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Five Ways to Kill a Man -- Edwin Brock

(Poem #105) Five Ways to Kill a Man
There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man.
You can make him carry a plank of wood
To the top of a hill and nail him to it.
To do this
Properly you require a crowd of people
Wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak
To dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one
Man to hammer the nails home.

Or you can take a length of steel,
Shaped and chased in a traditional way,
And attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears.
But for this you need white horses,
English trees, men with bows and arrows,

At least two flags, a prince and a
Castle to hold your banquet in.

Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind
Allows, blow gas at him. But then you need
A mile of mud sliced through with ditches,
Not to mention black boots, bomb craters,
More mud, a plague of rats, a dozen songs
And some round hats made of steel.

In an age of aeroplanes, you may fly
Miles above your victim and dispose of him by
Pressing one small switch. All you then
Require is an ocean to separate you, two

Systems of government, a nation's scientists,
Several factories, a psychopath and
Land that no one needs for several years.

These are, as I began, cumbersome ways
To kill a man. Simpler, direct, and much more neat
Is to see that he lives somewhere in the middle
Of the twentieth century, and leave him there.
-- Edwin Brock
A simple, direct poem, neither overstated nor emotional, yet chillingly
effective. The matter-of-fact tone, as dry as a news-caster's, highlights
the horror of the deeds being described; at the same time, it suggests the
impersonality which makes war so terrible. This is a poem where form is as
important as content in establishing meaning.



Born in London, Brock (1927-) served two years in the Royal Navy. He was a
police officer when he completed his first poetry collection, An Attempt at
Exorcism (1959). Influenced by American confessional poets, Brock writes
about family relationships, childhood memories, and sometimes shifts into
the linguistic mode of an advertising copywriter (which he became in 1959).
Suggesting that all poetry is to some extent autobiographical, Brock argues
"that most activity is an attempt to define oneself in one way or another:
for me poetry, and only poetry, has provided this self-defining act." His
works include over a dozen poetry collections; a novel, The Little White God
(1962); and an autobiography, Here, Now, Always (1977).

101 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Heather Duffy said...

I was wondering if you could send me any info on five ways to kill a man
that you have recieved. My email is


lisa.klevenz said...


do you have notes about the poem you could sent to me by any chance?
Cause I have to write an essay about it and give it in!
Thank you evry much
Lisa Klevenz

Tom Pugh said...

This one puts the first WW in its proper perspective.

By Siegfried Sassoon
I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

Was quoted at the end of "All the Kings Men" on PBS.

Shadi N. Bovkhuzam said...


I would like to have the explanation of this poem and its theme.

Thank you.


Nathaniel Bird said...

I would like to tell you that your poem was incredible. At first, I thought
it wouldn't be so good, but once read, I found myself at a loss of words.
The thought that must have gone into that is incredible, not to mention the
writing style. I am priviledged to have read it, so, thank you.

-Nathaniel Bird

Rumy Rahim said...

I would like to know the explanation of this poem and I need
to know about the theme

Thanks a lot


samiha fahmy said...

the poem is a marvellous one where brock mocks how man always tried to
kill eachother . he sets the poem out in cronological order, and in a
recipie method.
the tone is flippant and light hearted, playful and full of saritical

Matthew Townsend said...

Hi, I'm currently writting a poetic essayon "Five Ways to Kill a Man" and thought it would be interesting to get someone else's perspective on it. Any literature on the poem at all would be greatly appreciated.

My e-mail address is

Matthew Townsend
Year 12 student
Cooktown Secondary Department

Darman242 said...

wow, this is an excellent poem. it's meaning is very deep*

sandra humayun said...

This poem is very effective not only does it illustrate the horrific
deeds of war but it shows the loss of humanity and conscience over the
years. We are constantly developing ingenious ways to kill our
fellowmen. But is it worth it? What do we fight for? Land? In the end we
would not have anyone alive to live on the soil. Power, maybe? What a
senseless way to gain power. You gain power by giving respect and
earning it from others.

streamyx said...

hi u guyz
i need 2 rite about this poem and i need a deeper anaylsis...can someone pls send me a commentary regarding its themes n all? thanks so much..will majorly appreciate it if some1 helps...

LIBN-WKS03 said...

i think this poem is great! I am a Edwin Brock fan. I loved the poem 'song of the battery hen' and was wondering if i could get more info about it.Because i am doing an oral on the poem in english.

thankyou for your time!

