Belfast Confetti By Ciaran Carson

Ciaran Carson, poet to ‘Belfast Confetti’, was born in the year 1948. He is not only a poet, but also an amazing novelist, who is cherished by almost all those who love literature. Born and brought up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, he writes both poetry and prose, which is often heavily influenced by his Irish roots.

He was bestowed with the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award for The Irish For No (1987), and has also won the Irish Times’ Irish Literature Prize For Poetry for Belfast Confetti. Besides being an author and a novelist, he is also a well-known musician and columnist. He has still not left his pen.

In his collection of poems, Belfast Confetti (click here to read) is one of the most amazing and famous poems that the readers have ever come across.

Belfast Confetti by Ciaran Carson

Structure of Belfast Confetti

Carson has used past tense to describe the violence held against the Catholic crowd in the place. He has used the same tense to portray the different effects of being in the middle of the conflict.

The poet has also used the present tense to portray a live-scene of what he went through during the time he witnessed the violence. He has used this tense to describe his experience and the aftermath of the riot.

The poet has used “First Person Narrative Style” to describe his feelings in the most efficient way. It is a free verse poem.

Metaphor and extended metaphors are the two most important language techniques used in this poem. The metaphoric language used in this poem, portrays every single effect of violence, on the heart of the poet.

Poetic Form

This poem is like watching the live-scene after the riot between the shipyard workers, who were the Protestants, and the Catholics. ‘Exclamation marks’ depict the screaming voices of people, who were being ruthlessly killed during the riot. ‘Nuts, bolts, nails, car-keys’ depict the scrap metals used as weapons by the Protestants.

‘Asterisk’ depicts the sparkles that were born due to the explosions during the fight. ‘I was trying to complete a sentence in my head, but it kept stuttering’ means that the poet finds it difficult to depict in words the terror that his eyes witnessed. He tried finding an escape, but he couldn’t. The hidden meaning behind his words mean that even if he has escaped the riot and survived, he will never be able to get rid of the sight that he witnessed; the violent scene is going to haunt his memories forever. The word ‘stuttering’ depicts how petrified he was when he saw the roads blocked and the hatred for each other, in the eyes of humans.

The poet states that it is just so impossible for him to find an escape because every road has a ‘dead end again.’ The dead end depicts dead bodies lying at different places. These dead bodies have blocked his ways, due to which he finds it impossible to escape.

‘Why can’t I escape’ depicts the helplessness in the heart of the poet. Even though he wishes to leave and even though he knows that he has survived, he is unable to get rid of his helplessness about being unable to help those who lost their lives in the riot. He has witnessed the death of several people right in front of his eyes, due to which he just can’t forget the violent memories.

‘A fusillade of question-marks’ depicts the questions raised by the innocent eyes of the Catholics that were slaughtered by the merciless nationalist groups.

Historical Perspective

During his time, the poet has witnessed the era of Irish nationalist terrorism, which began in the 1960s. This conflict took place when the minority population of Catholics was dominated, discriminated, and also harassed by the Protestant majority. During the mid-1970s, the groups of Irish nationalists had also started violent attacks to make the UK government build an independent region of Britain.

Ciaran Carson’s Belfast Confetti pulls the reader into the aftermath of Belfast’s sectarian riot. He has used punctuation to symbolize missiles that Protestants used during this riot, which was against the Catholic crowd in Belfast.

The poem Belfast Confetti derives its name from the large ship constructing rivets as well as all the other metals, which were used by the Protestants for the violent attacks against the Catholics.

Personal Commentary

Carson has adopted a narrative style in this poem to depict an entire scene to the reader. The reader can feel the horrifying scene just like it is depicted by the poet. By reading this poem, one can easily understand the pain that the scene and the riot must have caused to the poet.

The poet has survived and there is absolutely no doubt about how tough his survival was, from the riot. However, he is still not able to forget the haunting scenes that he has seen with his own eyes and the fearful screams of those, who lost their lives to the hands of merciless troops. He wanted to be there with the ones, who were being discriminated against without any reason; he wanted to help them, but he simply couldn’t, because the scene and the terror had frightened him as much as it had frightened them.

Yet, he is simply unable to forgive himself and whenever he travels back in time, the first thing that comes in his mind is his inability to help people during the riot. But then again, he was petrified with the sight and there was absolutely no move that he could make due to the harshness noticed in the eyes of the humans against those, who were made by the same flesh and blood.

The poet has beautifully used different punctuation in a very carefree and freestyle manner to put the most contemporary effect on the hearts of the readers. When you read Belfast Confetti, you, as a reader, feel like you are witnessing the entire scene all by yourself. It is like you are standing right there, in the middle of dead bodies. Every single scene has been presented and depicted just the way it must have happened, way back then. The terror that this poem creates is not something that the other poems, belonging to the same genre, do.

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Dharmender Kumar
Dharmender is a writer by passion, and a lawyer by profession. He has has a degree in English literature from Delhi University, and Mass Communication from Bhartiya Vidhya Bhavan, Delhi, as well as holding a law degree. Dharmender is awesomely passionate about Indian and English literature.
  • this was very us fell for my gcse revision

  • Hello Carolina,

    Sorry I missed your comments before but thanks.

    First let me tell you that this is not a ridiculous analysis. You read what I made you read through my reading and understanding of this poem. Though every poem analyst has his/her own way to analyze a poem, this one is what you can find in most of the analyses done by others.

    Here are a few of the key points might have missed while reading and understanding this poem.

    Bel – The capital city of Northern Ireland where most of the ‘troubles’ took place
    Fast – Euphemism for miscellaneous objects that were hurled at during streets riots (nuts, bolts, nails etc)
    Con – Ironic that ‘confetti’ usually symbolizes a union of two people in love. Here small pieces of metal symbolizes ‘discard’ and a fracturing of society.
    Fetti – Here the poet has ironically used the term ‘confetti’ that is associated with celebration, subverted to describe the debris from the bomb.

    ‘Raining exclamation marks’ from the first stanza suggests the sudden shouts and cries of alarm caused by the attack.

    ‘An asterisk on the map’ (*) also in the first stanza looks as if there has been an explosion on paper.

    All the alleyways and side streets are ‘blocked with stops’ in the same way that full stops halt the reader .

    In all, the whole poem is an extended metaphor for the way that violent conflict destroys language.


    • you bodied her bro respect

      • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

        I have never heard this term before. I don’t think he was “point scoring” just defending his work.

        • you absolutely bodied him mate

          • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

            Apparently that’s what we do…I have set up a bath full of acid in tribute to Walter White.

  • I am sorry but I have to say this is a ridiculous analysis of the poem. I do not feel pain or terror from hyphens or asterix. It’s tone is not expressive of horror. Think of the juxtaposition of Belfast with confetti – the combination does not evoke tragedy it’s almost mocking in tone. So I would totally disagree with the author.

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