Comparing Poems From Different Cultures Essay

Comparing three poems from different cultures

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Comparing three poems from different cultures

Introduction

The three poems that I will be comparing are ‘Presents from my aunts
in Pakistan’ by Moniza Alvi, ‘Half-caste’ by John Agard and ‘Island
Man’ by Grace Nichols. All of these poets have mixed-race backgrounds
and all of these poems are linked in with the difficulties arising
from having different cultural backgrounds.

Story/theme

‘Presents from my aunts in Pakistan’ is reflective of Moniza Alvi’s
childhood and her experiences of being from two different backgrounds
“glass circles, recall the story how the three of us sailed to England.”
She tells the reader about her experiences in Pakistan, the journey
from Pakistan to England and about being in England. This shows that
although she is confused about her background, she remembers
everything from both cultures.

‘Half-Caste’, however, is a very confrontational poem and John Agard
addresses the reader personally. “Excuse me…explain yuself…yu must
come back…” Agard addresses the reader personally and confronts them
about their opinions or beliefs of Half-caste people. He asks them to
tell him what they mean by the phrase half-caste, then gives various
scenarios about what they may mean which are incongruous. This puts
his point across and makes people think about or change their beliefs.

Conversely, ‘Island Man’ is the story of a man that used to live on an
island, possibly the Caribbean, and then moved to London. This poem
describes his feelings as he wakes up for the first day back in London
“Comes back…to dull North Circular Road…” This poem also shows that he
would much prefer to live on his “emerald island” than in London. This
shows that the man has made a conscious decision about which part of
his background he prefers and which part of his life he would like to
fulfil.

Emotions expressed

‘Presents from my aunts in Pakistan’ is a very sensitive poem and many
emotions are expressed throughout the poem. In the first stanza,
Moniza Alvi expresses excitement as she lists all of the wonderful
things that her aunts have sent her from Pakistan. In the second
stanza, she seems down heartened about everything and says, “never be
as lovely as those clothes.” For the rest of the poem she seems
confused about her background and indecisive about which background
she prefers.

‘Half-Caste’, however, expresses a feeling of confrontation throughout
the poem and it always seems as if John Agard wants the readers to
respond to what he says but because of his hectoring tone the reader
believes that they cannot.

On the contrary, ‘Island Man’ has a pessimistic feel to the poem
throughout. It seems as though the island man is constantly

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Related Searches

Cultures         Cultural Backgrounds         Moniza Alvi         John Agard         Aunts In Pakistan         Island Man         Grace Nichols         Presents        




complaining whilst he is in England and longs to get back to his
island.

Narrative point of view

‘Presents from my aunts in Pakistan’ is written in the first person.
This makes it a lot more personal and makes the reader feel more
involved with Moniza Alvi. The reader feels closer to the action as
well and it makes them feel as if they were there and they begin to
feel the things she felt. “I longed…I wanted…” It generally makes the
poem seem more intimate.

On the other hand, ‘Half-Caste’ is written in the second person. This
also involves the reader but in a different way. John Agard used the
second person because it addresses the reader directly and makes them
feel as if it is them and only them that Agard is talking to “Explain
yuself wha yu mean”

‘Island Man’ is written in the third person. This makes the reader
feel very detached from the poem because it is just talking about
someone that they do not know and not much is told about him. “island
man wakes up.” The poem just says that he moved from an island to
London. We do not really learn much about him.

Structure/Layout

‘Presents from my aunts in Pakistan’ is set out on the page with no
real structure in a rather confused pattern and this reflects her
confused feeling towards which background she is from. She is just
remembering her memories and writing them down on the page.

Similarly, ‘Half-Caste’ also has no structure to it and its stanzas
appear to break at no significant point. This shows that John Agard is
imposing his own West Indian culture on the English way of life.

Likewise, ‘Island Man’ has no organization to its structure. This poem
is also written in free verse. This implies that it is un-organised.
This may reflect the feelings of the island man. In addition, some
words/phrases have been separated from the rest of the poem. This is
to emphasise these pieces of text.

Poetic devices

‘Presents from my aunts in Pakistan’ utilises many poetic devices.
Firstly, simile is used to describe the clothes that her aunts send
her. There is also alliteration on ‘l’ sounds while she describes the
clothes “glistening like an orange split.” Assonance is also used on
‘I’ sounds. In the second stanza, sibilance is used to describe the
clothes, “satin-silken.” This mimics the sounds of satin and silk. In
this poem, there are many techniques, this helps add to the confusing
quality of the poem. All of these techniques help enhance the quality
of the poem.

‘Half-Caste’ also contains quite a lot of poetic devices to help
enhance the poem. Alliteration is used on ‘c’ sounds to emphasise what
is said “…caste canvas…” Rhyme is also employed during the poem
“mean…green…” Throughout the poem, there is repetition of the phrase
“Explain yuself wha yu mean…” This implies that John Agard is using a
forceful tone towards the reader and not letting them speak. This is a
very powerful technique and works well in the poem.

‘Island man’, however, does not employ many techniques. Repetition is
used on certain words to suggest certain things. For example,
“Groggily groggily” suggests that the man is tired and does not want
to do anything. I think that because not many poetic devices are used
Grace Nichols is trying to show the simplistic lifestyle of the Island
man.

Conclusion

All of these poems have very contrasting themes but also very similar
themes. Each poem was written by a poet from two different
backgrounds. This was displayed in each poem very differently. Moniza
Alvi was reflective, John Agard was confrontational and Grace Nichols
was pessimistic. In conclusion, I feel that Half-caste was the best
poem because it involved the reader in the issue but also made them
think about their beliefs/attitudes towards people from mixed race
backgrounds



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