Carioupascal said...


do you have notes about the poem you could sent to me by any chance?
Cause I have to write an essay about it and give it in!
Thank you evry much.
Send it to me at

Carioupascal said...


I would like to have the explanation of this poem and its theme.

Thank you.


thank again.

linda aka rockerbaby said...

hey i was wondering if someone can help me with the theme, context, or attitude of siegfried sassoon's "Suicide in the Trenches" just send it to
thank you,


Lazer Medalie said...

hi. this poem is incredible, i'm reciting it for a speech and drama exam. what puzzles me a bit is that Edwin Brock only in fact includes 4 ways to kill a man, the last one is how not to kill him. please can you send me more info on the poem and on Edwin Brock. Thank you,

Lia H***** said...

hey i was wondering if someone could send me the meaning of the poem
and any other information (ASAP) that may help me because i have to
write an essay on it. my email is . thanx

Gillian Hale said...

Hey, i really enjoyed this poem and I am currently studying year 12. I was wondering if I could get some other peoples analysis' of the poem to inspire me for my essay and to help me understand it a little better. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks. ^_^

BJ & AC Stothart said...

I am doing a poetry performance, using this poem and I was wondering if you had an analysis of it. I'm not sure where to start so if you could send something that may help me, I would be very appreciative.

Nisha Stead said...

I really love this poem. I have chosen to do an essay on it for Enlgish and I was wondering if you could send me an analysis of it.

Thompson Robbin said...

Is there webpage that discusses the poem Five Ways to Kill a Man in depth?

Robbin Thompson
Clearing and Settlement
Inovant, Denver

Alvin Khee said...


I would like to have the explanation of this poem and its theme for my school work.

Please send your reponse to:

Many thanks
Darren Khee

The Kinzett Klan said...

could i please get the full explanation of this poem sent to me.


Jay Chauhan said...

hey, i would greatly appreciate it if i could have the analysis and the
theme of this poem for an english assignment. THANKS!

merimugs said...

I dont think script like this should be downing the war. We gain FREEDOM to
live without fear of bieng killed. We take out the killer. Boom, thats it.

Bruce Corban said...

Dear Thomas
Would you be so kind enough to send me some notes on 5 ways to kill a man, by Edwin Brock. I would be very much obliged for this because it is needed for an essay at school for IGCSE English Literature.

If you could do this, it would be very much appreciated.

Yours faithfully,


P.S could you please email this to me?

kbeav5 said...

can you please send me any information you have on the poem five ways to
kill a man, pertaining to Theme and meanings of words... please reply to


Ella Hunt said...

I absolutely love this poem.

I have to do an assignment at school, a group presentation based on
poetry of death. We were reading through a few texts and this one just
leapt out at us. It's a wonderful poem to perform. The language is so
dry and the tone is almost happy. Just an explanation of how to kill a
man, no real emotions involved. I think the lack of emotion in the poem
shows the lack of emotion the world now shows to death. We seem to have
been made immune to the whole process.


Carren Seery said...

hi, i also am doing an essay on your poem 5 ways to kill a man and was wondering if you could send me some information about it and yourself (Edwin Brock). it would help very much and if it's not too much to ask for, could you please email it to me asap. particuarly today or tomorrow. thank you very much! you do great work! congratulations!

Slicer said...

hi, i'm also doing a talk on your poem 5 ways to kill a man and it would
be very helpful to me if you could send me some info on yourself (Edwin
Brock) and on the poem, this would be a great help....asap would be very
much appreciated (for i have also left this to the last minute!) thanks
heaps ....sam

kevinmaggs18 said...

Can you please provide me with information on this poem including the interpritation and meaning of the verse.

Andrew Livesley said...

hi I'm wrighting a commentry on ur poem and i need soem ideas can u give em
s bacic inrtro to what its about thanx

Alan Summers said...

cool maN

David Atkinson said...

I find it very sad that so many people have posted messages asking for an explanation of this poem. Can you not read, have you no soul?

What is sadder still is the amount of people asking for notes so they can plagiarise them for some school assignment. Use your fucking brain, don't steal someone else's ideas. If you can't understand the poem don't hand in the assignment. I'm sure your teacher would appreciate your honesty.

As for those of you who understood and enjoyed this fabulous piece, thank you for restoring my faith in humanity.

