In the poem ‘Extenuating Circumstances’ by Antjie Krog the speaker describes a situation in which she is trying to write a poem. Krog incorporates the reoccurring theme of her family towards the end of the poem. The poet’s purpose in this poem is to express the difficulty of writing a poem. The poet conveys a message of the power of writing as is common in most of her other works but also communicates the difficulty in achieving this power.
The speakers tone in this poem is quite undulating because of the use of one line stanzas and punctuation such as exclamation marks and colons which are very rare in her poems. The tone starts off almost anxiously and gradually progresses until the third stanza where the use of the exclamation marks produce a climax and lead to a turning point. The predominant mood of the poem seems to be one of needing relief as it is suggested that once she writes down her poem it brings ‘mildness afterwards’ (11).Order now
After the climatic point, atmosphere changes from intense to more composed than in the beginning of the poem. The feeling the poet seeks to evoke is a sense of mild shock in the 5th stanza with the portrayal of her family being beheaded, although initially, it seems to evoke an anxious atmosphere. This paper will now discuss the specific techniques used by the poet to convey these themes and ideas. The poem is structured in an unconventional form as it is written in free verse. There are six stanzas out of which two are one line stanzas.
Each stanza has an irregular number of lines which is quite typical of Krog’s style. There doesn’t seem to be any logical progression in her ideas although each stanza has its own idea. For example, the first stanza which would normally be used to describe the setting is used to dive right into what the poem is about, writing poems. The second one lined stanza describes how she doesn’t have control on what she says in her poems. The third stanza sets the building blocks of the climatic point.
The forth stanza is the climax of the poem which is out of the ordinary because usually the climax would be at the end of the poem whereas in this one, it is half way through the poem. The fifth stanza describes the setting and provides the mild shock of her family being beheaded. The final stanza is somewhat enigmatic and somehow provides closure to the poem. The effect of the unconventional structure on the poem is to create an unusual, choppy atmosphere because of the irregular amount of lines per stanza.
This choppy atmosphere emphasizes the vivid intensity of the poet’s words and therefore having a stronger impact on the reader. The language used in this poem seems to be quite vibrant. The poet uses almost scientific terms for some of the body parts she mentions. For example, when she refers to the words leaking ‘down the jugular’ (5), or when she describes ‘molars shredding mouthlinings’ (6), in addition when she refers to her family beheaded ‘with aortas reeling staining’ (16). The use of a vein and artery could symbolize the flow of words in her blood and depict how writing is in her blood.
The language seems to be quite formal and is appropriate to the theme of the poem because the poem is about writing, one would expect that the poem should use a vivid choice of words. Also the poet’s use of repetition of the word ‘come’ throughout the 4th stanza could imply how the speaker is desperate for an outlet of her feeling. This would yet again reinforce the reoccurring theme of power of writing which is a characteristic of her work. The use of a vivid choice of words enriches the poem by adding different meanings to her words which is distinctive of Krog’s style.