Sleep-Kenneth Slessor

About the Author:

  • Born in South wales, Australia (1901-1971)
  • He was one of Australia’s leading poets, notable particularly for the absorption of modernist influences into Australian poetry.
  • Writer Hal Porter described Slessor as “a city lover, fastidious and excessively courteous, in those qualities resembles Baudelaire, as he does in being incapable of sentimentalizing over vegetation, in finding in nature something cruel, something bordering on effrontery. He prefers chiselled stone to the disorganization of grass”.


  • The poem is a celebration of sleep. It uses childbirth and motherhood as a metaphor to describe how intimate sleep is.
  • There are two speakers in this poem, one being sleep and the other being the mother.
  • The poem talks about how once man submits to sleep its as if they are in total peace and they are taken care of by sleep like how a mother takes care of her unborn child.
  • This goes on until the last stanza where the sleeper is abruptly woken in another context when the mother goes through painful labor.


  • Slessor uses second person to personify “sleep” as a maternal figure and to demonstrate her voice
  • The addressee in the poem is a male persona (might be Slessor himself) who is cradled by sleep until he is forced to wake up and deal with life


The audience of this poem is everyone since everyone has experienced sleep but it especially resonates with mothers who have gone through the experience of childbirth.


The poem is a celebration of sleep. The poet uses the extended metaphor of the relationship between a mother and child to describe the sanctuary of sleep. The process of sleeping each night is  shown as a return to the womb – a state of pre-conscious existence, safe from the harsh reality of consciousness and life and life is the harsh reality that forces the child out of the womb to face the reality of the world


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