"Belfast Confetti" was written by the Irish poet Ciaran Carson and published in the collection The Irish for No in 1987. In the poem, an unnamed speaker appears to be caught up in a bomb blast and tries to escape. The poem then explores the relationship between violence and language itself, as the disoriented speaker searches for an escape route. According to Carson, the poem is set in August 1969 during the Troubles, a violent conflict that took place in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century.
Suddenly as the ...
... of broken type.
And the explosion ...
... stops and colons.
I know this ... Inkerman, Odessa Street—
Why can’t I ...
... Makrolon face-shields. Walkie-talkies.
What is ...
... of question marks.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
The Poem Aloud — Hear the poet recite "Belfast Confetti" out loud.
Carson on the Flute — Carson was also a musician, playing traditional Irish music on the flute and tin whistle.
More Poems and Info About Carson — A valuable resource on Carson from Poetry Foundation.
Troubles Poems — More poems relating to the Troubles conflict.
The Troubles and Poetry — An article that explores poets' responses to the Troubles conflict.
1Suddenly as the riot squad moved in, it was raining exclamation marks,
2Nuts, bolts, nails, car-keys. A fount of broken type. And the explosion
3Itself—an asterisk on the map. This hyphenated line, a burst of rapid fire…
4I was trying to complete a sentence in my head, but it kept stuttering.
5All the alleyways and side-streets blocked with stops and colons.
6I know this labyrinth so well—Balaclava, Raglan, Inkerman, Odessa Street—
7Why can’t I escape? Every move is punctuated. Crimea Street. Dead end again.
8A Saracen, Kremlin-2 mesh. Makrolon face-shields. Walkie-talkies. What is
9My name? Where am I coming from? Where am I going? A fusillade of question marks.