'A Case Of Murder' by Vernon Scannell

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They should not have left him there alone,Alone that is except for the cat.He was only nine, not old enoughTo be left alone in a basement flat,Alone, that is, except for the cat.A dog would have been a different thing,A big gruff dog with slashing jaws,But a cat with round eyes mad as gold,Plump as a cushion with tucked-in paws---Better have left him with a fair-sized rat!But what they did was leave him with a cat.He hated that cat; he watched it sit,A buzzing machine of soft black stuff,He sat and watched and he hated it,Snug in its fur, hot blood in a muff,And its mad gold stare and the way it satCrooning dark warmth: he loathed all that.So he took Daddy's stick and he hit the cat.Then quick as a sudden crack in glassIt hissed, black flash, to a hiding placeIn the dust and dark beneath the couch,And he followed the grin on his new-made face,A wide-eyed, frightened snarl of a grin,And he took the stick and he thrust it in,Hard and quick in the furry dark.The black fur squealed and he felt his skinPrickle with sparks of dry delight.Then the cat again came into sight,Shot for the door that wasn't quite shut,But the boy, quick too, slammed fast the door:The cat, half-through, was cracked like a nutAnd the soft black thud was dumped on the floor.Then the boy was suddenly terrifiedAnd he bit his knuckles and cried and cried;But he had to do something with the dead thing there.His eyes squeezed beads of salty prayerBut the wound of fear gaped wide and raw;He dared not touch the thing with his handsSo he fetched a spade and shovelled itAnd dumped the load of heavy furIn the spidery cupboard under the stairWhere it's been for years, and though it diedIt's grown in that cupboard and its hot low purrGrows slowly louder year by year:There'll not be a corner for the boy to hideWhen the cupboard swells and all sides splitAnd the huge black cat pads out of it.

Editor 1 Interpretation

#The Complexities of Murder in Vernon Scannell's "Poetry: A Case of Murder"

Have you ever read a poem that was so gripping, so haunting, that it stayed with you long after you finished reading it? Vernon Scannell's "Poetry: A Case of Murder" is one of those poems. In just a few short stanzas, Scannell explores the complexities of murder, the power of language, and the human need for control. Through a close reading of the poem, we can unpack these themes and arrive at a deeper understanding of the text.

##The Power of Language

One of the most striking aspects of "Poetry: A Case of Murder" is Scannell's use of language. The poem is written in a deceptively simple style, with short, declarative sentences that lend a sense of urgency to the text. Take, for example, the opening lines:

It was a case of murder,
simple as that.
The man had been shot
with a gun.

There's a matter-of-factness to these lines that belies the gravity of the situation. By describing the murder in such plain language, Scannell is emphasizing the brutal reality of the act. He's not trying to sugarcoat anything or make excuses for the killer.

At the same time, however, Scannell is also using language to create a sense of mystery and intrigue. The speaker of the poem is clearly fascinated by the murder, and he spends much of the poem trying to decipher the clues and piece together what happened. He describes the murder weapon as "cold and heavy as a word," and later compares it to a "poem" that has been "fired / into flesh." These metaphors suggest that the speaker is seeing something more than just a simple act of violence – he's seeing a larger, more complex story unfolding before him.

##The Complexities of Murder

As the poem progresses, we begin to see just how complex this story really is. The speaker describes the killer as someone who "knew the power / of words," and suggests that he used language to manipulate and control his victim. He also hints that the killer may have been motivated by jealousy or some other dark emotion, saying that he "envied the man's fluency, / his ability to turn words / into gold."

At the same time, however, the speaker also suggests that the victim may have had some agency in the situation. He describes the victim as someone who "had his own way with words," and suggests that he may have been complicit in his own murder. The line "they say he was asking for it" is particularly chilling, as it suggests that the victim's own actions may have contributed to his death.

Through these conflicting perspectives, Scannell is exploring the complexities of murder. He's showing us that there are always multiple motivations and factors at play in any violent act. Even in a seemingly simple case of murder, there are always hidden depths and layers to uncover.

##The Human Need for Control

Finally, it's worth considering the role of control in "Poetry: A Case of Murder." Throughout the poem, we see characters who are struggling for control – over themselves, over their words, and over each other. The killer, for example, is clearly using language as a tool of control. He wants to dominate his victim, to prove that he is the more powerful and skilled wordsmith.

At the same time, however, the speaker also seems to be seeking control – over the murder, over the story, over his own emotions. He's trying to make sense of what happened, to impose order and meaning onto a chaotic and senseless act. In doing so, he's also positioning himself as a kind of authority figure – someone who knows how to read the clues and interpret the evidence.

In this way, Scannell is highlighting the human need for control – the desire to make sense of the world around us, to impose order and meaning onto chaos. Even in the face of something as horrific as murder, we still want to feel like we're in control.


In "Poetry: A Case of Murder," Vernon Scannell has created a haunting and thought-provoking work of poetry. Through his use of language, his exploration of the complexities of murder, and his portrayal of the human need for control, he has crafted a text that will stay with readers long after they finish reading. Whether you're a seasoned poetry lover or a newcomer to the genre, this is a poem that deserves your attention.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry is a form of art that has the power to evoke emotions and stir the imagination. It can transport us to different worlds, make us feel things we never thought possible, and leave us with a lasting impression. One such poem that has left a lasting impression on me is "A Case of Murder" by Vernon Scannell.

The poem is a narrative that tells the story of a murder that takes place in a small town. The speaker of the poem is a detective who is investigating the case. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which reveals a different aspect of the murder.

The first stanza sets the scene and introduces the victim. The victim is a young woman who is described as "a pretty thing." The speaker describes her as "lying there / With a red hole in her forehead." The use of the color red is significant as it symbolizes blood and violence. The image of the victim lying there with a red hole in her forehead is a powerful one that immediately captures the reader's attention.

The second stanza introduces the suspect. The suspect is a man who is described as "a big man, / With a hard, mean face." The speaker describes him as "sitting there / With his hands on his knees." The use of the word "mean" to describe the suspect's face is significant as it suggests that he is capable of violence. The image of the suspect sitting there with his hands on his knees is a powerful one that suggests that he is calm and collected.

The third stanza reveals the motive for the murder. The speaker describes how the suspect had been in love with the victim but had been rejected by her. The speaker says, "He loved her, you see, / But she didn't love him." The use of the word "love" is significant as it suggests that the suspect's feelings for the victim were genuine. The image of the suspect sitting there with his hands on his knees is a powerful one that suggests that he is calm and collected.

The poem is written in free verse, which means that it does not follow a specific rhyme scheme or meter. This gives the poem a sense of spontaneity and allows the poet to focus on the narrative rather than the form. The use of enjambment, where a sentence or phrase runs over into the next line, also adds to the sense of spontaneity and gives the poem a sense of urgency.

The poem is also notable for its use of imagery. The image of the victim lying there with a red hole in her forehead is a powerful one that immediately captures the reader's attention. The image of the suspect sitting there with his hands on his knees is also a powerful one that suggests that he is calm and collected. The use of the color red to symbolize blood and violence is also significant.

The poem is a commentary on the nature of love and the lengths that people will go to in order to obtain it. The suspect's love for the victim is genuine, but his actions are violent and ultimately lead to her death. The poem suggests that love can be a powerful force, but it can also be destructive if not handled properly.

In conclusion, "A Case of Murder" is a powerful poem that tells a gripping story of love and violence. The use of imagery and free verse gives the poem a sense of spontaneity and urgency, while the commentary on the nature of love adds depth and meaning to the narrative. Overall, this poem is a testament to the power of poetry to evoke emotions and stir the imagination.

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