S Sophie Hannah

Postcard from a Travel Snob by Sophie Hannah

A second analysis: Here is an analysis of the poem Postcard from a Travel Snob, by the British poet and novelist, Sophie Hannah. Hannah is a prolific poet, having nine publications to her name. Additionally, she has published various novels and short stories, both for adults and children. Her psychological thrillers are wildly popular, and some have even been turned into television productions. Born in Manchester, England, in 1971, Hannah completed her studies at the University of Manchester. The Hero and the Girl Next Door, her first collection of poetry, was published when Hannah was only twenty-four years old. Her poems are consistently studied throughout the United Kingdom. Hannah lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children.

 

Summary

In a condescending tone, the speaker of this poem is writing a postcard to others about her vacation. The poem is filled with contradictory images of what her vacation is not: it is not at a resort, nor does it include karaoke, drunken tourists, overpriced stores, or hotels. Instead, the speaker is a multicultural anthropologist, constantly seeking the road less traveled in order to learn more about the people around her. Instead of standing out as a run-of-the-mill tourist, the speaker is easily able to assimilate into the new culture she is visiting.

 

Postcard from a Travel Snob Analysis

As stated earlier, the poem, where it can be read in full here, is delivered in an entirely condescending tone; it is quite obvious the speaker of the poem thinks she is superior to whomever the recipient of the postcard is. The poem is comprised of four stanzas, each containing four lines. The first and third lines in each stanza rhyme; the end words in the second and fourth lines are similar, but they are not exactly rhyming.

 

Stanza 1

The haughty attitude of the speaker is evident in the very first line of the poem. Hannah writes:

I do not wish that anyone were here.

The lines following the first set up what the vacation is not for the speaker. The speaker wastes no time in informing her reader that she is not on vacation with a group of people whose sole purpose is to spend drunken nights singing karaoke at some holiday resort. The first stanza initiates the description of typical holidays so that the speaker can finally reveal what, exactly, her vacation is in the final stanza.

 

Stanza 2

In the second stanza, the speaker reveals that the place she is visiting is not a place that is usually visited. The use of alliteration with the repetition of the “p” sound emphasizes both the passion the speaker feels about her destination and the revulsion she experiences when thinking about what the vacations of others look like.

Hannah sets up a dichotomy between the place where the speaker is currently visiting and the sorts of places most people visit. In the second line of the second stanza, this is not the place where people go to shop and lounge. Instead, it is peaceful and untouched. Apparently, the area in which she is staying is so remote that she is not even renting a guest house or hotel room.

 

Stanza 3

The first line of the third stanza continues the thought started in the last line of the second stanza. The speaker minces no words here, verbally destroying the types of tourists she detests. She claims she is not the type of tourist whose sole purpose on vacation is to lounge in the sun, get drunk on sangria, and indulge in some resort package. Hannah’s diction also helps to heighten the disgust of the speaker. The word “philistine” is a derogatory term for someone who does not know much about the arts or culture. The speaker asserts that her vacations are designed to learn about the cultures in which she travels. She is not there to laze or take advantage of the locals.

Hannah also makes interesting use of parentheses in the third stanza, probably utilizing them in order to differentiate the speaker even further from not only the non-English-speaking locals of the town in which she is staying, but also to further separate herself from the stereotypical tourists she most obviously loathes.

 

Stanza 4

The fourth stanza is the most condescending of all, with the speaker talking directly down to her inferior reader. The speaker is comparing herself to the ordinary tourist. While other tourists have friends who would be considered drunks, they lack the refinement and education that the speaker’s friends obviously have. Because of this, her friends are considered connoisseurs, or experts. She is also not just some typical British tourist wading in the ocean; instead, she is an anthropologist—one who studies people and their culture, both past and present. She does not seek a vacation where she will do nothing. The speaker makes it a point to explore the land where she travels, meeting new people and both understanding and appreciating them.

Throughout most of the poem, Hannah employs parallelism in order to differentiate between the speaker and other British travelers, often showing how the one acts and responds and then immediately following it with an assertion that the other does the exact opposite.

 

Historical Significance

This particular poem does not have much bearing in terms of historical significance, but it is timeless in that one could understand and appreciate this poem at nearly at point in history. Travel is often something that is not accessible to everyone, and certainly there is a feeling of superiority among those who are able to do it often.

To read the first or third analysis, please click ‘Previous’, ‘Next’, or page 1/3.

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Elise Dalli Poetry Expert
About
Elise has been analysing poetry as part of the Poem Analysis team for neary 2 years, continually providing a great insight and understanding into poetry from the past and present.
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