Analysis of Explosion by Vivimarie Vanderpoorten

 

 Photo credit: https://www.cbsl.gov.lk

Vivimarie VanderPoorten is a Sri Lankan poet. She is of Belgian and Sinhala ancestry and grew up in Kurunegala. She won the 2007 Gratiaen Prize. She was also awarded the 2009 SAARC Poetry Award in Delhi.

Explosion deals with the central bank bombing which was carried out by the LTTE on January 31st, 1996, in the city of Colombo, which killed nearly 91 and injured thousands. It was one of the deadliest terrorist attacks of the ethnic conflict, where a truck, containing explosives crashed through the main gate of the Central Bank, and a suicide bomber detonated the bomb which destroyed the bank and damaged buildings nearby. The poem visualizes the devastating panorama aftermath.

As The Island reported the incident:

‘Since all the entry and exit gates at road level were blocked with rubble, the wounded had to be brought down through narrow stairways at the back of the building. A difficult task. Some were injured so badly that the rescuers could not even touch them and they were brought down on window curtains, as stretchers were not available. ‘

The statistics says that 41 Central Bank officers and visitors perished. Eight officials became totally blind, 11 were partially paralyzed, and a few hundred were wounded, some badly. Outside the Bank a shocked city watched helplessly. Clouds of black smoke wafted skywards. Fort became a scene of panic and pandemonium. The shriek of sirens, the screams of blood-soaked survivors, the roar of fires gone out of control, and the rumble and crash of collapsing walls, rent the air. (J. Godwin Perera, The island)

 

Overview

Title: The title ‘explosion’ refers to the bomb blast. It promptly creates an image of a blast with the deafening sound of explosion.

Form: free verse 

Rhythm: short lines, clipped sentences generates a quick pace while reading the poem.

Tone: sympathetic, critical and ironical

Theme: Suffering of the innocent due to terrorism, destructive nature of modern warfare, uncertainty of life.

Narration: Third person point of view, the poet is an observer and reporter of the incident.   

Main technique: imagery

 

Deep-end Analysis:

On the day the truckload

Of explosives

Drove into the Central bank,

For a long second

Time staggered

All sounds of a workday morning

In the city

Even the cawing of the crows

Merged into a solitary

Boom

Prism of fire and fury

 

Clipped, stop sentences: The clipped and stop sentences carry emotions, like the poet finds it difficult to continue describing the tragedy.

Personification: time staggered (Time is crippled like it cannot function by itself, undertaken by the power of the bomb)

Auditory imagery: sound of workday morning, cawing of the crows, Boom (together they create a disturbing noise, unpleasant and hoarse)

Metaphor: Prism of fire and fury (the destructive explosion of the bomb)

Visual imagery: Prism of fire and fury (Prism can breakdown reflections into several parts, just like if you put a petal into a prism, you can see a number of flowers. The magnitude of the fire and the commotion is vividly described with one single imagery.)

 

Poet introduces the how the explosion started step by step slowly and reaches its climax with the single line ‘Boom.’ It mingles with the surrounding noises and emerges like a gigantic forceful fire. Time freezes at the moment and the bomb surmounts all the noises in the city when it unleashed its radiation crushing the physical things around its perimeter.

 

Lives ended

Eyes were blinded

Retired wage earners

Collecting provident funds

Were crushed

Under brick and glass

The nearby vegetable seller’s

hands were severed

like cucumbers,

Women in sari

held their eyeballs in their palms

and blood spattered

the streets,

erasing memory.

 

Clipped, stop lines: generate a quick pace to the poem.

Simile: hands were severed like cucumbers (hands are split open like a split open cucumber showing the bone like cucumber seeds which definitely creates a disturbing image)

Visual imagery: women in sari held their eyeball in their palms, blood spattered the streets

Passive structure: Passivity of ordinary civilians before the modern warfare.

 

The poet then focuses on the victims of the explosion who has no connection to the war ongoing in the country. Most of them are ordinary civilians like retired wage earners, working women, and pedestrian sellers like vegetable sellers. The power of the bomb is overwhelming and the result is disturbing to the eyes of any human being: People are dead, blinded and crushed under the fallen debris; some were seriously injured and some were suffering from temporary memory loss. Women in sari holding their eyeballs in palms and a vegetable seller whose hands were severed like cucumbers visualize the severity of the attack and the suffering of the victims. The scenery is a graphical and pathetic example of the suffering of innocent civilians and the inhumanity associated on the face of a warfare.

 

Out of the broken window

of a damaged car

dead driver

the radio blared, unscathed

on a commercial break

a man's pleasant voice

announced

that big or small, insurance

protects them all.

 

Visual imagery: broken window, a damaged car, dead driver

Auditory imagery: radio blared, a man’s pleasant voice announced

Irony: insurance cannot save people from disasters/ Life is uncertain to the people who live in a war-torn country.

Juxtaposition: The victim vs the society: The society who lead their ordinary life despite caring what is going on the country. (the dead driver vs the pleasant voice in the radio)

 

Poet then focuses on a single scene where a damaged vehicle with a dead driver. The radio is still functioning broadcasting an advertisement on insurance policies. Vanderpoorten may be critical about the countrymen who enjoy their lives relatively normal where some people in the very country suffer from ill-effects of war. The message of the insurance company is ironic - as nobody can protect people from these kind of terrorist attacks. If further shows the uncertainty of the lives of people who live in a war-torn nation.

Vivimarie Vanderpooten’s report on one of the tragic incidents occurred in Sri Lanka when there had been a long civil war between the Sri Lankan government vs LTTE terrorists. She shows the suffering and vulnerability of civilians when there is an ongoing war in a country. War can destroy the lives of people, the economy of a country and most pathetically the humanity. Therefore, war is not an answer for any question as war can only give suffering to mankind. What is your idea? Please let us know your points of views on the poem. Share the post if you find it useful.

 

 Sources: Resource book NIE, 277 & The e-newspaper: The Island

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