Jane Weir - 'Poppies' - Annotation
Annotation prompts for Jane Weir’s ‘Poppies’.
‘Poppies’ is about a mother’s experience of pain / loss as her son leaves home for war. Jane Weir (born 1963) stated: “I was subliminally thinking of Susan Owen [mother of Wilfred]… and families of soldiers killed in any war when I wrote this poem. This poem attempts on one level to address female experience and is consciously a political act.”
“Poppies” are a red flower. Could symbolise peace, bloodshed, remembrance, death, war and sleep (because the opium extracted from them is a sedative / pain relief). Poem was commissioned by Carol Ann Duffy as part of a collection of 10 contemporary war poems, published in The Guardian (2009) – response to escalating conflict in Afghanistan / Iraq inquiry.
St. Giles Church (Matlock) was the basis for this poem. Somewhere Weir would frequently (“sort of daily”) visit with her youngest son, James. They found it “a way of escaping…there are lots of beautiful things in the graveyard”. They used to observe the war graves in particular: “made me think about…the idea of losing a child and what that must feel like. A lot of the graves were of young men: soldiers and airmen…some…18. As a mother…tried to almost put myself, if you can at all, into the position of people that may have lost” someone.
Weir describes being surprised by the “overwhelming response” she had from readers across Europe to ‘Poppies’. Many of the readers who contacted her were mothers of soldiers killed in action in recent conflicts. In an interview she said that, “I wrote the piece from a woman's perspective, which is quite rare, as most poets who write about war have been men. As the mother of two teenage boys, I tried to put across how I might feel if they were fighting in a war zone.” What does it mean to you?
The annotation prompts are a supportive tool, intended to encourage further analysis and interpretation.