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Baby Sitting

Baby Sitting

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Baby Sitting

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  1. Baby Sitting by Gillian Clarke F

  2. “This is a deliberate choice, and intended to guide the reader.” In Clarke’s own words, this is a poem about baby-sitting Baby Sitting I am sitting in the wrong room listeningFor the wrong baby. I don’t loveThis baby. She is sleeping a snufflyRoseate, bubbling sleep; she is fair;She is a perfectly acceptable child.I am afraid of her. If she wakesShe will hate me. She will shoutHer hot midnight rage, her noseWill stream disgustingly and the perfume Of her breath will fail to enchant me. To her I will represent absoluteAbandonment. For her it will be worseThan for the lover cold in lonelySheets; worse than for the woman who waitsA moment to collect her dignityBeside the bleached bone in the terminal ward.As she rises sobbing from the monstrous landStretching for milk–familiar comforting,She will find me and between us twoIt will not come. It will not come. “The important words: 'wrong' to describe the baby. I, the baby-sitter, am telling you, the reader, that I am sitting in an unfamiliar room, not in my own house. Then I tell you that I am listening for 'the wrong baby', that is, not my baby. Later, I emphasise this: 'I don't love this baby.' This is a poem about love and loss and the powerful emotions of a parent and child for each other This stanza is about the baby's feeling in the company of a stranger. It describes the baby's fear and loneliness. The baby-sitter is not sorry for herself, but sorry for the baby F

  3. Baby Sitting I am sitting in the wrong room listeningFor the wrong baby. I don’t loveThis baby. She is sleeping a snufflyRoseate, bubbling sleep; she is fair;She is a perfectly acceptable child.I am afraid of her. If she wakesShe will hate me. She will shoutHer hot midnight rage, her noseWill stream disgustingly and the perfume Of her breath will fail to enchant me. To her I will represent absoluteAbandonment. For her it will be worseThan for the lover cold in lonelySheets; worse than for the woman who waitsA moment to collect her dignityBeside the bleached bone in the terminal ward.As she rises sobbing from the monstrous landStretching for milk–familiar comforting,She will find me and between us twoIt will not come. It will not come. Stanza one focuses on the mother’s feeling of being in a house with someone else’s baby. Stanza two focuses on the bay’s feeling of abandonment The poem is told from a personal perspective; in the first person. What is the effect of this on the reader? F

  4. Repetition emphasises the strangeness of the situation. The use of wrong implies that there is a right baby Baby Sitting I am sitting in the wrong room listeningFor the wrong baby. I don’t loveThis baby. She is sleeping a snufflyRoseate, bubbling sleep; she is fair;She is a perfectly acceptable child.I am afraid of her. If she wakesShe will hate me. She will shoutHer hot midnight rage, her noseWill stream disgustingly and the perfume Of her breath will fail to enchant me. To her I will represent absoluteAbandonment. For her it will be worseThan for the lover cold in lonelySheets; worse than for the woman who waitsA moment to collect her dignityBeside the bleached bone in the terminal ward.As she rises sobbing from the monstrous landStretching for milk–familiar comforting,She will find me and between us twoIt will not come. It will not come. Enjambment allows the reader to consider that the speaker doesn’t love at all but line three confirms that the speaker does love, just not this baby. Her ‘mother’s eye’ allows her to appreciate the baby as it sleeps. This contrasts with the odd description of the child in the following line Caesura forces the reader to ponder this odd statement. How can she be afraid of a baby? Why will the baby hate her? She is disgusted by the baby’s screaming and runny nose. Unlike its mother would be F

  5. Baby Sitting I am sitting in the wrong room listeningFor the wrong baby. I don’t loveThis baby. She is sleeping a snufflyRoseate, bubbling sleep; she is fair;She is a perfectly acceptable child.I am afraid of her. If she wakesShe will hate me. She will shoutHer hot midnight rage, her noseWill stream disgustingly and the perfume Of her breath will fail to enchant me. To her I will represent absoluteAbandonment. For her it will be worseThan for the lover cold in lonelySheets; worse than for the woman who waitsA moment to collect her dignityBeside the bleached bone in the terminal ward.As she rises sobbing from the monstrous landStretching for milk–familiar comforting,She will find me and between us twoIt will not come. It will not come. Long sentence contrasts with earlier short sentences. What is the effect of this? Clarke says, “[this] implies that I understand the experience of being enchanted by a baby's breath. I use the word 'perfume' - something joyfully experienced as a mother.” Alliteration stresses how complete the feeling of loss is. Enjambment means the abandonment comes as a shock to the reader, as it would to the child. The caesura forces the reader to dwell on this feeling Clarke compares the baby’s feelings to adult situations of abandonment. The jilted lover and the dying spouse. Why does she do this? Explain this image. F

  6. Baby Sitting I am sitting in the wrong room listeningFor the wrong baby. I don’t loveThis baby. She is sleeping a snufflyRoseate, bubbling sleep; she is fair;She is a perfectly acceptable child.I am afraid of her. If she wakesShe will hate me. She will shoutHer hot midnight rage, her noseWill stream disgustingly and the perfume Of her breath will fail to enchant me. To her I will represent absoluteAbandonment. For her it will be worseThan for the lover cold in lonelySheets; worse than for the woman who waitsA moment to collect her dignityBeside the bleached bone in the terminal ward.As she rises sobbing from the monstrous landStretching for milk–familiar comforting,She will find me and between us twoIt will not come. It will not come. The baby awakes from a bad dream. This is exactly the time when a child needs comforting most and makes the absence of maternal comfort all the more pitiful The loss for the baby is both practical (loss of food) and emotional (the stranger can give no comfort). A metaphor for comfort that, as the last line says, is not forthcoming Does this hint at the future loss and hardships to come? Which is worse, the confused pain of the child or the knowing pain of the adult? Repetition stresses that neither the milk, nor the comfort, will come because this child is not hers F

  7. Review • How does the poem show a contrast between what we think and what we feel? • Do you share the poet's viewpoint here - how would you (do you) feel towards children who are not your own? • How far is this poem about the writer's own children? • How does the poet relate the baby's experiences to what happens in later life? F

  8. Comparisons • Song of the Old Mother • Both deal with the relationship of mother and child • Could Song of theMother be said to have a more bitter tone • Baby Sitting uses quite negative contrasts to present what is ultimately a pleasant idea (motherly love). In what way is Song of the Old Mother the same/different • Link would be that this poem considers the cycle of life and the way in which the roles of people change with age. • On My First Sonne • First person narrative • Both deal with abandonment and loss but On My First Sonne is more concerned with the parents anxiety rather than the child’s F

  9. Comparisons • Follower • Parent-child relationships are dealt with • Perspective is different in these two poems (one he parent the other the child) • Mid-term Break • Both deal with the trauma of loss, one permanent the other temporary • Look at the imagery used in both to express this loss • Both are personal accounts of singular events that can be seen as having universal applications F