Chainsaw Versus the Pampas Grass – Simon Armitage

The poem Chainsaw Versus the Pampas Grass is about a man who takes a chainsaw to cut down the pampas grass that continues to grow every year. The chainsaw is a symbol of masculinity and the poem explores how destructive masculinity can be towards both nature and femininity.


  • Masculinity – the poem looks at the fact that men are seen as the stronger and more dominant sex, and how the exert their power over women. There is also this idea that men are ‘connected to the mains’ therefore they stick as a pack and are connected to the mainstream ideas that men are the stronger gender.
  • War – there is very violent imagery and referencing throughout the poem which give men a soldier, military like personality.
  • Femininity – women are seen as weak and delicate as shown through the pampas grass and how men see women as ‘ludicrous’ and don’t like them ‘stealing the show’ with their beauty.

Tone of the poem

  • There is an aggressive and violent tone throughout this poem as we are shown the ‘disregard’ men have for both nature and femininity. There is also war like imagery which adds to this tone of violence as ‘plant juice spat from the pipes and tubes’ giving us the image of spitting blood from the aggression men have exercised.


  • This poem is made up of eight stanzas that have no real structure. I think the fact that the stanzas are quite random and uncontrolled is a representation of the lack of control men have over their anger. It’s almost like ‘lashing out at air’, masculinity has no self-restraint and like ‘air’ it will strike at anything.
  • There is a use of fricative sounds in the line ‘for the flesh of the face’. The sound ‘f’ gives us the impression of built up tension which could be a representation of the built up anger that the chainsaw (men) have. The ‘f’ sound could also be used to try and imitate the sounds of obscene swearing.


  • The author personifies the chainsaw through the description of it ‘grinding its teeth’. This further enforces the idea that the chainsaw is the representation of masculinity, ‘grinding teeth’ also gives the impression of built up anger that has been left to grow over the year.
  • There is also imagery used through the ‘knocked back’ can where ‘juices […] oozed across the guide-bar’. Here we get this image of someone knocking back a drink to prepare for a fight, which is also another use of personification. The fact that this drink is dripping down the machine gives a resemblance to a careless alcoholic who gives no awareness to the destruction that they are causing.
  • Another example of imagery being used is through the ‘weightless wreckage of wasps and flies’. This is one of the ways that the theme of war is shown as these carcasses of dead insects are a clear visual of the destruction and harm masculinity (chainsaw) has done. War is started by these men on innocent, defenceless creatures (women).

Important quotes

‘It seemed an unlikely match’

This is highlighting the war between man made objects and nature. Objects like a chainsaw were not created to destroy nature.

‘The chainsaw […] with its sweet tooth’

The idea of having a ‘sweet tooth’ is having a craving and feeling of needing to eat something sweet. In this case violence and aggression is the chainsaws ‘sweet tooth’ signifying that this violence is something that men need to exert, it’s become an addiction that they cannot control.

‘taking the warmth and light’

This explores the idea that women want to steal all of the attention and good things in life, while men work hard and do not receive the same. It portrays women as selfish.

‘this was the sledgehammer taken to crack the nut’

The use of the a ‘sledgehammer’ gives us a visual of how large and powerful men are, sledgehammers are used to break down and destruct things much like the aggression men unleash does. The reference to ‘crack the nut’ gives us a clear indication that the aggression is unneeded, like a sledgehammer is unneeded to crack a nut. It’s is just taken too far.

‘To clear a space to work’

I think that here we are shown how humanity sees nature as a burden and holds back human wants such as building space and artificial landscapes. Nature is seen to be taking unnecessary space in the world.

‘wearing a new crown’

Even though these men will constantly try to destroy female power, women will keep ‘riding high’ and the image of wearing a crown shows that violence is not the way to winning. Women will win this war that men started and they will come back stronger each time they are knocked down.


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