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Poetry Analysis - Sleep by Kenneth Slessor


            ´╗┐Kenneth Slessor is commonly regarded by many to be the best Australian poet of his generation, perhaps all time. His poem "Sleep" can be interpreted mainly in one of two ways. One could see it as a personification of sleep, or depiction of childbirth. The poem's textual integrity allows for both interpretations to be supported through techniques founded within the text. Each stanza within the poem provides evidence to support either interpretation although; Slessor may be using one of the said meanings as an analogy for the other. .
             The first stanza supports the personification of sleep with the introduction of two voices. Slessor starts the poem with a question, allowing for the establishment of two aspects; the consciousness of sleep and its desire for a, "companion," conveyed through the italicised response. The relationship between the sleeper and the sleep is presented as consensual, founded through the question, "Do you give yourself to me utterly body and nobody," and the simple, short reply of, "Yes." The repetition of the word, "body," within the quote, "Body and nobody," connotes the physical and spiritual levels of a relationship, depicting the sleeper's ability to fully trust the sleep that will embrace them. However, the extract, "But as a child might, without no other wish?" begins to point to the poem being an illustration of the process of childbirth. With solid evidence for both interpretations of the meaning behind the poem, one could find themselves lost in trying to understand the poem. .
             The second and third stanzas of the poem, depicts the journey founded through the transitioning from sleep to their awakening. However, it also conveys the process of childbirth – starting from a foetus. The use of repetition of the, "u," sounds in combination with an internal rhyme pattern, the replication of the sounds of a human heartbeat allow for the creation of a soothing and nurturing mood, reminiscent of a child within their mother's womb.


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