HSC English (ESL) Language Study within an Area of Study: Skrzynecki
Example of extended response paragraphs:
“Feliks Skrzynecki” and “Postcard”
Below is a plan for an extended response and extended response paragraphs
discussing “Feliks Skrzynecki” and “Postcard”.
Complete the activities to understand the features of a strong extended
How do TWO Skrzynecki poems explore the concept of belonging?
Peter Skrzynecki’s poems “Feliks Skrzynecki” and “Postcard” both
explore complex idea about belonging. Both poems suggest that belonging
comes from a connection to place and people, people can choose to belong
and that belonging can be modified over time. Feliks in Peter Skzynecki’s
poem “Feliks Skzynecki” feels a close connection to places and people. He is
described at the beginning of the poem as loving “his garden like an only
child”, sweeping “its paths/ Ten times around the world.” The simile and
hyperbole evoke a sense of his dedication to his garden and his paternal
feelings towards it, connecting to this place like a father connects to an only
child. His sense of belonging also comes from his close connection to his
Polish friends who “reminisced/ About farms where paddocks flowered/ […]
Horses they bred […].” The cumulation of positive verbs conveys a sense of
their nostalgia and shared pride in their cultural heritage; a heritage that
connects them together and fosters a sense of belonging.
Contrastingly, in “Postcard”, Peter Skrzynecki does not feel the same
sense of connection to his homeland that his father feels, but rather feels
alienated and disengaged. The postcard of Warsaw “sent by a friend”
“Haunts” him “since its arrival.” The eerie connotations of “haunts” and its
position on a line by itself portray the persona’s unease and uncertain
connection to this place. This contrasts to his friend’s perception that his
parents will react positively to this postcard, feeling a sense of connection to
it: “He requests I show it/ To my parents.” The separation of “I” and his
parents on a separate line suggests their different perceptions to the postcard.
This alienation from this place comes from his lack of direct experience of it,
contrasting with Feliks’s time spent in his garden and with his friends.
The son in “Feliks Skrzynecki” chooses not to belong with his father’s
Polish friends. The negative connotations of “violently” create a sense of his
alienation from them. The high modality when he says he “never got used to”
the friends’ “formal address[ing]” of his father as “Feliks Skrzynecki” further
suggests his disconnection and choice not to belong with his father’s friends.
Instead, he pursues learning, “stumbling over tenses in Caesar’s Gallic War”,
forgetting his “first Polish word.” The process of education leads him to drift
from his heritage, but this process seems to be more of a slow movement
away rather than a conscious decision not to belong.
In “Postcard,” Peter Skrzynecki makes an effort to choose not to
belong to the world of the postcard, in contrast to the slow drift of the son in
“Feliks Skrzynecki.” He speaks to the postcard in an apostrophe, asserting “I
never knew you”, and later repeats, “I never knew you/ Let me be.” The
repetition of this phrase and the imperative (“Let”) convey a passionate
rejection of the image of the town. This suggests a conscious decision not to
belong. He contrasts his negative response to the postcard with imagined
“praise” from his father and mother. Yet, the stanza finishes with his
ambiguous rhetorical question, “What my choice/ To be?” Despite seeming to
have made a decision not to belong earlier in the poem, he seems perplexed
about his reaction to the postcard, unsure whether the “gift of despair” is
enough for the postcard. Thus, in “Postcard”, Peter Skrzynecki is uncertain
about the consequences of his dismissal of the postcard and is not sure
whether he actually wants to make a choice not to belong.
In “Feliks Skrzynecki,” there is a more ambiguous modification of the
son’s attitude towards belonging over time. The metaphor of him pegging his
“tents/ Further and further south of Hadrian’s Wall” is highly ambiguous. Peter
Skrzynecki’s education has resulted in him moving away from his European
heritage in a way that could appear to be positive. Yet, he moves away
through studying Latin, a dead language that he “stumbl[es] over” rather than
masters. Indeed, he seems to be aware of the negative impact of his
movement away, acknowledging that his father is “Happy as I have never
been.” Placing the adjective “Happy” at the beginning of the line foregrounds
his uncertainty about his process of movement away from his heritage. He
perceives that his attitudes to belonging to his Polish heritage have been
negative, but seems to have a modified awareness that it is not necessarily a
positive thing to move away from one’s cultural homeland.
Similarly, Peter Skrzynecki in “Postcard” seems to modify his attitude
towards belonging at the end of the poem, realising that he will need to deal
with the impact of his cultural heritage on his identity in the future. After
rejecting Warsaw and describing it in negative terms, the last stanza
culminates with a strange, haunting image of a “lone tree” that “whispers, ‘We
will meet/ Before you die.’” The personification of the tree suggests his need
to confront his heritage, represented by the image in the postcard. His attitude
is modified from dismissing the postcard to seeing the need for it to haunt him,
to make him address his relationship to his heritage. This is similar to Peter’s
acknowledgement of his need to address his relationship to his father and his
heritage in “Feliks Skrzynecki”. Peter Skrzyecki’s two poems, from a second
generation migrant perspective, evidence an ambiguous stance towards
belonging that comes from being positioned between two cultures.
Deconstructing the extended response paragraphs:
1. Respond to Comment boxes at side of the extended response paragraphs.
2. Label the three big ideas about belonging discussed
3. Highlight examples of synthesis (comparison) of the two poems.
5. Circle techniques discussed.
6. Underline examples of integration of quotations (making the quote part of
7. Write a reflection analysing what you can do to make your extended
response paragraph writing more successful. What have you learned from
deconstructing these extended response paragraphs?