JOHN AGARD: CHECKING OUT ME HISTORY

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  • JOHN AGARD: CHECKING OUT ME HISTORY
    • STRUCTURE
      • ENJAMBMENT:(Lines 22-25)
        • It suggests anger. The speaker is angry, and his emotions are overflowing, unrestrained anduncontrollable
        • The reader is forced to consider black and white historical figures at the sametime – something the speaker never got to do in his education, in "but".
      • RHYME
        • We see a build up of rhyme (ballon, moon, spoon), climaxing in the final line of the verse(Nanny de maroon).
          • Agard wants us to stop and think about these black historical figures.
        • The references to nursery rhymes (‘de dish ran away with de spoon’) along with the simple, childlikerhyme scheme in the verses about white people, mocks the presentation of history as childish andnaive.
        • Lines 10-21 are in free verse, with no rhyme orregular rhythm.
          • This shows the lack of control over black history: nobody controls these historicalfigures - they are free spirits.
      • STANZA
        • Agard wants us to stop and think about these black historical figures.
        • Many of the stanzas end on black figures: Toussaint,Nanny de maroon, Mary Seacole and then, in the final verse, the poet.
          • He gives himself theprominence of being the final figure mentioned, as if a reflection on the importance of other blackfigures has made him realise his own importance.
        • The stanzas about black historical figures are also very short lines, which perhaps suggests some sortof anger but a righteous anger where the speaker is frustrated that he wasn't taught about thesecharacters from black history.
    • LANGUAGE
      • "I carving out me identity"The verb ‘carving’ is really important here because carving is an active, even strenuous task and itsuggests that we have to actively seek out and find our identity.  
      • Creole language - the Caribbean wordsand the phonetic spellings ("dem")
        • This ties in with the lack of punctuation in the poem: Agard refusesto conform to the rules of the English language.
        • He is standing against the oppressive domineeringcontrol of English communication and doing his own thing which is of course a way of standingagainst the very Eurocentric view of identity which would seek to isolate black people.
    • CONTEXT
      • Agard's Euro-centric view:nothing exists until the Europeans have entered the arena. The retelling of History depends on whois telling the story
        • Guyana was a British colony from the 1700s to 1966, so Agard was in school in a British colony.
          • Guyana was colonised,  and the British took over and used it for sugarcaneproduction, importing African slaves for much of the workforce. A European style of education wasenforced.
    • ABOUT THE POET
      • John Agard was born in Guyana, South America in 1949, but moved to Britain in 1977 (ten yearsafter leaving school).
      • His poetry often focuses on ethnicity and identity, challenging socialobservation mixed with imagination and humour.

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