Q: 'What does this poem say to you about the city? Point out the words or phrases that especially convey its message to you'
A: The poem Hotel Room 12th Floor by Norman MacCaig shows the city as a bustling, dangerous place. In this poem, the poet describes his first visit to New York city. He begins by describing how, that morning, he had watched a helicopter flying around the Empire State building and landing on a skyscraper. This sets the scene of a relatively normal day in the city, with normal events unfolding, but still manages to convey the message that this kind of event is totally alien to the poet. He then goes on to describe the contrast between the city during the day and during the night.
He describes the ‘uncivilised darkness’ as being ‘shot at by a million lit windows’. This metaphor is interesting and gives a good visual image. The metaphor gives the impression that although the night should be a dark, peaceful time, in the city it is anything but. The poet seems to try to ignore the noise and lights but tells us that ‘midnight is not so easily defeated’. The noise only seems to increase as he lies in bed, ‘police cars and ambulances racing to broken bones, the harsh screaming from coldwater flats’
The poet compares the city to a war, mentioning the ‘harsh screaming from coldwater flats, the blood glazed on the sidewalks’. ‘Harsh’ is a very suitable adjective. The mention of blood on the sidewalk creates a vivid mental image and suggests that the city is a threatening place. At this point in the poem, we are reminded of the constant noise of the city, while continuing with the concept of the city as a war zone. The poet attempts to block out the ‘wildest of war whoops’, but they continue to echo through.
The poet believes the city is full of violence. He uses many effective verbs to convey this, such as ‘shot’ in the line the ‘uncivilised darkness is shot at by a million lit windows’. He describes the ‘war whoops’ as ‘ululating...