English Language & Literature GCSE Poems

Poems from different cultures


Search For My Tongue

It is written in standard english but the middle section of the poem is written in the poets native langauge Gujarait. This gives us an incite into her life and culture, it is the heart of the poem. This section is also written in free verse, its calm and uses extended metaphors.

'You ask me what i mean by saying i have lost my tongue'. This is written in standard english and is the first line of the poem.

' You could not user them both together even if you thought that way' She is trying to get her point across, that it is hard to use both languages.

'Grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins'. Repetition of the growth, makes it more effective.

'Everytime i think i've forgotten i think i've lost my mother tongue, it blossoms out of my mouth'. Happy ending, showing you can use to languages, about her two different cultures together in her mouth and heart.

Race, Change, Identity, