Reading module number 9:
Men and women. Are they that different?
Simon Armitage’s You’re ‘Beautiful’
Liz Lockhead’s 1985 ‘Men Talk’
Poesía Inglesa Siglos XIX-XX
Profesor: Vicente Forés
Alumno: Alfredo Carbonell Rico
Men Talk (Rap) by Liz Lochhead
2 Rabbit rabbit rabbit women
3 Tattle and titter
4 Women prattle
5 Women waffle and witter
6 Men talk. Men Talk.
7 Women into Girl Talk
8 About Women’s Trouble
9 Trivia’n’Small talk
10They yap and they babble
11Men talk. Men Talk.
12Women gossip Women giggle
17Women chew the fat, women spill the beans
18Women aint been takin’
19The oh-so Good Advice in them
21A Man Likes A Good Listener
23I like A Woman
24Who likes me enough
25Not to nitpick
26Not to nag and
27Not to interrupt ‘cause I call the treason
28A woman with the Good Grace
29To be struck dumb
30By me Sweet Reason. Yes –
31A Man Likes A Good Listener
34Likes a Real God Listener
35Women yap yap yap
36Verbal Diarrhoea is a Female Disease
37Woman she spread the rumours round she
40Bossy Women Gossip
41Girlish Women Giggle
42Women natter, women nag
43Women niggle niggle niggle
46Think First, Speak Later
You're Beautiful, by Simon Armitage
1 You're Beautiful
2 because you're classically trained. ,
3 I'm ugly because I associate piano wire with strangulation.
4 You're beautiful because you stop to read the cards in newsagents' windows
5 about lost cats and missing dogs.
6 I'm ugly because of what 1 did to that jellyfish with a lolly-stick and a big stone
7 You're beautiful because for you, politeness is instinctive, not a marketing
9 I'm ugly because desperation is impossible to hide.
10 Ugly like he is,
11 Beautiful like hers,
12 Beautiful like Venus,
13 Ugly like his,
14 Beautiful like she is,
15 Ugly like Mars.
16 You're beautiful because you believe in coincidence and the power of thought.
17 I'm ugly because I proved God to be a mathematical impossibility
18 You're beautiful because you prefer home-made soup to the packet stuff.
19 I'm ugly because once, at a dinner party,
20 I defended the aristocracy and wasn't even drunk.
21 You're beautiful because you can't work the remote control.
22 I'm ugly because of satellite television and twenty-four hour rolling news.
23 Ugly like he is,
24 Beautiful like hers,
25 Beautiful like Venus,
26 Ugly like his,
27 Beautiful like she is,
28 Ugly like Mars.
29 You're beautiful because you cry at weddings as well as funerals.
30 I'm ugly because I think .of children as another species from a different world.
31 You're beautiful because you look great in any colour including red.
32 I'm ugly because I think shopping is strictly for the acquisition of material goods.
33 You're beautiful because when you were born, undiscovered planets
34 lined up to peep over the rim of your cradle and lay gifts of gravity and light at your miniature feet.
35 I'm ugly for saying 'love at first sight' is another form of mistaken identity
36 and that the most human of all responses is to gloat.
37 Ugly like he is,
38 Beautiful like hers,
39 Beautiful like Venus,
40 Ugly like his,
41 Beautiful like she is,
42 Ugly like Mars.
43 You're beautiful because you've never seen the inside of a car-wash,
44 I'm ugly because I always ask for a receipt.
45 You're beautiful for sending a box of shoes to the third world.
46 I'm ugly because I remember the telephone numbers of ex-girlfriends
47 and the year Schubert was born.
48 You're beautiful because you sponsored a parrot in a zoo.
49 I'm ugly because when I sigh it's like the slow collapse of a circus tent.
50 Ugly like he is,
51 Beautiful like hers,
52 Beautiful like Venus,
53 Ugly like his,
54 Beautiful like she is,
55 Ugly like Mars.
56 You're beautiful because you can point at a man in a uniform and laugh.
57 I'm ugly because I was a police informer in a previous life.
58 You're beautiful because you drink a litre of water and eat three pieces of fruit a day.
59 I'm ugly for taking the line that a meal without meat is a beautiful woman with one eye.
60 You're beautiful because you don't see love as a competition and you know how to lose.
61 I'm ugly because I kissed the FA Cup then held it up to the crowd.
62 You're beautiful because of a single buttercup in the top buttonhole of your
64 I'm ugly because I said the World's Strongest Woman was a muscleman in a
66 You're beautiful because you couldn't live in a lighthouse.
67 I'm ugly for making hand-shadows in front of the giant bulb, so when they
68 look up, the captains of vessels in distress see the ears of a rabbit, or the eye
69 of a fox, or the legs of a galloping black horse.
70 Ugly like he is,
71 Beautiful like hers,
72 Beautiful like Venus,
73 Ugly like his,
74 Beautiful like she is,
75 Ugly like Mars.
76 Ugly like he is,
77 Beautiful like hers,
78 Beautiful like Venus,
79 Ugly like his,
80 Beautiful like she is,
81 Ugly like Mars.
In this essay we are going to deal with a really old topic which is the vision that both men and women have of each other. As a sample, we are going to look at two poems written by a male and a female writer. He is called Simon Armitage and his poem is titled ‘You’re Beautiful’ and she is called Liz Lochhead and her poem is titled ‘Men Talk’.
Both titles are clearly addressing the opposite sex of the poet. Therefore, Armitage is referring to women as ‘beautiful’, giving them a very positive feature and declaring then the admiration for a very remarkable quality of the opposite gender. On the other hand, the interpretation of the title of the poem by Lochhead could be interpreted in several ways. A possible interpretation could be to take it as an order, as an imperative way of addressing men to encourage them to ‘talk’, to give their opinion about something. Another way of reading the title is to take it as the action of a chat between men. Therefore, the poet would be about to analyse the speech of men.
