The poem uses wonderful examples of juxtaposition, contrast, and imagery through its images. These are vague and open for interpretation but have a very important emotional resonance that makes the poem very interesting to read. Readers are likely to walk away from ‘It Is Here’ curious as to what has happened between these two people and what their future holds.
Explore It Is Here
‘It Is Here’ by Harold Pinter is a short, impactful poem that uses questions to consider the state of a relationship.
The poem starts with the speaker considering a sound. It’s later revealed to be the sound of the first breath they and the person they’re in a relationship with (also the person to whom the poem is directed) took together. When the sound comes, the room shakes, the speaker is reminded of their past together and inspired to question the listener about it. They wonder how and why they turned away from it and to it as well what exactly it signified. The “stance” they took is also up for consideration. The title “It is here” is used in the last line as if bringing the poem full circle.
You can read the full poem here.
What sound was that?
In the first stanza of ‘It Is Here,’ the speaker begins by asking the first of several questions. He asks what “sound was that” in the first line. This is central to the poem as, throughout the rest of the lines, he continues to consider the sound and what it means. Once hearing it, things change for the speaker. He turns away, “into the shaking room.” It’s unclear exactly what the speaker is turning away from. It could be an experience or a place it represents, or more likely the person to whom the poem is directed.
The “shaking” of the room is also interesting. It’s clear that with the sound, the room is changing. It came into the picture and the speaker’s environment shifts.
What was that sound that came in on the dark?
What is this maze of light it leaves us in?
It was the breath we took when we first met.
Listen. It is here.
In the next stanza, there are four more questions. These are all concerned with the sound and how it changes the speaker and the person to whom he’s directing his words, the listener. The sound “came in on the dark” and left a “maze of light.” These are wonderful examples of juxtaposition (with the light and dark) and imagery. They evoke very particular experiences.
The speaker continues to talk to the listener, asking why they’re acting the way they are together. Why should they “turn away and then turn back?” As the lines progress, it’s clear that these previous questions are concerned with the speaker’s relationship with the listener.
The sound they heard, as the last lines, reveals that of “the breath we took when we first met.” It is this sound that returns to the picture and reminds the two of what their relationship is. The light and dark images, as seen at the beginning of the second stanza, as well as the phrase “turn away and then turn back,” suggests that their relationship has not been a simple one.
They’ve been committed, uncommitted, emotional, and not. There have been many highs and lows they’ve gone through. The way the final line punctuates this is interesting. The speaker is asking that their partner “Listen” to the sound of the “first breath” they took together and remember it. This is perhaps in order to bring their relationship back to the way it was at the beginning.
Structure and Form
‘It Is Here’ by Harold Pinter is a two-stanza poem that is separated into one set of two lines, known as a couplet, and one set of seven lines. These lines are written in free verse. This means that they do not use a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.
Throughout ‘It Is Here,’ Pinter makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Caesura: occurs when the poet inserts a pause into the middle of a line. For example, “I turn away, into the shaking room” and “Listen. It is here.”
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses particularly interesting descriptions. These should help readers envision, feel, smell, etc. the scenes and experiences described. For example, “maze of light it leaves us in” and “into the shaking room.”
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “light” and “leaves” in line two of the second stanza and “turn” and “turn” in line four of the second stanza.
The tone is emotional and questioning. The speaker uses numerous questions to explore their relationship with the listener and what experiences those emotions are triggering.
The purpose is to explore a relationship. The state of that relationship is unknown, but it’s clear that it’s meaningful. The lines address the way the two consider their past together and their future.
The speaker is someone who is in a relationship with the person to whom they’ve directed the lines of ‘It Is Here.’ The exact state of that relationship is unknown, but it’s clear they still care about it as they’re spending this time exploring its “first” breath.
Images of lightness and darkness, as well as commitment and lack of commitment, are used in these lines. There are sense-images like the shaking room and the sound of the breath. Overall, this is an emotional experience for everyone involved.
The mood is contemplative and considerate. The reader is likely left wondering about the state of the speaker’s relationship and what the breath truly represents. It’s also likely that readers are going to hear these lines in different ways and find themselves moved to different considerations.
Readers who enjoyed “It Is Here,’ should also consider reading some similar poems. For example:
- ‘Meeting at Night’ by Robert Browning – narrates how the lyrical voice sails across the sea to reach his beloved.
- ‘You’re’ by Sylvia Plath – is an ode to an unborn child. It explores the speaker’s expectations of motherhood and what emotions she’s going to feel.
- ‘Love’s Language’ by Ella Wheeler Wilcox – describes how Love speaks through the emotions, actions, and inactions of soon to be, or already established, lovers.