‘Half Omen Half Hope’ by Joanna Klink is a rumination on love and falling out of love. She asks the question, are the happy moments of a relationship worth the sadness that comes after it ends? The title balances this idea, with the ‘omen’ of a broken future mirrored by the ‘hope’ that it can continue forever. The poem is beautiful to read, filled with imagery and complex ideas of love and heartbreak. Klink talks about love as if it were something that fills the body up, and something that can just as easily leave someone hollow. Yet, for Klink, these moments of heartbreak are justified by ‘all the stars’ that populate the relationship with beautiful memories, ones that last forever.
‘Half Omen Half Hope’ is split into two 14 line stanzas, both echoing, although not replicating, the sonnet form. Indeed, the poem engages with the theme of love, and therefore in choosing a line length of 14 for each stanza, directly plays with this idea. The fact that the poem is also discussing the lack of love is perhaps directly addressing the imperfection of love through the broken sonnet form. Furthermore, the fact there are two stanzas of equal length could be a representation of the two people described in the poems, the lovers who have now parted.
There is no rhyme scheme within the poem, written instead as more of a monologue. This lack of rhyme could reflect the disconnection between the two lovers, with the rhyme that could connect them being broken.
Although there is no rhyme scheme, this does not mean that the poem is in anyway jarred or stunted when reading. On the contrary, the lines flow beautifully, echoing, and coupling with the images they are expressing.
You can read the full poem Half Omen Half Hope here.
The first and most abundant poetic technique that Klink employs is the use of imagery. Throughout the poem, there are moments that create vivid pictures of the scenes that Klink is describing. These moments have an element of fantasy or magical realism about them, often engaging with ideas of light or nature. Much of ‘Half Omen Half Hope is written in these magical images, with the emotions described being ineffable to the poet, with Klink instead detailing them through elaborate images. The use of imagery is therefore pertinent considering how conceptual her ideas of emotion and love seem to be.
Sibilance and alliteration are used frequently across the lines within the poem. This acts as a method, particularly the sibilance, of creating a beautiful flow across the line. The continuous ’s’ and ‘c’ sounds create a soothing atmosphere when read, the delicate construction of the poem reflecting the personal discussion of love and emotion.
Analysis of Half Omen Half Hope
When everything finally has been wrecked and further shipwrecked,When their most ardent dream has been made hollow and unrecognizable,
Joanna Klink begins the first two lines of ‘Half Omen Half Hope’ with an anaphora of ‘When’, marking the moment that the relationship between this couple has come to its end. The lines are sad and final, posing the idea that their love has died and they are now separating.
The idea of their love ‘finally’ coming to an end suggests they had a long history together, furthering the sense of melancholy the end signifies for them.
The two adjectives, describing their love as ‘wrecked’ and ’shipwrecked’ connote something that has completely been destroyed. Moreover, the movement associated with a ship in ‘shipwrecked’ suggests stagnation, with their relationship almost crashing out of nowhere. Perhaps the surprise of the break is what makes this poem seem so melancholic.
Their love was presented as a fire burning, ‘ardent dream’ compounding the sense of excitement and wonder which they once contained. Yet, they are now ‘hollow and unrecognisable’, their relationship changing into something they are not familiar with. The poem keeps coming back to this idea, the wonder that their relationship once had and how they lost it, never to be restored.
They will feel inside their limbs the missing shade of blue that lingers(…)When green starts to leave it. What they take into their privacy (half of his embrace,
They actively ‘feel inside their limbs’ the missing part of their lives now their relationship is over. It was presented in colours, ‘green’ and ‘blue’ being a representation of the happiness they once had. Perhaps the decision to use colder colours reflects the idea that the relationship was never going to last, becoming slower and more difficult as time went on.
The atmosphere of these lines is distinctly melancholic and incredibly beautiful, due to the conjuration of images of nature and Klink suffusing them with metaphors of their relationship. The environment that Klink describes being inside the ‘limbs’ of the broken couple, the ‘cooler hours before dark, and the moss at the foot of the forest / when the green starts to leave it’ are deeply moving, their quiet presentation of nature oddly comforting. The couple breaking up are now presented as two single people that miss something, something deep within them that can only be described through images.
The ‘shadows of acts’ are memories of the past, these moments both of them hold close when looking back over their relationship, ones that ‘have no farewells in them’ and are just happy.
Moons unearth them. And when, in their separate dwellings, their bodies
Feel the next season come, they no longer have anyone to whom
Weightless falling; and he, who must realize that certain losses are irreparable,
Tells himself at night, before the darkest mirror, that vision keeps him whole.
