Your Attention Please

Peter Porter


Peter Porter

Peter Porter was an Australian poet who was born in 1929.

In 2001, named Poet in Residence at the Royal Albert Hall.

Within ‘Your Attention Please’ Porter delves into themes of the apocalypse, government, and society. The tone is consistently direct and unemotional and is, therefore, able to foster an even greater imagined panicked mood in those listening.

Your Attention Please by Peter Porter


Summary of Your Attention Please

Your Attention Please’ by Peter Porter utilizes an emergency announcement to depict the moments before a nuclear attack. 

This attack is sure to destroy the lives, or at least the worlds, of everyone who is hearing it. They’re all asked to flee to their shelters immediately. There are moments of irony and humour in the poem as the un-self-aware announcer asks the listeners to accept their own deaths, trust in God, and leave behind people and animals they care about.

You can read the full poem here.


Structure of Your Attention Please 

Your Attention Please’ by Peter Porter is a sixty-three line poem that’s contained within one stanza of text. The lines do not follow a specific rhyme scheme, nor do they conform to a metrical pattern. But, porter does make use of several poetic techniques in ‘Your Attention Please’. These include anaphora, alliteration, and enjambment. 

The first, anaphora, is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. For example, “Turn off your…” which starts the beginning of lines thirty and thirty-one. Next, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. There are examples throughout the poem, including that found in line fifty-eight with the phrase “flags are flying fully”. 

Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. For example, the transitions between lines two and three as well as lines nine and ten. 


Analysis of Your Attention Please 

Lines 1-13

Your Attention Please
The Polar DEW has just warned that
A nuclear rocket strike of
To comply with the shelter
Requirements published in the Civil
Defence Code – section Atomic Attack.

In the first lines of ‘Your Attention Please,’ an announcement is made. The “Polar DEW,” or Polar Distant Early Warning has detected the presence of a rocket strike. It’s nuclear in nature and is headed to “major cities”. The tone in these lines is direct, discomforting, and frightening. It creates an uncertain mood by tapping into the worst fear of many. From the speaker’s description, there’s no way anyone could survive the attack. 

There is some dry humour in the seventh and eighth lines as the announcer, aware of the time he’s going to take while speaking, informs the public how long they’ll have to seek shelter. It feels absurd to imagine this scenario, but, it is also within the realm of possibilities. 


Lines 14-29

A specially shortened Mass
Will be broadcast at the end
Of this announcement –
Switch when everyone is in
The shelter. Set the radiation
Aerial, turn on the geiger barometer.

In the next lines of ‘Your Attention Please’, the announcing voice turns to religion as the next, apparently, obvious thing to address. There are going to be religious services broadcast “at the end / Of this announcement”. They will be Protestant and Jewish and start at the same time. When imagining this scenario, the poet tried to address what would be the immediate fears of the public, but, by doing so, draws attention to our priorities. This is especially true at the end of the poem as the poet turns back to addressing the impact of religion and faith on these doomed people. 

The voice asks everyone listening to abandon the old and bedridden, as well as “well-loved pets”. These three categories will inevitably “consume / Fresh air”. The brutality of this statement and the emotionless way it’s delivered speaks to human selfishness and a need to preserve one’s life over everything and everyone else. A reader might ask themselves what they would do in this situation. The speaker continues by giving everyone a few tasks they need to make sure they accomplish when they’re getting into the shelter. 


Lines 30-43

Turn off your Television now.
Turn off your radio immediately
The Services end. At the same time
(Watch for the cuckoo in your
perspex panel), or your District
Touring Doctor rings your bell.

Anaphora is used in the next lines of ‘Your Attention Please’ as the voice directs the listeners to turn off their televisions and radios. The list-like nature of these lines feels realistic. During a disaster such as that outlined in ‘You Attention Please,’ you would likely expect clear directions. It is interesting though, that turning off the TV has to be included in the announcement as if to encourage people to stop wasting time. 

Those listening to the announcement are given additional directions. They have to give their children pills and get them into bed. They should not break the seal on their shelters, they should listen for more directions, and try to remember all of them. The lines come one after another, bombarding the listener with directions. 


Lines 44-55

If before this, your air becomes
Exhousted or if any of your family
In critically injured, administer
Has already given orders for
Massive retaliation – it will be
Decisive. Some of us may die.

There’s a chance that those in the shelter are going to run out of air or become injured before a doctor arrives. The speaker acknowledges this possibility and tells the listeners to go ahead and take a suicide capsule in order to speed up death. There is another humorous moment when the voice refers to Catholics and how they might have different instructions. The speaker announces that their announcement is coming to an end in the fifty-second line of ‘Your Attention Please’. 


Lines 56-63

Remember, statistically
It is not likely to be you.
All flags are flying fully dressed
We are all in the hands of God,
Whatever happens happens by His Will.
Now go quickly to your shelters.

In the final lines of ‘You Attention Please’ the speaker tries to comfort those listening by telling them that it is “not likely to be you” who are going to die. A reader should notice the irony in these lines as clearly, in moments of death, the fact that the “flags [are] flying fully,” is not going to be much comfort. 

The speaker signs off by telling everyone there’s nothing they can really do, as everything is in the hands of God. 

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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