The grammatical person used in the poem by Simon Armitage is the first, the second and the third one, as we can appreciate in each comparison throughout the poem ‘You’re beautiful because…I’m ugly because…’ (lines 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, etc). The third person is used just for the chorus as in ‘Beautiful like she is…Ugly like he is…’ (lines 13, 14, 26, 27, etc). In the poem by Lochhead, the grammatical person used is both the first and the third one, as we can see in lines 23 and 31 with the use of the pronoun ‘I’ and the use of the pronoun ‘She’ In line 37 and ‘They’ in line number 10. In my opinion, I think the use of these literary devices explains exactly what an opinion is. This is, the use of the third person corresponds to the topic they are dealing with and the first one means that the writer himself or herself is giving a personal opinion about something. The use of the second person comes from the fact that the target of the critic is another person to whom the poet is addressing directly.
The structure of both poems is not a classical one. Both of them follow what we could call a ‘free verse structure’, although we can also find differences between the two poems. The poem by the male writer follows a very particular pattern for his poem. It is structured basically through anaphora and the repetition of the comparison mentioned before with the use of a chorus in the middle of some of the comparisons. We can also find that the poem by the female writer follows a ‘free-verse’ pattern, without uniformity in the number of the syllables of the verses and in the rhyme. But as the other poem, it has some kind of refrain, as we can see in lines 6, 11 and 45 (‘Men talk. Men Talk’). The use of this structure makes remarkable the times of the poets. As long as we know they are contemporary to us and therefore very modern, they do not use any classical structure such as the sonnet. On the other hand, they get the effect in their poetry by rhyme, the repetitions and the rhythm of the poem, not by the number of syllables and verse only. We can check this theory by the words of Simon Armitage himself, as long as he answered this to the question: ‘How do you decide what form to use in a poem?’ (3)’I tend to think that poems come pre-packaged, and that when the idea suggests itself to me the form comes with it: I sort of see it in my mind's eye - particularly with poems that come as blocks of text, you know, that look like gravestones or something like that, or those that come as quatrains and look like hymns. They don't always stay in that form because when I start writing I'll sometimes notice that there is a pattern of language, perhaps a rhyme or a repetition, and that might suggest some further, you know, physical form or shape on the page’.
Now we are going to focus on the images of the poems and the meaning of them. The poem by Armitage follows a very simple structure referring to images and to the straightforward meaning. It is based on the conviction that he is ‘ugly’ because of the ways he behaves, his thoughts and his actions while the woman he is addressing to is ‘beautiful’ because of the same aspects but for very differents attitudes towards the same situations. Firstly, I would like to point out the universitary studies of Simon Armitage (4) , that surely gave him a training in classical studies. Therefore, we can find the comparison of the woman with ‘Venus’, Goddes of love which is very positive, while he compares the masculine gender to ‘Mars’, who was the roman God of war which remarks a very negative feature. Apart from this detail, the whole of the comparisons of the poem deal with the different attitudes towards everyday matters, such as feelings, clothes, likes and dislikes, jokes, shopping, eating, soccer, politics etc In all of them, the attitude or the reaction of the male is very negative, selfish, without any sensibility, cold, tough, cruel, hard… while the woman has an attitude based on senitivity, and good, altruistic, sincere , nice, kind and pòsitive feelings. In conclusion, we can say tha Armitage offers us a very positive vision of the femenine gender while her vision of the masculine one is not that good. Although as he himself tells, ‘I once red that poem in Liverpool and a lady came up to me afterwards and said: Don’t worry, I’m ugly too’.(1) The poem by Liz Lochhead is very peculiar, for the structure of the verses does not form grammatically perfect sentences, giving the impression that the writer is reflecting thoughts straightaway, without any consideration. Therefore, in my opinion the attitude shown in the poem changes from what looks like a critic towards women and sometimes a critic towards men. As a women, Lochhead is concerned abou the problems of her gender and specially about the Scottish working-class woman, who is both marginalised by patriarchal Scottish culture and is simultaneously the pillar and carer for that culture. The lyricism of her writing as well as the visual sweep of her grammar attempts to negotiate this double bind as an educated woman reflecting back upon both her own ontogenesis, and the violence which formed her as a writer and intellectual.(5). We can see the criticism towards women in lines 36 to 38, where she refers to the trash-talking that women some women use to practice sometimes. But we can also find an ironic warning or advice to men on lines 45 and 46, where she encourage men to consider the actions before doing them without thinking.
As a personal conclusion after having read these poems, I would like to say that there is no war between genders and there is no one better than the other, because we can easily find ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ people on both sides (of the same coin).
Personally, I have really enjoyed both the reading and the analysing of these poems, for they show a very simple and clear vocabulary and structure and a straightforward meaning. I also think that the poets perfectly transmit their opinions about the topic they are dealing with to the readers by all the literary devices explained before. On top of this I would like to add that for me it has been a really nice experience to analyse poems I could heard from their creators’ own voice. I would also like to point out that I did not use much bibliography for the analysing of these poems because I considered the topics they deal with very personal and opinion based so their straightforward meaning says already everything about them.
(1) POETRY ARCHIVE.ORG You’re beautiful by Simon Armitage
Copyright © Simon Armitage, used by permission of the author.
(3) POETRY ARCHIVE.ORG Simon Armitage interviewed.
Copyright © 2005 Poetry Archive
(4) CONTEMPORARY WRITERS.COM Simon Armitage
(5) CONTEMPORARY WRITERS.COM Liz Lochhead
All the research was made on