What would be a thematic explanation for Fenton's "Lines for Translation into Any Language?"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one of the strongest themes to emerge from Fenton's poem is that there is a universality in the struggle of war and political change in nations.  The idea of the title as one that can be translated "into any language" helps to establish this theme.  The condition of destruction, powerlessness, and political change that is evident in the lines of the poem are not specific to one country.  They could be anywhere and in any form.  This becomes one of Fenton's primary ideas.  His poem strives to bridge the gap between politics and art, suggesting that there can be a universal expression of the former in the latter.  Certainly, that is the case in "Lines for Translation into Any Language."  The struggle that is intrinsic to powerlessness can be seen in the sweeping of the shanty town, or the fear of the foreign community in seeing a plane shot down reflects a universal condition that can be understood by all.  It is not limited to one region or one world.  It is a human political experience.  The "spontaneous demonstrations" that later on become coordinated with all the pomp and circumstance of ruling power is another such example of how political change becomes institutionalized control.  This is not isolated.  It is reality that so many can appreciate and understood.  It is this lack of local color and speaking in a manner that strives to bring connection and applicability to what it means to be human that becomes a theme from the poem and is reflective of Fenton's work, in general.

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