From The Journal of a Disappointed Man – Andrew Motion

The title, ‘From The Journal of a Disappointed Man’ suggests that the poem is going to be a personal and intimate account from the speaker as highlighted through the fact that it is from a ‘journal’. However, even with this intimacy, the speaker’s third person referral to himself as a ‘man’ suggests a fragmented and broken inner state.

Themes –

  • Masculinity: the poem suggests that masculinity is oppressed through the way in which there is a societal expectation for men to be ‘very powerful men’ and to physically exhort their strength. It is implied that there are two types of men in this world, one being physically strong and other being the educated and ‘silent men’. There is a lack of connection between these different types of people as evident through the way in which these macho men are ‘ignoring’ the on looking speaker.
  • Society and culture: the way in which the construction workers are described as ‘massive men’ who had ‘experience’ in physical labour suggests that those traits are what society deems as masculine, whilst ‘silent’ men who ‘pay close attention’ are ‘left’ behind and disregarded as masculine.

Tone of the poem –

  • There is a very detached tone throughout this poem, which is reflective of the lack of connection between the speaker and the construction workers. The differences between the two are highlighted through the contrast of language between the speaker who uses words such as ‘ruminative’ and the workers who are restricted to the simplest of phrases such as ‘let go’. Highlights that not all men, and therefore masculinity, is the same.

Structure –

  • The structure of 4 lines in each stanza highlights the very repetitive nature of these masculine construction workers lives.
  • The simple structure also suggests that masculinity is flawed through a lack of development or variety.
  • Enjambment could be used to replicate the free-flowing water that is surrounding these workers.

Techniques –

  • The use of plosives as highlighted in words such as ‘pile’, ‘pier’, ‘pulleys’ ‘powerful’ could be an echo of the physical exertion of power, the thing that society sees as masculine.
  • The sibilance of the ‘slow descent into the same depths’ could also be a representation of the sinking ‘pile’ and essentially a mirror of how these construction workers are watching their life sink away through a repetitive routine.



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