The poem “Back in the Playground Blues” written by Adrian Mitchell is about a boy remembering about the time that he was at the playground. The poem is written in first person, and the “I” of the poem is completely scared of the playground. He remembered the time which he was there and of how much he suffered. He felt as if he was trapped in the big playground compared to his size, left unprotected by their parents from the “rulers of the Killing ground”, and hoping that he wouldn’t be the one chosen by them to make fun of.
The “I” also criticizes that the “rulers of the Killing ground” always found a reason to pick on someone, be it because of physical appearance, religion or beliefs. He also mentions that someone from the playground, probably the principal says “It prepares them for Life”, and that in his opinion this had already been the worst place in his life.
I imagine that the incident takes place in a poor community, because the children do not look as if they were mimed and a rich parent probably wouldn’t trust the principal when she said that it prepares them for life.
He also comments on the walls of the playground and says that it was broken and dusty, as if no one was taking care of the playground. The fact that he gives the impression that all the kids hated the “Killing Ground” also suggests that it takes place on a poor community because if it was on a rich one the kids would probably complain to their parents and their parents would get in contact with the principal or staff responsible.
Language and structure add a great deal to the understanding of the poem.
On the first section he repeats the first two lines, probably to call the readers attention to it. He also soon after saying how small the boy was says how large and wide the playground was, maybe suggesting that the boy felt impotent regarding the enormous playground around him. On the second section the poet also repeats the first two lines, also to emphasize it but maybe also to show a sense of how these facts were appearing back in the boys mind and as if he was thinking about it at the moment.
He also wrote the name give by the children to the playground with capital letters “The Killing Ground”, to emphasize in the word Killing, to show how much the children were scared and hated the playground. This name is very ironical because Killing is the opposite of Play, and that the kids were having a horrible time whilst their parents thought that they were playing and having fun. On the third section he writes “got a mother and a father, they’re one thousand years away”, meaning that the kids can only ask for help for their parents, but they are far away from them and there is no way of reaching them.
He then writes “the rulers on The Killing Ground are coming out to play”, to give the impression of how these rulers, probably older or stronger kids, were feared by the other kids, and that when they appeared they hoped they would pick someone else to “play” with. It is interesting the irony in the word “play” used in the sense of bullying, as if the rulers were using the younger kids as a doll or another object and doing whatever they wanted with it. The fourth section is my favorite part of the poem, due to its extreme irony.
The boy is saying that the rulers chose anyone to pick on, and that they do it for any reason at all, and the way the poet writes this it looks as a nursery rhyme, which usually are of happy and fun things, which isn’t this case. On the fifth section the poet is showing the cruelty of the “rulers”, by saying that they sometimes get a beetle and torture them, by tearing off all its legs one by one, leaving the beetle with its back on the floor, but a beetle can’t beg for mercy as the other kids, so it “isn’t half as fun”.
This is making a comparison of how the kids went through the same situation as the beetle, and that this was more fun for the rulers, because unlike beetles, children can beg for mercy. On the last section the poet describes the sound of the principal or teacher of the playground as having and iceberg sound, meaning that the person was very cold and didn’t have any feelings towards the kids which were being bullied. He ends the poem by saying that the principal says that the playground “prepares them for live”, whilst the boy thinks that this “preparation” has been the worst thing of his life.
The poet shows how a child views a playground, and how scared they were of the older kids. This is a very typical example, and happens in most playgrounds and kindergartens around the world. Maybe not as cruel as the poet’s example, but quite bad. It also shows how the child’s mind is taken over by their imagination and fear. It is also a critic to how the system of playgrounds work, and of how the parents send them there thinking that they are playing and having a good time whilst what is happening is exactly the opposite.