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Long Distance Tony Harrison

            In the first part of the poem the poet creates two very distinct voices, his and that of his recently widowed father. He does this by contrasting two styles sharply. One is in Standard English, "I let your phone-call take its dismal course:" and the other is in Yorkshire dialect, "Ah can't stand it no more, this empty house!" The voice of the father is italicised to further emphasise the difference between the accents. It could also be used to show not only the differences in accent but also the differences between the two men emotionally.
             The first stanza contains some subtext. This may be to show the distance between the two men, as it appears that the son lives far away in America when he says later on in the poem that he brought back sweets from JFK airport. Phone calls from abroad sometimes have pauses in-between the different speakers. It may not be the actual distance between the two men that is being portrayed here but again the emotional distance between them, as it seems that the son is a lot less emotional about the death of his mother than the father is about the death of his wife. .
             In the first line of the poem it is as if the poet is talking directly to his father but in reality he is not. It may be what he feels like saying though! The line "Your bed's got two wrong sides." refers to what people say if you are in a bad mood. It is usually said that you have got out of bed the wrong side if you are acting moody. In saying this, the poet is stressing that it does not matter what side of bed his father gets out of he is never going to be happy. The poet also complains about his father when he says "Your life's all grouse." He does this in a Yorkshire dialect and the word "grouse" is a colloquial term for grumpy. The reason for the use of his father's dialect here may be a sign that he is trying to make the communication between him and his father easier.
             In the line "I let your phone-call take its dismal course:" the poet uses the word "dismal" to emphasise how miserable his father sounds when he speaks to him and the word "course" to show how it is the same every time they speak.

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