editor will pick out five or six"

Both 'Poppies' and 'War Photographer' use the power of touch to show the care that they feel for the people harmed by war.

 

Let's have a look at how the power of touch is used in the poem 'Poppies'. Think about how the mother was constantly in physical contact with her son when he was a boy, and especially on the day he went to war. 

 

Read the following extract and underline any words which you think represent the power of touch.

"I rounded up as many white cat hairs as I could, smoothed down your shirt's upturned collar, steeled the softening of my face. I wanted to graze my nose across the tip of your nose"

Now, let's compare how the power of touch is used in 'Poppies', with how it is used in 'War Photographer'.

 

Both poems use the power of touch to show how strongly they feel about a person or a situation. Whereas the narrator in 'Poppies' uses it to show how she cares for her son, the narrator in 'War Photographer' uses it to show how important the people in his photographs are.

 

The quotations below are all from 'War Photographer'. Choose two quotations that you think show the power of touch.

"In his dark room he is finally alone"

"Solutions slop in trays beneath his hands"

"A stranger’s features faintly start to twist"

"Hands, which did not tremble then though seem to now"

"A hundred agonies in black and white"

  • Question 1

cemetery with poppies

 

In order to identify the similarities in 'Poppies' and 'War Photographer', we need to understand their meaning. Read the poem 'Poppies' and match the questions to the correct answers below:

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Who is the speaker in this poem?
The mother
What does the mother recall playi...
Being Eskimos
What does she compare his gelled ...
Blackthorns
What does she remember pinning to...
A poppy
What does the speaker release fro...
A songbird
EDDIE SAYS
The poem is about the nature of grief. The mother is speaking directly to her son, but a son who shifts in time. There is: The son leaving home for school on his own for the first time. The son who has just been killed. Beneath the surface the son dying violently in a field hospital in Afghanistan.
  • Question 2

 

modern day soldiers

 

Now read the poem 'War Photographer' and match the questions to their answers below:

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Where has the narrator just come ...
The narrator has been in a countr...
What does the narrator do as soon...
The narrator goes to the dark roo...
How does the narrator feel about ...
The narrator is shocked and sadde...
How does the narrator feel about ...
He feels that they do not underst...
EDDIE SAYS
Carol Ann Duffy has friends who are War Photographers and she has always been fascinated by a job that requires people to record terrible events, without being able to actually help anyone. The poem describes the difficulties of the war photographer as they struggle to deal with moving between a country in conflict and a peaceful country, where people often take things for granted. The poem also asks us, as readers, to think about our own reaction to the images of conflict which we see in the media.
  • Question 3

Powerful emotions are shown in both 'Poppies' and 'War Photographer'. Both narrators are deeply traumatised by conflict and express their sadness and grief. 

 

Let's have a look at the mother first in the poem 'Poppies'. Think about how she is experiencing feelings of loss, as a result of her son growing up and going to war.

 

Which quotations do you think express her powerful emotions, and which do not?

CORRECT ANSWER
 Quotations associated with powerful emotionsQuotations NOT associated with powerful emotions
"Steeled the softening of my face"
"A split second and you were away"
"I resisted the impulse"
"Later a single dove flew"
"All my words flattened rolled"
"My stomach busy"
"Reaching the top of the hill"
EDDIE SAYS
This poem is full of powerful emotion and the hardest thing for the mother is that she cannot show them! For her son's sake, she keeps her emotions bottled up so that she doesn't upset him. The mother struggles to keep the sadness from her face on the day her son goes to war and, by the end of the poem, she is left leaning against a war memorial, because her emotions have become too powerful to handle.
  • Question 4

Now, let's compare the powerful emotions expressed in 'Poppies', with those expressed in 'War Photographer'.

 

The narrator of 'War Photographer' is also not directly involved in the violence, but they also feel the misery and powerful emotions associated with the effects of war. Although their experience of war is different from the one described in 'Poppies', their emotions are equally as powerful.

 

The quotations below are all from 'War Photographer'. Which ones express powerful emotions, and which ones do not?

CORRECT ANSWER
 Quotations associated with powerful emotionsQuotations NOT associated with powerful emotions
"Spools of suffering set out in ordered rows"
"His editor will pick out five or six for Sunday’s supplement"
"Between the bath and pre-lunch beers"
"His hands which did not tremble then though seem to now"
"He has a job to do"
"A hundred agonies in black and white"
"He remembers the cries of this man’s wife"
EDDIE SAYS
'War Photographer' is full of powerful emotions as the narrator struggles to come to terms with what they have seen in war. Like the mother in 'Poppies', the narrator of 'War Photographer' is overcome with a sense of loss and grief for those that have died in the war. Also, like the mother in Poppies, the narrator of 'War Photographer' is unable to continue with everyday life once they have experienced the sadness associated with conflict.
  • Question 5

Memories are an important feature of both 'Poppies' and 'War Photographer'. Both narrators are thinking back to a memory which causes them sadness and pain.

 

love heart on tree

 

Let's have a look at the mother first in the poem 'Poppies'. Think about how memories of her son cause her sadness; both happy memories of him as a boy and the painful memory of the day he went to war.

