Alright, this may not get you through your essays but it will help.
1. ‘Mementos, 1’ by WD Snodgrass
2. An Analysis
3. ‘Mementos, 1’: an illustrated version
4. Notes on editing process, credits.
‘Mementos, 1’ was written by W.D Snodgrass in the 1960s. I could go through how the ‘old clippings’ represent memories past, or how the subject concerns his divorce; however, the strongest point here lies in the poem’s relationship with the Second World War, which like the speaker’s marriage, is but a collection of memories.
Snodgrass notes this with ‘Through the war… the Japanese dead in their shacks’. World wars hold immense significance, namely because the entire globe was involved. Consequently, the worldwide perception of warfare was changed. Gone were the 19th century ideals of honour, valour and dying for your country no longer seemed like such a great idea after the advent of tanks, machine guns, nuclear bombs; instead, the people’s will to maintain world peace has been very prevalent since 1945. Effectively, we have had to divorce ourselves from society’s previous perceptions of war; we had to divorce ourselves from our past.
But to ‘divorce’ something, is only to break an association with someone or something, not to completely ignore or deny its existence. And that is why Snodgrass decides to keep ‘that picture’. His marriage, much like society’s marriage to warfare, did happen. That is undeniable. Both marriages brought ‘treachery’ and ‘unspoken regret’ onto all parties involved; however, good times were also had. Speak to any Briton over Britain’s greatest point in history and they will tell you of a time when colonial domination was rife, concentration camps were being used on Boers in South Africa, and profits from the slave trade were used to build beautiful cities like Bristol. Readers, they speak of the British Empire. I doubt that the same list would be compiled by those more patriotic than I; however, the point remains: although the British Empire brought the world many horrors, it also brought the world many gifts. For this, we must be happy. Simultaneously, we must be ashamed.
The same can be said for Snodgrass’ marriage. In his past, he found himself happy with his wife by his side. Upon publishing this poem, the reader can be quite sure that he wouldn’t feel the same way if ol’ wifey rolled back into his life; however, this does not mean that he is unhappy that he married her in the first place. Presently, he feels pain for his failed marriage, and yet, in his past he was happy to be married. And this is what I mean by ‘divorce’. This poem asks the reader to separate himself from the past, but in doing so, must acknowledge and, somehow, enjoy its passing.
Similar post-WW1 feels can be found in MacNeice’s work, particularly around 1938, with Autumn Journal (part IV, especially). And for a proto-analysis of the changing view of war, you should read Isaac Rosenburg’s ‘Upon Receiving News of War’. Both fantastic poems.
On the Editing Process
Although I was unsure of illustrating a poem (’cause the words are the images, maan’), I talked myself into it, because Snodgrass needed a little more hype. In reflection, however, I won’t be incorporating text and images again. The editing process was a fxcking slimy cxnt and I think it kinda’ ruins the structural integrity of the poem as a whole. And so, next time, I’ll just draw some pics and then provide the poem below. But, I jus’ gotta’ ask: what do you think about this shxt? All comments are welcome (except constructive criticism/criticism/anything that’s not entirely fanatical and sycophantic about the above, lel).
Somehow, this post has got major attention and because of that we’re 3rd in the world on Google for ‘Mementos, 1’ – that’s some crazy shxt, brahhh. So, if you dudes wanna Czech out some more poetry, view my side-blog: staysquare.wordpress.com – where I post up poetry stuff.