Rabail said...

this poem is really nice. could you kindly give me any information on it as i have to do a school project realting to it.

John Doe said...

hmmm nice lil poem love to do this poem..but.errh--anwyays

you notice that as the time periods progress, those method of destroying pple get get more 'advanced', hence easier
also the tone of the poem is almost humourous, as if Brock is mocking - as well as the last stanza, putting someone in mid 20 century, the most devastating era of war in history

[broken link]

Sergio Suarez said...

Coul you please send me some notes about the poem. I have a major project on the structure and its universal meaning. Even though that the poem's meaning is well show, I would like to have a second view of it and a more advanced analysis

Carol Coakley said...

I'm reading "5 Ways..." for the first time. Is the last one how to
kill him even more easily. To not let man progress - to not let him out
of the 20th century, to stay with the old ways? Is adaptation a
necessity of life? If we are left in the middle of the 20th century or
any other, would we die anyway? I am puzzled and wonder if I am getting
it right. It is a powerful poem up to this last "way" and then who knows?
Carol Coakley

Pamela Cottrell said...

this poem was used today as the basis for a sermon at my church. my first introduction to this poem. very moved by it and incidentally also by the sermon

amy said...

hey ma names amy and i was wondering if there was any chance of you
sending me some notes or an analysis of this peopm please??? because i
have to write an essay on this one and the notes or analysis would
really help me a lot, thankyou very much if you would be so kind enough
to send me it, thanks

john said...

I asked my 15 year old son what he was doing at school these days.
He mentioned this poem so I looked it up...excellent.


gigi said...


I think this is a very meaningful poem,
which gives us a lot of inspirations abt how
our life are. however, i want to know more abt this peom,
such as the theme and tone, i guess the tone is irony,
but i m not quiet sure,
so i hope i can have some further info abt this poem,
thx a lot

Best wishes,

nikki linsell said...

I love the poem five ways to kill a man, and im looking for a poem, again by
Brock with the same themes that I can use in a presentation, I have to
relate and explore the two poems via there themes. I’d love any information
on five ways to kill a man and related poems by Brock.

Akhtar Saeed Shaikh said...

hi ,,im noman plz send me explanation of the whole poem..

Vogonjab said...

Have to agree to david atkinson's comments on peom and peoples comments. But
still people ask for exlanations of poem when it is obvious of context. If
you don't have grasp of poem then you must have the contempt for people's life
over power or money.

Anonymous said...

Some people are so lazy, maybe you should actually read the poem and interpret it yourself instead of asking someone else to send you an analysis!

Anonymous said...

ok... David Atkinsons...
ur names david so im geussing that ur a dude... but by the way ur screaming at everyone through words i say that ur a cranky old lady who's pmsing! get a life and stop yelling at peeple in need of help!!

Anonymous said...

I think that ediwn brock is a truly gifted and talented man.
For all of you who have been asking for help on the depth on this poem well it is not obioues what it is about and what the meaning of it is?
Just read through it and study the words your self. I must say that i do ( in a rather more polite way ) agree with david atkins

Anonymous said...

hi i am hassan i would like to give you all a little explaination on this poem maybe its the intro and a little about the 20th century..
Theres so many aspects of this century that he can die from such as pollution, terroism, global warming, neuclear threat, AIDs and weapons that are so much more deadly and can be used anywhere at any time. The thing is the people in this day and age know how to use the weapons, so ofcourse they will use them!
Millions of protestors all around the world could not dissuade America and Brittain from attacking Iraq. This poem stands witness to how our hopes and the voice of humanity can be easily silenced. In doing so it urges us to speak up against our spiritual death and resurrect our dying humanity.

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Anonymous said...

The Poem consists of constituent elements and each stanza tells of a time period of how man brutally killed one another. In fact mankind has become more cruel and have tried to move farther away from their victims in committing barbaric acts. It goes from slowly killing a man (getting nailed to a cross), to instant death, ( getting shot in the back of the head and no one knowing who done it). Therefore man will only become more desperately wicked.

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Anonymous said...

Can't anyone think for himself/herself?
Getting notes from someone else defeats the object.
What does the poem make you feel? Why? Explain. It's as simple as that.
If all you're doing is getting "notes" from others, you will learn nothing. Access to information is not the same as thinking for yourself. Use your brain.
Oh - and write in English - not this "dude" and "ur" nonsense.

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