Please Hold Poem Analysis by Ciaran O'Driscoll

Please Hold Poem Analysis: This poem is a pure representation of our modern generation, and the mess that it is indefinitely in.

Ciaran O’Driscoll employs a narrator who is so fiendishly out-of-place with society, he has to be constantly reminded that ‘This is the future’ by his wife.

This poem symbolises one person, amongst a crowd, whose brain is not caught up with the modern-day technology scandal, and the moral panic that is when technology does not work.

Context of the Poet:

Ciaran O’Driscoll was born in Ireland in 1943. He is the author of eight poetry books such as Moving On, Still There: New and Selected Poems in 2001, and Surreal Man in 2006. Throughout his literary career, beginning with modernist techniques and style, O’Driscoll had convinced himself that it is not ideal for his work through the development of his social and political demeanours.

When attempting to write with political or social ideas, O’Driscoll did not believe that the reader understood what the poem was about, and this made him angry.

“The only release from this dilemma” O’Driscoll said, “was anger: when it reached a certain pitch, rage broke through the constraints and actually found imagination in another form – the satirical – waiting to help on the other side.” He believed that this was the case for much of his poetry, and Please Hold is one of these poems.

Synopsis and Analysis:

The first thing to notice before reading the poem is its structure.

The poem is not split up into stanzas; in fact, it is just one stream of consciousness, with a single tercet separated from the rest at the end, that O’Driscoll uses to show the unstoppable thoughts of the narrator’s fight against technology. There is also no set rhyme scheme, so the poem is, therefore, in free verse.

The lack of order and tradition in this poem could be seen as symbolic of the “lack of order” that technology has.

After reading the poem, we can notice a consistent use of anaphora. There is, throughout the poem, the repetition of the declarative sentence.
‘This is the future, my wife says.’
And, what makes this an anaphoric reference, rather than simple repetition, is because when it is repeated, it is repeated slightly differently:
‘And my wife says, This is the future.’
O’Driscoll’s use of anaphora is significant to support the idea that technology is not working properly. The way that the narrator changed his statement slightly, constantly throughout the poem, represents an idea that technology will do something right to begin with, but when trying to repeat the same process again, it will do it wrong, or vice versa.

The anaphoric reference may also be representative of the narrator’s mental state. He is, without a doubt, very frustrated with the ‘robot’ on the other end of the line to him.

Another example of anaphora in the poem, to back up this point, is when the narrator says
‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand, says the robot. / Please say Yes or No. / Or you can say Repeat or Menu.’
Then, straight away after the robot has said this, he repeats
‘You can say Yes, No, Repeat or Menu, / or you can say Agent if you’d like to talk / to someone real,’
The anaphora that O’Driscoll has used again, this time represents the robot’s malfunctions, and subsequently increases the narrator’s anger with the robot.

The repetition of the robot’s speech speeds up the pace of the poem, and therefore speeds up the narrator’s irritation with the technology.

The idea that the narrator could ‘talk / to someone real’, as opposed to the robot, just gives the reader a true indication of how subversive technology is to today’s society. The narrator seems to be someone who was born before internet and technology as he cannot admit that ‘This is the future’: he is, therefore, stuck in the past – this is a key theme throughout the poem.

There is an extreme lack of figurative language in the poem; but, to replace it, O’Driscoll has used a wide array of phonological features to balance the poem. The first example of this is alliteration:
‘into my account… / goes money, my money,’
The alliteration of the letter ‘m’ implies a level of selfishness inside the narrator: the repetition of the ‘m’ almost sounds like the word “my” is being repeated. If we consider this idea, the narrator is caring about his own affairs before the technology – which, to anyone who is not glued to technology, would view as normal.

Please Hold Poem Analysis

However, there is a certain type of reader, one who is attached to technology, who would view this as being abnormal, and consequently selfish. Technology, to some, is seen as an omnipotent source that will soon take over the world as we know it.

Therefore, the narrator being interested in “my” account and “my” money is defying the power that technology has.

Another phonological feature that I think is significant in the poem is onomatopoeia. This is used in a battle between the narrator and the robot. The narrator says:
‘I scream Agent! and am cut off,’
The use of the active verb ‘scream’ is onomatopoeic, as the ‘ea’ sound echoes a screaming image. The exclamatory sentence that O’Driscoll has used here reinforces the ‘screaming’ image, and illustrates the frustration that the narrator has with the robot, and becomes more frustrated when he is ‘cut off’.

To some extent, the dynamic verb ‘cut’ is onomatopoeic as well. And, even though the narrator’s angst is progressing through the verb ‘cut’, the pace slows right down after the exclamation that the narrator uses.

This implies that the narrator has now, after he has released his frustration in the exclamatory sentence, masked himself, and O’Driscoll has employs a passive front for the narrator. This line of the poem is followed by the anaphora
‘and my wife says, This is the future. / We are already there and it’s the same / as the present.’
The final phonological feature that is important to discuss is the assonance and consonance that O’Driscoll has used. The tercet at the end of the poem is the most pivotal and translucent part of the poem when it comes to phonological features, and in terms of the narrative:

‘Please hold. Please grow old. Please grow cold.
Please do what you’re told. Grow old. Grow cold.
This is the future. Please hold.’

The assonance of the ‘o’ sound throughout the tercet is significant by itself, but is supported by the consonance of the ‘ld’. This sound has a very bitter and negative tone about it, which marries up with the use of words: ‘hold’; ‘old’; ‘cold’; ‘told’.

The way that O’Driscoll has used these phonological features, and the fact that he saved the most pivotal for the end of the poem, represents that this is way that the narrator thinks, all down to the influence of technology.

The monosyllabic lexis that dominates this tercet echoes how an automated voice speaks, and this has shaped the narrator’s thoughts and how he thinks them.

In fact, the only polysyllabic word that is used is in the tercet is ‘future’ – this indicates the high significance that the ‘future’ holds. And, considering that the narrator is an easily manipulated human, he has not accepted that ‘This is the future’, like his wife has, but he has just allowed the ‘future’ to absorb him fully.


  • Technology.
  • Manipulation.
  • Modernisation.
  • Entrapment.
  • Being stuck in the past.
  • Future.
  • Relationships – the narrator and his wife; the narrator and technology; his wife and technology; the narrator and society.
  • Society.
  • Frustration.
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