Poetry - You will be hearing from us shortly

U.A. Fanthorpe was a popular and successful British poet who died in 2009. She had a varied career before first publishing in her late 40s. Her work is noted for its sharp sense of humour.

When writing about a poem, you need to demonstrate a response. This does not mean that you must have soppy feelings, or even like what you have read. 'You will be hearing from us shortly' can almost be guaranteed to provoke a response. Read the poem before testing your analysis skills with this quiz.

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You will be hearing from us shortly

You feel adequate to the demands of this position?
What qualities do you feel you
Personally have to offer?

Let us consider your application form.
Your qualifications, though impressive, are
Not, we must admit, precisely what
We had in mind. Would you care
To defend their relevance?

Now your age. Perhaps you feel able
To make your own comment about that,
Too? We are conscious ourselves
Of the need for a candidate with precisely
The right degree of immaturity.
                                                                          So glad we agree

And now a delicate matter: your looks.
You do appreciate this work involves
Contact with the actual public? Might they,
Perhaps, find your appearance
                                                                          Quite so

And your accent. That is the way
You have always spoken, is it? What
Of your education? Were
You educated? We mean, of course,
Where were you educated?
                                              And how
Much of a handicap is that to you.
Would you say?

                        Married, children,
We see. The usual dubious
Desire to perpetuate what had better
Not have happened at all. We do not
Ask what domestic disasters shimmer
Behind that vaguely unsuitable address.

And you were born—?
                                                                          Yes. Pity.
So glad we agree.

U. A. Fanthorpe

  1. What is taking place in this poem?
  2. The poem is in whose voice?
    The job candidate is never given a voice, instead remaining silent throughout the interview
  3. Which words best describe the interviewer's tone?
  4. The interviewer does NOT question the suitability of which of the following?
    Questioning the candidate's accent is a reference to class - the candidate is not 'one of us' in the interviewer's eyes.  The interviewer makes it clear that the candidate is also too old and too unattractive for the role
  5. The poem is written in the first person plural throughout. Why might this be?
    The royal 'we' is how the Queen refers to herself in public (if you listen, you will not hear her say 'I').  It is also known as the Victorian 'we' or the 'majestic we'.  If a person refers to himself as 'we', it shows that he has an extremely high opinion of himself
  6. Look again at the way the poem is structured and, in particular, how it is laid out. Considering the words on the right-hand side (like 'Ah'), what does the long gap before them tell the reader?
    The gaps, of course, are also where the interviewee should be responding to the question put by the interviewer.  The questions are so contemptuous, however, that the interviewee is lost for words and remains silent
  7. Thinking about the answer to question six, what effect does this technique create?
  8. 'You will be hearing from us shortly' is what an interviewer would say to conclude an interview. The interviewer in the poem will have said this to the candidate, who knows the interview has not been a success. Why is this an appropriate title for this poem?
    By beginning with the ending of the interview, the title reminds us that the outcome of the interview is a foregone conclusion.  It also emphasises the power the interviewer has to make the interviewee wait, although everyone knows that someone else will be hired - this reinforces the imbalance of power between the two people
  9. Which of the following phrases implies that the interviewer is looking for someone reasonable competent, but youthful?
  10. What is the effect of the last three lines?
    The interviewer deliberately leaves the question hanging.  It should be 'And you were born (where)?'  The dash implies the 'where', but then the interviewer follows up with the killer line, 'Yes. Pity' (i.e. it's a pity the candidate was born at all).  The last line, then, is the most cruel.  'So glad we agree':  the interviewer presumes to speak for the interviewee and the organisation in saying that everyone agrees that the candidate should never have been born and is most certainly not worthy of belonging

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