Simon Armitage explores the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks through a poetic register and with an alternate complexity, causing the poem to be even more powerful and moving. Setting the immediate scene, Armitage uses a range of short and simplistic words to set an even more powerful and vivid image of the atmosphere in the users head. Armitage deals with the change over the length of time with specific events and their outcomes, which resonates through time and induce people affected by the catastrophic event.
Armitage uses the precise title, which was used by Thomas Hardy for his poem regarding the historic collision of the Titanic and the iceberg; immediately linking the poem to the context of adversity and ruin. This is will also be the conjoining the idea of two things to be coming together and the impression of collision, thus the idea of forces coming together emerges in the reader’s mind. Armitage also notably structured his poem into 11 stanzas, which would draw a relation to the date of the terrorist attack (11th September).
This permeates and espousals the premeditated nature of the disaster. Armitage uses several techniques in the first stanza, to help move and dismay the audience. The first stanza immediately places the reader in the immediate time of the collapse. With Assonance helping the poem flow along easily, Armitage delves further into the scene with his descriptions. The poem opens in the tone of subdued peace, which is reinforced through references to “air”, “free sky” and an “unlimited” space and yet in this emptiness, this “air”, there had been something.
He is ambiguously describing the empty void, which has been left in the absence of the towers, with the quote ‘an architecture of air’ which could be connecting the past building and bonding it to be everlastingly there. The word “sheer” which draws attention to the utter and complete nature of the destruction that has occurred, whilst simultaneously alluding to the transparency of air, to the sheer or perpendicular drop downwards and to a swerving or deviating course.
This is where Armitage cleverly draws together in just one simple word the nature of the terror attack; ‘The deviating flight path, the sheer drop made by the towers and the utter absolution of the disaster’. “Nothing stands but free sky” as once again one notes that “sky” cannot “stand”, hence making a paradoxical image in our mind. On a basic level, sky or air cannot be owned or possessed, it cannot be “free” because one cannot buy it, and yet the vagueness in language here highlights the fight for “free sky”.
Air space and paths, which are restricted to certain countries, are demolished and broken from time to time, the rules of the sky are flouted and only “unlimited” space remains. The nature of the aftermath is further explored in stanzas two through to five; Armitage goes into depth with the sentimentality felt by the audience and the public at that moment of time. He does this predominately by using the imagery of injury. Through this, Armitage showcases the vulnerability expressed by the country at the present state of time (as shown in the poem).