Interpretations

Word cloud of keywords and phrases from the poem Kamikaze

Interpreting and analysing a poem is not necessarily a matter of finding the right answer.

Poems are complex creations and are open to many different interpretations. Your interpretation is as valid as anyone else's - as long as you can back it up with suitable evidence from the text.

Remember to avoid simply identifying what techniques or approaches poets use. Aim to show an understanding of how form, language and structure create meanings and effects.

Below are some differing interpretations of the poem. How would you interpret the poem?

Examples

Interpretation of the whole poem

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The poem contrasts the vividness of the pilot's moment of choice with the disappointment of his life afterwards.First section is full of vivid impressions of the senses. Colour is explored; 'green-blue translucent', 'dark shoals', 'flashing silver' and 'pearl-grey'. The senses of touch ('feathery') and taste ('salt-sodden') are evoked. The impressions remind the pilot he is alive and life is for relishing. There is no mention of the senses in the section of the poem that deals with events after his choice. There is silence and it is 'as though he had never returned'.
The poem is an attempt to come to terms with the past and achieve some kind of closure.The speaker imagines how her father felt when he made his choice. 'He must have looked far down/ at the little fishing boats' - she does not know for sure and we are led to think she never talked to her father about what happened. The speaker does not criticise her father but instead presents an account of how he was treated on his return. This part of the story she knows from her own experience. It's presented in her own words, rather than as a third-person account - the quality of a confession. She admits her own behaviour, and looking back on it, can see that it was wrong.

Interpretation of the last stanza

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The poem closes with a bleak view of her father that offers little comfort or tenderness.The chattering and laughing of the previous line is silenced. The daughter's voice is presented in calm, measured language, as though the storyteller is deliberately suppressing or withholding her feelings. The final lines return to the third-person voice but the tone remains matter-of-fact. There is a suggestion the father may have been better off if he had carried out the suicide mission.
The poem closes on a note of tender regret, which hints at forgiveness.Absence of any direct comment invites reader to imagine the speaker's feelings. They are perhaps so painful that she cannot express them. The fact she's chosen to tell this story suggests the speaker now wishes things could have been different. She doesn't condemn her father which suggests she regrets how he was treated. Her confession is perhaps a plea to be forgiven. She suggests how he might have been better off if he had carried out the suicide mission, revealing how needlessly tragic and lonely his life after the war must have been.