When the ‘season’ changes within ‘Half Omen Half Hope’, continuing with the semantics of nature, the couple is now separated and alone. They ‘no longer have anyone to whom / to tell it.’, the enjambement followed by the mid-line caesura after ‘tell it.’ Creating a powerful moment of solitude. Both people are seen to be almost mourning their past relationship, but they don’t communicate and don’t go back to each other. This enjambment and caesura usage in order to create emphasis is repeated later with ‘a strange emptiness / peers back in.’, the strange and melancholic atmosphere being continued here in the poem.
Now they are both single, ‘if they love, it is solely to be adored’, they do not take a partner for love, only for a fleeting admiration. Perhaps Klink is suggesting that deep down they know their past partner was more important to them than anyone else they have met. Indeed, the fact that ‘it is solely to be adored’ is placed within a set of commas, thus making it an additional clause, suggests that this new lover is quite irrelevant, they are just additional content to the sentence which focuses mainly on the ex-partner.
The alliteration of the fricative throughout ‘field made fallow by a fire’ compounds the sense of what they have lost, with Klink suggesting that must wait before trying again at love. The realization of what they have lost is brutal to them, suggested by the fricatives. This is built upon by the solemn sibilance and assonance of ‘someone years ago set’, the repeated sounds entrapping the lovers in a continual state of mourning for their lost relationship.
A moment of clarity comes towards the end of this stanza of ‘Half Omen Half Hope’, ‘and he, who must realize that certain losses are irreparable’. Klink understands that heartbreak can last a lifetime, with lovers sometimes always holding a special corner of their heart for someone they loved long ago.
On the verge of warm and simple sleep they tell themselves certain loves
Such as this would be to halve a sound that travels out from a silent person’s
It is within these liminal spaces, the in-between nature of being awake but falling asleep, where memories and thoughts of her past relationship come back to her. She believes that love can come in many forms, ‘like sheets of dark water, or ice forests, or husks of ships’ – all things that exist in nature and are fantastical to imagine. For Klink, love is varied and brilliant, not being pinned down to one image or form. It is impossible to derail once it has begin, like stopping ‘a silent person’s thoughts’.
Thoughts. The imprint they make on each other’s bodies is worth any pain
They will see again the shadows of insects.
Here Klink talks about the ‘imprint’ a relationship leaves behind on people, suggesting that it ‘is worth any pain they may have caused’. She argues that relationships, even if the ending can hurt, are worth the pain, worth the heartbreak if to have had these happy moments with someone.
This stanza can be interpreted as the couple meeting once again, and although they cannot restore an emotional connection, there are flecks of what once was. The repetition of the earlier image of colour arises here again, ‘and when she reaches / for him the air greens’, the use of colour is used to represent their love.
Yet, their relationship is not what it once was, with ‘shadows of insects’ also being seen ‘again’. This line is the shortest in ‘Half Omen Half Hope’, with the understanding that they cannot go back to what they once had once again being realized by the couple, signified by the short line emphasis.
They will touch the bark and feel each age of the tree fly undisturbed
Into them. If what is no longer present in them cannot be restored,
Pleasure and failure feed each other daily. Do not think any breeze,
Any grain of light, shall be withheld. All the stars will sail out for them.
Life continues now they have broken apart, ‘rains fill and pass out of clouds’, ‘animals hover at the edges of fields’, everything seems to carry on just as normal. Perhaps Klink is implying that although the relationship was magnificent for the couple, to everyone and everything else outside of them, it meant nothing. Klink is writing about the private nature of relationships, only the people in the couple knowing truly what the relationship holds.
‘Pleasure and filature feed each other daily’ is a reflection of the title, with couples having these beautiful moments and couples breaking up all around the world in the same moments. These ‘omens’ of a painful future and moments of beautiful ‘hope’ exist simultaneously.
Klink states that in relationships, not a single ‘grain of light, shall be withheld’, everything will be shared by the couple, these happy moments being remembered forever. The significance of ‘light’ can here be understood as echoing this happiness, with the seeming physical insignificance of ‘grain’ showing how even the smallest moments can be the source of the greatest happiness.
The final sentence, ‘all the stars’, echos this idea of happiness, stars at once representing light and the magical quality of nature – images that have been prominent throughout ‘Half Omen Half Hope’. This line is continued by linking back to the first line, the ‘starts will sail out for them’ connecting to the ’shipwrecked’ relationship of the first line – presenting a circularity in relationships, they will end and begin all the time. We now understand certainly that these moments of beautiful connection in a relationship, ‘stars’, will come to an end. Yet, this does not mean they did not exist. It does not mean they will be forgotten.