How does the way "In Goya's greatest scenes we seem to see" looks on the page connect to Goya's painting?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This excellent poem was written as a response to the work of Goya, and in particular his work Disasters of War that show the brutality of both the French and Spanish in the Peninsula War. The poet therefore tries to create as much of a link between the artistic original and his verbal equivalent, and he does this to establish a link between the suffering of the people in Goya's sketches and the suffering of the people of America in the twentieth century. 

This helps us to understand the curious form of the poem, which is incredibly erratic and irregular. The poet himself is an artist, and so it is important to understand the visual impact of the poem just as much as its verbal impact. The layout of the lines brings to mind a deliberate cutting up of a untied whole. As Goya's sketches show the act of dismemberment in many different forms, this is reflected through the dismemberment of the poem and the words as the poet emphasises the way in which America metaphorically dismembers those that live there. 

This is a link that is further reinforced through alliteration, as the description of Goya's work place "babies and bayonets" together whilst the poet's description of modern America talks of "bland billboards/illustrating imbecile illusions." Descriptions of physical violence and dismemberment help us see the poet's argument that modern America is an arena of spiritual violence and dismemberment.



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