‘L.A. Evening’ by Owen Sheer: analysis

‘I shall give you hunger and pain and sleepless nights, also beauty and satisfaction known to few, and glimpses of the heavenly life. None of these shall you have continually, and of their coming and going you shall not be foretold.’

Sheers’ L.A. Evening describes a woman watching old movies she starred in when she was younger, before tending to her cat and dog as she prepares for bed. The poem is made up of an epigraph, followed by four, five-line stanzas. In this poem, Sheers describes the loneliness and artificiality of the life of people in the spotlight. However the reason people do it, is for the pleasure and satisfaction they get from their work. He supports this idea with a quote from Edwin Boot (above). The quote simply says that all the things an artist must go through are worth the satisfaction they will receive in return. Sheers then explains the superficiality of the actor’s life: for example fake friends.

Sheers uses the metaphor ‘every stage of her life’ to emphasise how closely linked the actress personal and work lives really are. The ‘stage’ (moment) in her life, and the ‘stage’ (performance stage) are one and the same, and one involves the other. He then continues to list all the roles she played, to show the pleasure and success her life in acting has brought her.

Sheers uses imagery to show a jump in time, and in the actress’ life. Firstly he writes about her taking a picture with the queen, implying an old, almost medieval image of kings and queen. He then uses the metaphor ‘she looks at them as the sun turns off’. This modern image of industrial nature shows the reader how times have changed.

The sense of tragedy really settles with us when Sheers exposes the actress’ fake friends: ‘the actors who wear the faces of her friends’. This image of a lonely woman, not only within her home but also in society, destroys any preconceptions about the glamourous and perfect Hollywood life.

In the final line of the poem, Sheers describes the actress checking her burglar alarm, after letting out her cats. The juxtaposition of the last two lines creates a sad tone, reminding us what artists suffer for their art, and so bringing us back to the epigraph.



One thought on “‘L.A. Evening’ by Owen Sheer: analysis

  1. A good interpretation of the poem – at this stage you should be instinctively putting the poem within the context of the anthology and then, with a few more Heaney poems, looking for links and similarities with his work.
    You also need to be discussing deliberate ambiguity: “the actors who wear the faces of her friends’ ” has not been fully explained – ‘wear’ suggests they have something on their face akin to clothing – make-up – to create a ‘character’ in a film – so this suggests that their only ‘friends’ are the ‘people/characters’ they have played on screen – no real people in their lives ! A bit like book worms who are so into their books that e.g. Harry Potter becomes a ‘real’ person to them – they think in terms of them being ‘alive’, they can imagine their reactions in certain situations etc.
    Another example of where you have not fully explained your reference: ‘as the sun turns off’ – this phraseology reflects how the actress thinks in terms of everything as elements of film making, seeing the sun as a piece of electrical equipment, which unlike the object in nature that ‘sets’ (goes out of our sight as the earth revolves), she sees it as something which is ‘switched off’. This can then be developed and explained further as to show how far removed from reality her life in film has taken her, and now that it is over, she is struggling to come to terms with even the natural world around her.

    Liked by 1 person

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