Belfast Confetti

Belfast confetti is a poem about the aftermath of a IRA bomb by Irish poet and translator Ciaran Carson. The poem won the Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Poetry. The name of the poem derives from the nickname for the screws, bolts, and nails that were placed in IRA bombs as shrapnel. The shrapnel made the bombs much more lethal against people. []

The poem reads:

Suddenly as the riot squad moved in, it was raining exclamation marks,
Nuts, bolts, nails, car-keys. A fount of broken type. And the explosion.
Itself - an asterisk on the map. This hyphenated line, a burst of rapid fire…
I was trying to complete a sentence in my head but it kept stuttering,
All the alleyways and side streets blocked with stops and colons.
I know this labyrinth so well - Balaclava, Raglan, Inkerman, Odessa Street -
Why can’t I escape? Every move is punctuated. Crimea Street. Dead end again.
A Saracen, Kremlin-2 mesh. Makrolon face-shields. Walkie-talkies.
What is My name? Where am I coming from? Where am I going? A fusillade of question-marks.

Carson uses punctuation as a means to convey the feeling of violence he feels that the scene creates. Metaphors include raining exclamation marks (referring to chaotic screaming during the event), nuts bolts and nails (referring to shrapnel placed near the bomb intending to create more noise and damage), his use of asterisks (indicating an awkward and abrupt mark in the middle of the scene), and the stops and colons which block his way (presumably to reflect the feeling of being trapped in the middle of the riot). This could also be related to the fact that Carson himself suffered from severe claustrophobia, a disorder that many inhabitants of Northern Ireland received as a result of the dozens of riots during the Troubles.

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