 

Which quotations do you think express her memories, and which do not?

CORRECT ANSWER
 Quotations associated with MemoriesQuotations NOT associated with Memories
"Play at being Eskimos like we did when you were little"
"On reaching the top of the hill"
"After you'd gone I went into your bedroom"
"The dove pulled freely against the sky"
"Hoping to hear your playground voice catching on the wind"
EDDIE SAYS
Much of the poem is centred around the mother's memories, both of her son's childhood and the day he went to war. Memories of his childhood cause her both pleasure and pain because, although it was a happy time, she now misses those times with him. The use of the past tense such as "pinned onto your lapel" suggests that this was something that has already happened that she remembers vividly.
  • Question 6

Now, let's compare the memories expressed in 'Poppies', with those expressed in 'War Photographer'.

 

Both poets use memories to describe the pain and sadness they have experienced due to war. 'War Photographer' is different, as the narrator actually viewed the conflict, although they were not part of it, and we get the sense that they are finding it very difficult to live with the memories of what they have seen.

 

The quotations below are all from 'War Photographer'. Choose two quotations that are associated with memories.

CORRECT ANSWER
"A half-formed ghost"
"He remembers the cries of this man’s wife"
EDDIE SAYS
The narrator of 'War Photographer' has very painful memories, which are all brought back when he develops his photographs. The "cries of this man's wife" suggest that it was the pain caused to the loved ones left behind which hurt him, rather than the violence itself. The "half-formed ghost" creates the idea that the man remembers the people he photographed as they start to appear on the paper, like a ghost slowly appearing.
  • Question 7

Both 'Poppies' and 'War Photographer' use very visual imagery to describe the emotions being felt. Every emotion is linked to a memory or an action.

 

child splashing in puddle

 

Let's have a look at the imagery used in the poem 'Poppies'. Think about how the mother describes every action before she walks her son to the door, it's almost as if we can imagine her trying to hold on to him.

 

The quotations below are all from the poem Poppies. Choose one quotation which you think creates the best visual imagery.

CORRECT ANSWER
"I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals, spasms of paper red, disrupting a blockade of yellow bias"
EDDIE SAYS
The visual imagery in the quotation "I pinned one onto your lapel, crimped petals, spasms of paper red, disrupting a blockade of yellow bias" is so effective because the reader is given so much detail about the action. The use of verbs and colours allows the reader to imagine the mother pinning a poppy on to her sons' clothes.
  • Question 8

Now, let's compare the use of visual imagery used in 'Poppies', with the visual imagery in 'War Photographer'.

 

old photograph

 

Both poets use visual imagery to give the reader a really clear impression of the suffering that is caused by war. The narrators of both poems use descriptive techniques to create an impression of both their own sadness and the violence that is associated with conflict.

 

The quotations below are all from 'War Photographer'. Choose two quotations that you think create really strong visual imagery.

CORRECT ANSWER
"The only light is red and softly glows"
"A hundred agonies in black and white"
EDDIE SAYS
This is a really visual poem, with lots of descriptive techniques used throughout. The quotation "The only light is red and softly glows" creates strong visual imagery with its use of colour, adverb and verb - the reader can imagine the peace of the darkroom with the soft light. In a similar way, the quotation "A hundred agonies in black and white" again uses colour so that we can imagine the scene of him looking and the photographs as they slowly emerge on the page.
  • Question 9

Both 'Poppies' and 'War Photographer' use the power of touch to show the care that they feel for the people harmed by war.

 

Let's have a look at how the power of touch is used in the poem 'Poppies'. Think about how the mother was constantly in physical contact with her son when he was a boy, and especially on the day he went to war. 

 

Read the following extract and underline any words which you think represent the power of touch.

CORRECT ANSWER
"I rounded up as many white cat hairs
as I could, smoothed down your shirt's
upturned collar, steeled the softening
of my face. I wanted to graze my nose
across the tip of your nose"
EDDIE SAYS
This extract creates the impression that the mother wants to keep in physical contact with her son, who is about to leave for war. Do you really think he has cat hairs on his jacket? Or do you think this is just a way for the mother to show her physical affection? The verb "graze" also creates the impression that the mother viewed touch as a gentle action to show her son how important he was.
  • Question 10

Now, let's compare how the power of touch is used in 'Poppies', with how it is used in 'War Photographer'.

 

Both poems use the power of touch to show how strongly they feel about a person or a situation. Whereas the narrator in 'Poppies' uses it to show how she cares for her son, the narrator in 'War Photographer' uses it to show how important the people in his photographs are.

 

The quotations below are all from 'War Photographer'. Choose two quotations that you think show the power of touch.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Solutions slop in trays beneath his hands"
"Hands, which did not tremble then though seem to now"
EDDIE SAYS
When the narrator returns back from taking pictures of the war he goes straight to his darkroom to develop them. Although the poem says "he has a job to do", the way in which the narrator handles the pictures and carries out the process shows that he has strong emotions attached to the pictures. The way that the "solutions slop in trays" shows that he is feeling emotional when developing the images, and the way his "hands tremble" shows that he views the images as extremely important and is taking great care when touching them.
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