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"Junkyards" by Julian Rayford

Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.

Julian Rayford's "Junkyard" is a commentary on consumption culture.

Julian Rayford's "Junkyard" is a commentary on consumption culture.

Julian Rayford: "Junkyards"

"Junkyards" is a poem that concentrates directly on the many things society throws away that end up becoming junk. Discarded by society, they begin to rust and fall apart.

Julian Rayford's poem is unusual in form and syntax and has very little punctuation. On the page it resembles a series of lumpy objects or geometric shapes, reflecting Rayford's other role as a sculptor.

"Junkyards" is an informal poem with a serious theme—the piles of junk we humans get rid of, the way we watch these piles rust and decay without it seems bothering to ask "why?"



Analysis of "Junkyards"

"Junkyards" is a free verse poem consisting of four stanzas of varying lengths. There is no set rhyme scheme and the meter is mixed, with no dominant beat or rhythm present.

The syntax, the way the lines and clauses are put together, is unusual. The reader has to try and work out just where to pause because of the lack of punctuation and the uncertain enjambment, where a line ends and continues right on into the next line, maintaining the meaning and sense.

  • The first two lines could be said to be enjambed because the reader has to continue on as if the line breaks didn't exist, and there is no punctuation.
  • The third line ending has a natural pause or caesura where the reader has to take a breath after the word progress, before the fourth line can be started.

Form and Tone

Junkyards is made up of four stanzas, all of different lengths, all part of a loose whole. Note that there is little punctuation, only one comma and one end stop, so the reader has to be careful when first reading through.

There's a conversational tone, a casual approach, as if the speaker was sending a rough text, or chatting to someone in a bar. Yet all the while there is a feeling of loss, as if the speaker regrets the idea of so much stuff piling up, of no use to anyone.


Whilst informal in character this poem does have contrasting formal language that is close to being jargonistic. For example:

symbols of progress . . . quite formal

onward-impelling implements . . . quite a mouthful, alliterative too.

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Note the use of remarkable, supreme in contrast to discarded and rusting.


Called anaphora, the repeating word or words put extra emphasis on meaning:

all the parts of dynamos

all the parts of motors

fall the parts of rusting.

More Analysis

As society progresses and more and more things are invented and manufactured, the greater the need for places like junkyards. These are essentially tips where stuff that is no longer wanted is thrown away. Some junkyards act as storage and deposit sites, others are more for scrap, where people go to look for spare parts and the like.

"Junkyards" raises the vital issue of progress versus waste and is an important poem for classes and students studying technology, the environment, future use of resources and so on.

What sort of culture produces things en masse yet cannot fully utilize them and is encouraged to discard material deemed unwanted, not fit for purpose? The answer has to be, a culture that takes material objects for granted, that soon loses interest in their value and that makes more than is actually needed.

  • The first stanza mentions the symbols of progress, those often iconic things like cars and computers and high-tech stuff. Lots of these also end up as junk despite the fact that, when first produced, they were held in such high esteem.
  • The second stanza asks a tentative question which it fails to answer directly. If all this onward-impelling (onward forcing) manufacture of pristine and precious things is so civilized, how come loads of it get dumped? In polite terms—given over—the speaker is suggesting that all this stuff is a sort of gift, but offered not out of kindness but necessity.
  • In the third stanza, there is the admission that even the most profound invention known to humankind ends up in the junkyard - the wheel. This symbol of all that's positive in human culture is clearly visible as junk. But there is no direct blame or judgement, it's merely an observation which the reader has to take on board and deal with.
  • The final stanza introduces some details into the proceedings and hints at the fact that motor cars make up much of what's in a junkyard. This is the hardware, the bits of vehicles, the parts of a chassis, the unnamed detritus of the internal combustion engine; they are all here in some kind of assorted archaeology.

This poem asks the reader in a curious roundabout way, to think about the role of the junkyard in the context of modern society. In the 21st century we like to think of ourselves as refined, efficient and progressive when it comes to technology, but having junkyards so prominent is proof that we're anything but.

Humans are starting to ask serious questions about sustainability and the need to keep exploiting the planet for minerals and ores and the like, from which a lot of machines are manufactured. Recycling has helped to restore the balance somewhat but it could be argued that we still are not very good at keeping things for a long time.

Things are thrown away too easily; they're not built to last so we have to have junkyards to pile things up in. This poem helps by raising these issues in a subtle, unorthodox way.



© 2017 Andrew Spacey

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