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Model Answer in response to the ques tion: How do es the p o et, To m Leona rd , u se po etic d evi c es to in flu en c e his read ers in the po em Un rela ted In cid en ts? Introdu c tion Poetry i s an ela bo ra te tap es try of wo rd s and d evi c es qui lted to sp eci fic in ten t. Ideas are rarely self-evident and often only emerge after multiple, focused readings. After reading a poem the reader feels as though they have helped to craft insights through their interpretation. This involvement generates undertones of ownership, which in turn elevates poetry to a level of influence rarely attained in other forms of literature. In Unrela ted In cid en ts To m L eona rd a ctiv ely en ga ges the read e r throu gh hi s c reativ e us e of u nusu al p ho netic trans c rip tion , the rep eti tio n of id ea s, an d the u s e of ton e as he a ttemp ts to f orce u s to reas s es s ou r vi ew s o f the s tereo typ es often a sso cia ted wi th En gli s h a cc en ts. (110) Bod y P a ra grap h 1 Leona rd ’s pho n etic tran sc rip tion of the Gla s wegian acc en t and d ia lec t ac ti vely en ga ge s the read er in th e di s tilla tio n of a m es sa ge f rom this unu sua l poem. As someone who is unfamiliar both with the pronunciation of Scottish English and the Glaswegian dialect it took me a number of readings to start making sense of this poem. In my initial reading one phrase seemed out of place however. The phrase “BBC accent” (line 7) stands out because I the reader understand it without any trouble. Its intelligibility is antithetical to the poem’s apparent focus and serves to emphasize it as a juxtaposition of ideas with mildly antagonistic undertones. Leonard’s intention materializes as one continues to read. Unrelated Incidents is not written in a BBC accent it is written phonetically in an authentic sounding Scottish accent. A BBC accent is as unrelated to the sounds of this poem, as a Scottish accent is to the sounds of a BBC accent. Leonard leaves the reader with no option other than total immersion in the Scottish accent, which he uses to criticize those who judge others according to their accent. The irony implicit in this is intriguing. In my first reading I clung to the phrase “BBC accent” like a drowning man clings to a log because, amidst the confusion of the poem, it made sense to me. Leonard seems to have engineered this so that he can point the finger at me in accusation. “See,” he seems to say, “You too cling to the correct BBC accent to make sense of the world, but look at all you are missing.” As I continue with my reading it becomes clear that Leonard condemns the apparent snobbery involved in mocking people with non-BBC accents just because they sound different. By tran sc ri bin g the Sco ttis h a cc en t L eon a rd forc es th e read er to ack now led ge th at it is a n ef f ec tiv e m ediu m o f co mmu nic ation, equ ally a s fu nc tion al as a BBC a cc en t. Ou r lack o f fa milia ri ty wi th i t rather tha n any in heren t inf erio rity is the reaso n w hy i t ta kes u s a li ttle lon ger to un d ers tan d the ‘ troo th ’ o f i t. (300) Bod y P a ra grap h 2 Ideas rela tin g to p erc eiv ed an d rea l ‘ troo th’ reson ate throu ghou t Un related I ncid en ts. Leona rd billb oa rd s the con c ept thou gh rep eti tion a nd throu gh his i ngenious u s e of rh ym e to h i ghli ght the wo rd. The phonetic transcription for truth, ‘trooth’ or ‘troo’ is repeated five times in the poem. The word echoes, in part because of the use of assonance and rhyme that serve to emphasize it further. Phrases like “aboot thi trooth” (lines 11 and 12), and “toktaboot thi trooth” (lines 16 and 17) are emblematic of Leonard’s focusing strategies. His reference to “ma trooth” (line 31) is particularly revealing, as it seems to allude to alternative versions of the ‘trooth’. Within the context of this poem the implication seems to be that not only are these different versions of ‘trooth’ determined by background “scruff” (line 15, 19, 23) which translates as commoner, they are also determined by accent. Ironically, Leonard seems not only to be implying that people with the posh BBC accents define their truth and then impose it on everyone else, but also that these same posh BBC accents limit its user’s insights into other, equally valid, alternative versions of the truth. The d efian t ton e im plici t i n the a ccus a tion tha t w e BBC a cc en t sp ea kers don ’t k now the tru th ou rs elv es b ec aus e w e canno t talk ri ght ( lin es 32 – 36) i s ha rd to refute, esp eci ally a fter havin g inv es ted s o muc h of ours elves va lian tly s tru ggli n g to d ecip her th e ‘troo th’ of thi s poem thu s fa r . (240)


Bod y P a ra grap h 3 The d ef ian t ton e that em erges f ro m a focu s ed rea din g o f the po em is not initia lly appa rent. L eon a rd b egui les the rea d er wi th a fa ls e s ens e o f co mf ort thro ugh th e colloqui al ton e c atalyz ed b y hi s pho neti c trans c rip tion o f an au thentic S co ttis h a cc en t. It is fun for the reader to attempt to read this poem out loud. As we do so we giggle to ourselves at how strange these short simple lines sound when spoken. After having been told to “belt up” (line 38) in the last line of the poem it becomes embarrassingly clear that the focus and tone of this poem is no laughing matter however. After reading this line I was unsure whether Leonard was directing this curt, angry command at me for laughing derisively at the sound of a proud nation’s tongue, or at the anonymous audience who perpetrate the discrimination alluded to throughout the poem. As I reread the poem it dawns on me that not only is Leonard deadly serious but also that my perception of the lighthearted tone of the poem is personally damming. Leonard uses the poem as mirror for my own stereotypical response to the Scottish accent and in so doing affords me no escape from the realization that it’s not just posh sounding BBC accent speakers who discriminate against the Scottish accent, I do it as well. In fact, I have done it at every stage of my reading of this poem. This realiza tion s ta rtles me in to a rea ss ess m en t of my ac tio ns i n a wa y that a si mp le ac cus ation would n ev er do . The po em ha s trapp ed me i n the a c t of doin g wha t it a ccu s es BBC a cc en t sp eak ers o f doi ng. M ea culpa . (262) Conc lu sion The in ev itabi li ty of this d ec ep tiv ely li ghthea rted po em i s sho ckin g. Once I engage in the process of reading I am led by my nose to an inevitable outcome. The phonetic transcription immerses me in the ‘trooth’ that the Scottish accent does not negate message because as I read in a Scottish accent I have no choice but to acknowledge that a potent message is communicated thereby proving the thesis of the poet’s argument. My initial interpretation of the tone as being one of lighthearted jocularity is rudely negated by the poet’s suggestion that I belt up. I have nowhere to hide. I cannot assuage my discomfort. I cannot take refuge behind the argument that I do not discriminate like this because the poet has trapped me discriminating in just the way he suggests throughout the poem. What I do with this revelation is up to me. On e th in g i s clea r thou gh, throu gh my readin g of Unrela ted Incid en ts L eon ard has in culca ted an i nsi ght tha t is un com fo rta ble f or m e to i gnore. I t ha s en cou ra ged m e to reas s es s the wa y I ina dv erten tly di sc ri mina te a gai ns t speak e rs wi th a S co ttis h a cc en t, an d p rob ab ly other a cc en ts a s w ell. (187) Mr. Glover

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