Belfast Confetti by, Ciaran Carson

Belfast Confetti by Ciaran Carson is a poem which is centered around the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Confetti Poem

Suddenly as the riot squad moved in, it was raining exclamation marks,
Nuts, bolts, nails, car-keys. A fount of broken type. And the explosion
Itself—an asterisk on the map. This hyphenated line, a burst of rapid fire…
I was trying to complete a sentence in my head, but it kept stuttering.
All the alleyways and side-streets blocked with stops and colons.

I know this labyrinth so well—Balaclava, Raglan, Inkerman, Odessa Street—
Why can’t I escape? Every move is punctuated. Crimea Street. Dead end again.
A Saracen, Kremlin-2 mesh. Makrolon face-shields. Walkie-talkies. What is
My name? Where am I coming from? Where am I going? A fusillade of question marks.
Ciaran Carson was born in Belfast in Northern Ireland into an Irish speaking family and much of his poetry explores the conflict that came about because of the troubles and that was a period of religious and political conflict in Northern Ireland. 

The context of the poem the background to it is quite complicated but basically, there was a clash between the religious and patriotic beliefs of the Catholics and the Protestants in Northern Ireland. Germany the Protestants wanted to be part of the United Kingdom and the Catholics wanted to have a separate republic of Ireland.


The poem is based in a part of Belfast where many Protestants and Catholics live near each other but the city was clearly divided into different areas where the Protestants and the Catholics would live.

Ciaran is a Catholic name and Carson is a Protestant Lee so that might give you an idea about the poet's own background and might suggest there's a conflict within his own identity in how he sees himself.

Belfast confetti is an Irish term used by people who've lived in Belfast and it describes the homemade mail bomb these are highly dangerous bombs.

And you can imagine the how much damage they would cause to a human body.

Analysis of Belfast Confetti

It's interesting that Belfast Confetti is the title of the poem because actually confetti is an image of celebration it's something that's thrown up in the air it rains down on people at weddings. We can see how the juxtaposition of this celebratory image with the idea of it being a homemade bomb is quite shocking.

The ideas in the poem are related to the fact that lots of the imagery in the poem is to do with punctuation. And that punctuation isused as an extended metaphor to explain the impact of living in a city in conflicts and the impact of that on the people who live there.

It brings togethera very public event that of an explosion or the bomb going off with a personal response. So you can see it as the persona in the poem thinking about how this conflict can affect an individual who might be living with this everyday.

There isn't any focus on casualties so perhaps one idea behind the poem is that life is difficult and life it's frightening but it's not impossible.
"Suddenly as the riot squad moved in" we've got suddenly that adverb at the beginning which gives us a sense of shock it's an abrupt opening a little bit like the explosion. "it was raining exclamation marks" that metaphor suggests maybe something going right up in the air and you've got the idea of exclamation marks that you would use in writing when you want to indicate maybe a shock or a loud noise or somebody screaming so there's that kind of idea behind using that metaphor.

All the way through there is Enjambment in this poem which suggests maybe the idea of disjointed life in a city in conflict things are happening this confusion and life is disjointed life doesn't run along smoothly.

"Nuts, bolts, nails, car-keys" are the things that the homemade bomb is made from these are the things that would cause injury to people. "A fount of a broken type" we can read that perhaps as language communication is disrupted like the peace in this city or perhaps it refers maybe to news reports constant news reports about what's going.

And the explosion itself an Asterix on the map and if you think about what an Asterix looks like you could quite easily see that as being an image that would be a metaphor for an explosion. Again we have punctuation withthe hyphenated line the bursts of rapidfire is followed by an ellipsis and theyare actually illustrating the gunfire.

If you think about the lines in the poem wemight also consider those to look a bitlike the firings from a gun.

The idea that the speaker was trying to complete a sentence in my head and it kept stuttering perhaps helped you to see the tone of the poem the poet's voice coming through perhaps their fear their frustration not being able to communicate about what's going on.

 All the alleyways and side streets are blocked with stops and colons there's a feeling of entrapment being trapped in a place or it could be somebody said in the lesson and metaphor perhaps for the army or for the police who are blocking off the streets.

The increasingly short sentences within the long lines I've said perhaps maybe a physical representation on the page of the gunfire that's happening but perhaps also adds to the feeling and the sense of being trapped.

The punctuation metaphor is use and helps organize the writing as if it's suggesting maybe that the authority or the authority of maybe the police or the army is attempting to control the city it could also indicate that life in Northern Ireland is interrupted or perhaps it represents the speaker's thoughts becoming disjointed or confused.

In the second stanza, the poet says I know this labyrinth so well and that could be seen as ironic because although he knows the place well he still feels lost. Balaclava Ragland Inca man Odessa Street there's a street name but there are also names of wars which were thought fought in British colonies so that referring to the British involvement in Northern Ireland.

We then see lots of questions in this stanza and again that helps us to see the tone of the poem the poet's voice and how the persona in the poem is feeling perhaps the questions are sharing confusion perhaps the questions are showing anger or uncertainty about the future or perhaps he's being interrogated maybe these are questions that have been asked of him maybe everybody in the city is under suspicion. every move is punctuated perhaps suggesting violence.

The list of military items A Saracen, Kremlin-2 mesh. Makrolon face-shields. Walkie-talkies face shields the body armor used by the British Army walkie tallies suggest a sense of chaos perhaps after the incident with all of these things suddenly appearing maybe a sense of alienation of paranoia of having things to create distance between people.

At the end "A Fusillade of question - marks" Fusillade is something being fired at the same time and perhaps this indicates that the persona feels under attack whether it's from the bomb or from the people police in the streets is not clear and you can make your own decisions about that.

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