It ain’t what you do, it’s what it does to you Simon Armitage writes an adventurous comparison poem to show how powerful imagination is by comparing life long dreams to one’s mundane memories in the poem,“ It ain’t what you do, it’s what it does to you”. The poem displays three imaginative pinnacle-like events and with those events, there are three events juxtaposing them. The poem is presented in a manner where the story is based on the experiences of a first-person speaker. The poem follows a pattern in terms of how the events are alternated and is structured in a form of decasyllabic quatrain, where there are 4 lines and syllables.
The poem consist of five unrhymed quatrain, however there are rhymes within the poem itself, such as spare and pair. The language in the poem is much more conversational and colloquial, rather than being formal. The way, in which the author says, “I have not bummed”, seems to be rather informal. However, this is not surprising because the speaker states that he “lived with thieves in Manchester”, which is where we can assume that he is not that rich because Manchester is a city that was filled with workers. The living conditions in an industrial city such as Manchester, is not pleasant at all.
Another point to notice in this quote, is how the speaker says that he lives among the thieves, which as an informal way of stating his living condition. Further more, we can see that he is financially challenge because the speaker states, “with only a dollar to spare”. Not only that but, he mentions that his pants are “busted”, which gives a background of who our speaker is. The poem consist of three events, in which are transitioned smoothly with the same register of language and tone, however the ambiance in each of the events presented differs substantially.
Each of the events and its juxtaposing events are distinctive in comparison to the other events. However, in general, the poet seems to be reaching a pinnacle, in which is tranquility. The first event has a mood of its own, where he seems to wish to want to bum to America, which was a common thing at the time period, however he lived with thieves. We get a feeling of uneasiness in this stanza, especially with the colloquial language used, such as bummed and busted. These terms help the audience depict the lifestyle of the speaker.
The plosive sounds in “dollar”, “pair”, “busted”, and “bowie” helps create the ambiance because of its forceful tone, in which helps emphasize that there is threat around the speaker and at the same time it creates a thrilling sensation. On top of that, there is a mocking tone given by these terms. Alliteration is used with terms, such as “bummed”, “busted”, and “bowie” to draw more attention on the plosive words. In a similar fashion, an internal rhyme scheme and assonance in spare and pair, works in the same way. Then we have the Taj Mahal, where everything seems to be peaceful.
The terms such as “space” “marble”, and “skimmed” gives the audience a feeling of tranquility. The last event is build upon excitement, where there is a risk taken, which makes the audience anxious. By using terms such as “parachute”, aircraft”, “wobbly”, and “throat”, the speaker leads the audience into a feeling of anxiety in which he/she is feeling. These terms help the speaker express and connect his feeling with the audience. The author uses assonance in the fourth line of the first quatrain, where the “I” sound is repeated through the words, “I”, “lived”, and “thieves”.
This creates a serene sensation. However, this simple seven worded line, conflicts with the speaker’s expectation. Based on the context, the speaker is most likely to be a probation worker or some sort of career in that field because it is stated that he works “among thieves”. However, he somewhat along states that he is proud of his job. The second stanza consist of some onomatopoeic words such as “padded” and “footfall” to help the audience feel how it feels to step barefooted upon the hall of Taj Mahal.
Specifically, the line where the speaker states that “Listening to the space between/each footfall” evokes tranquility and religious thoughts, where enjambment is used, which allows us to, the reader, to pause and listen that space and feel it. The third stanza is quite sophisticated in terms of literary features, because much like how the speaker tries to make the audience feel and sense things with words, he does the same. Sibilant is used in order to create the echoing sound that skimming a stone makes, in which we can actually depict the vivide image in the line, “each stone’s inertia spend itself against the water. A semicolon follows the line, which gives us a pause and the speaker says, “it sinks”. The poem connects to us, using the patterns and rhythm of the poem to correspond the actions that is explained in the poem. A sibilant used in the poem to show the echoing effect is the term across. The hissing sound from the “os” in across, helps create the sibilant. There are more, for example the term moss. The word consists of the same “os” in across. The fourth stanza, the terms such as “toyed” and “light-air crafted” evokes the audience of risk.
Not only that but the pronunciation of the word gives a sound of precision, which corresponds to what the actor is imagining. Taking a risk requires a lot of precision because if you are not aware, the results may be fatal. The speaker gives a sensation of “do or die” to the audience, where we actually feel it because there is no term that evokes the thought of fear, which is what the author does when he is about to make the jump, or in reality hold the wobbly head of the boy.
The last stanza concludes everything saying that the simple things in life should be appreciated because it is much comparable and is the same value as life dreams, in other words, you should be grateful for what you have. Even though, you are not as fortunate as the blessed ones, however god gave you the moment to cherish it for life, therefore you should not waste it. A mundane event such as skipping stones is worth a lot more than it is with the power of imaginative and the value of being grateful. The beginning of the last stanza also talks about the anxiety the speaker faces that he shared between him and the wobbly-headed boy.