The Metal and the Flower

P.K. Page

About the Author

P.K. (Patricia Kathleen) Page was on November 23rd of 1916 in England, but moved to Canada at the age of four. In her 93 years, Page wrote and published ten books of poetry. Not only was she a talented poet, but she also wrote children's books and her autobiography. Additionally, she painted under the name of P.K. Irwin.

Page's poetry can mostly be divided into two stages. In the 1940's and 50's, her peaceful tales were biographical with excellent imagery and themes that were considered transcendental. The Metal and the Flower fits into this category. Her later poems were even more visual and intense.

In her life, Page was greatly acknowledged for her poetry, including receiving the Governor General's award in 1954 for The Metal and the Flower.

Additional information at Poetry Out Loud and Toronto Libraries.

General Information

The Metal and the Flower was written in 1954 by P.K. Page. This poem, literally translated, tells the story of a barbed rose and its interaction with its surroundings.

Key Quotes

  • Lines 1-2: "Intractable between them grows/A garden of barbed wire and roses."
  • Lines 5-6: "Dare they meet, the blackened wire/Tears the intervening air."
  • Lines 11-13: "While the two who laid it out/Find the metal and the flower/Fatal underfoot."
  • Lines 19-25: "Change the garden, scale and plan/Wall it.../While they sleep the garden grows/Deepest wish annuls the will/Perfect still the wire and rose."

  • Intractable: Not easily managed, controlled, or solved
  • Annul: To say officially that something is no longer valid

Definitions provided by Merriam Webster online dictionary

Literary Analysis

Beneath the simple discussion of a rose and barbed wire, a deeper meaning begins to show itself. Page uses her analogy of a beautiful rose and its strangling thorns and wires to represent a struggling love/hate relationship. Fighting for love, along with struggling relationships, seem to be two central themes of this literary work.

  • Lines 1-2 speak of an uncontrollable thorny patch, like the difficult part of any relationship.
  • Lines 5-6 may refer to how any attempt to work things out ultimately just hurts them both. Any interaction can make things worse if they don't avoid the "thorns."
  • The second stanza refers to other strangers wandering safely through the garden while the "two who laid it out" (Line 11) always seem to get hurt. This may be symbolizing the uniqueness of the problems. Others do not understand why these two people cannot navigate through their problems (the garden).
  • The last stanza (Lines 19-25) mentions attempts to rectify the situation, sort of weed out the garden. This represents a couple trying to right wrongs - and sometimes, it seems to have worked for a while. "While they sleep" and wait for change, the garden grows back. The "wire and rose" (their tenuous relationship) stays "perfect" - at least, for now.

Reading from Page's Later Work, Coal and Roses

Poet Dionne Brand reads from Coal and Roses, by P.K. Page

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