Belfast Confetti

Belfast Confetti is a poem written by a Northern Irish poet based upon the Irish troubles of the 1970’s. He describes dramatically the turmoil between catholic and protestant people and expresses his feeling towards the civil unrest and protests of the time.

The poet uses the ironical title ‘Belfast Confetti’ for his work. Confetti is usually thrown over the bride and groom at a happy event – a wedding. However, instead of small pieces of paper, this confetti is used to mean debris from bombs and objects hurled by rioters. The poet probably witnessed at first hand some of the atrocities, many taking place in Belfast, the Northern Irish capital. The poem is written in the present tense and the repeated use of the word ‘I’ shows how the poet has been involved in the events and how disturbing it has been for him. By using the first person the poet tries to engage the reader’s interest and also recreate the reality of the events.

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In the first verse of the poem the poet attempts to describe horrific scenes of violent action. The television images we are familiar with are brought to reality with ‘riot squads’, ‘bursts of rapid fire’, ‘side-streets blocked’, and the horrors of nail-bombs. However, the poet has difficulty describing these and so relies on metaphoric use of the terminology of type face and punctuation to help to portray the scene. A burst of rapid fire is likened to a ‘hyphenated line’, ‘stops and colons’ cause blockages in the back streets and the debris from bombs resembles ‘raining exclamation marks’. This frequent use of metaphors and imagery helps to recreate the immediacy and the reality of events as they occur.

The form of the poem is complex and its complicated structure shows how the poet wrestles with many thoughts. He tries to complete sentences but struggles to find sustained images of events. In his struggle with reality he mixes the real and surreal. The poem has no regular rhythm, or rhyme and its disjointed and incomplete sentences serve to emphasise the poet’s frustration to find explanations to the troubles. This is highlighted in verse two where long lines, fragmented sentences, uncertainty and a series of unanswered questions reveal the poet’s confusion. In verse two he compares the Irish violence to battles from the Crimean War. He tries to make sense of events but in doing so just forms lists of battle equipment: ‘Saracen tanks, Kremlin-2-mesh,’ etc.

The poet wrestles with many emotions during the course of the poem. He asks ‘why can’t I escape?’ Even when not in Northern Ireland his thoughts keep returning to the events of the troubles. His attempts to recreate impressions of being caught up in the Belfast riots and his frustration to find explanations and solutions to the troubles is evident. His unanswered questions at the end seem to indicate that he is unsure over his won identity and loyalties.