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Owen Sheers

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Relationships are presented as unpredictable and can often be dangerous. To what extent and in what ways do you agree with this statement with reference to Four Movements in a Scale of Two?

Many of Owen Sheers’ poems in ‘Skirrid Hill’ explores the nature of love and relationships using imagery to symbolize a less than idealized version of love. Impulsive actions are made as two naïve people enter a relationship oblivious to consequences and Sheers uses this to map out an unpredictable course of true love as passionate and lustful yet dangerous.

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“Four Movements in a Scale of Two,” presents love in a relationship from different perspectives by pairing poetry with music – occasionally melodic or out of tune, with one mistake ruining an entire orchestrated piece. The title is linked with musical imagery, “ four” (4/4) represents time signatures – various line lengths throughout the poem also mirror this, four also suggests that the poem is in four parts meaning four key stages to the relationship.

‘Movements’ imply the tempo of the relationship, how fast/slow the couple decided to take it or how quick the relationship ends. ‘Scale of two’ signifies the lovers in the relationship. Music and poetry complement each other however this poem contradicts this belief on the relationship eventually ends, music symbolizes the harmonies of the early stages of a relationship … yet this contrasts with the harshness …

Sheers sets the scene portraying the couple as superficial similarly to an opening of a film, the metaphor “cut to us/overhead shot,” suggests the couple were not in love however were enticed with the idea of it. Sheer’s writes this like a screenplay as if they were playing a part which reflects the title of Pages – like they’re obliged to ‘act’ like lovers. The series of metaphors ‘foetus curled’ is our first indication to movement suggesting how tight knit the two are acting inseparable however it also indicates how inexperienced they are thus giving the effect this was a time where the couple were happy once. ‘Lay back to naked back/opposing bass clefs’ indicates they are facing away from each other, an image of the musical symbol and ‘foetus curled’ implies distance even in the early stages. The oxymoron ‘elegant scars on the hips of a cello’ is paradoxical as the adjective elegant juxtaposes scars, implying wounds suggesting that they were destined to be hurt and also the two lovers are not madly in love with each other but are still craving the sexual intimacy from someone regardless of how much it hurts them. ‘Double heart of a secret fruit,’ symbolizes unpredictability and danger caused by a relationship, double heart suggests how unconditional yet unpredictable love can be, ‘double’ suggests both lovers being conjoined by pure lust, love and how suffocating a relationship can be with the pressure of two hearts being in one.

The noun phrase ‘secret fruit’ has biblical connotations referring to Adam and Eve, it was forbidden to eat however the danger came from when Eve convinced Adam to eat the fruit who did it out of love while Eve manipulated him which gives the effect of the reader having sympathy for the male in the relationship, similarly to Song … The couple are inexperienced and unpredictability offers no indication as to where this relationship is going, like a beginning of a film. Two people adore each other’s company; they’re devoted and affectionate however certain actions suggest that it can often become tiring due to the choice of lexis ‘nothing on them but sleep’ Also implying the relationship wasn’t real and doesn’t mean anything, like a story book read to a child at night, fictional and illusory however it could also indicate the many possibilities that are open to the couple. Pages has 4 stanzas with 3 lines, musically representing 3/ 4 time signatures used popularly in a waltz, a romantic dance indicating that this is where we see the two lovers truly in love. ¾ and not 4/4 foreshadow that there’s something missing however much they act in love, the relationship is never going to work, the language choice in this stanza contains many metaphors and imagery relating to music and literature. The second part Still Life contains 6 stanzas of couplets instead of tercets, the change in form suggests that the two lovers are closer than they’ve ever been due to sexual experience or complete intimacy. The name indicates a snapshot capturing an earlier stage of a happier time or simply a still life painting.

Sheers uses the extended metaphor of art imagery providing a beautiful yet artificial portrayal of a relationship. The similie, painting is used to show development between the two by using ‘naked back’ as a ‘canvas,” presenting how comfortable the couple are with each other considering in Pages the pages were ‘blank,’ as the couple are growing increasingly close.

“Palette of touches/texture with your tongue/close” This poem can be compared to “Night Windows,” due to the use of art imagery …, both poems combined gives us a list of the four main aspects: art, music, cinema and literature. Both relating to impressionist art, to mime or mimic, perhaps implying that the couple are imitating a relationship. ‘Impression of your breasts /sentence of my spine,’ implies that the combination of the two forms, however this could symbolize that the two are opposites, an artist and a writer wanting to express themselves differently. The intimacy within this can be interpreted to danger as the closeness is almost suffocating, implying the dangers of falling in love. Eastern Promise infers similarly to the “honeymoon phase,” hinting at something exotic, unconventional and attractive because of its ‘otherness’. However it contrasts against the harsh tone of the poem, as the previous two suggested intimacy and love this infers that the relationship is damaged and may have already been broken. He uses personification ‘summoning the Steppe and Siberian’ hinting that the relationship has grown cold and dangerous, the use of sibilance also emphasises the iciness juxtaposing the previous statement of the warmth radiating in Pages “lying in bed.” Another implication to the failure isn’t working is the use of harsh constantans ‘caught her/cracked their constantans’ which contrasts harshly against the previous description in the second section ‘texture with your tongue.’ The tone has shifted from gentle seduction to bitter harshness implying that someone has hurt the other in some way, as the verb ‘cracked’ suggests that one of them has broken in frustration/irritation. Line Break implies the breakup of the two but also refers to ‘what breaks when this happens?” The structure has changed to tercets similarly to Pages indicating that love is a vicious, dangerous cycle. Line-Break also indicate ’lifeline’ or literally cutting an umbilical cord. Sibilance is used again in this poem, “slow smoke-signal,” which could suggest the sudden realisation of how quickly the relationship ended and how painful it is. Furthermore Sheers uses water as imagery to convey an idea that the relationship was damaged beyond repair as the water had become murky, ‘washing water,’ as they can’t see beyond the surface. Sheers has decided to go back to tercets however he has left one like as a singular, indicating that the couple are no longer together. In conclusion I believe that ‘Four Movements in a Scale of Two’ represents as extremely
unpredictable and dangerous, all four sections of the poem present a different interpretation of how there was no clear path of where the relationship was heading, although there was extreme intimacy it had ultimately led to a dangerous territory as there was no going back. Eastern Promise accents this as the lovers had gotten in too far deep into the relationship.

Cite this Owen Sheers

Owen Sheers. (2016, Nov 17). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/owen-sheers/

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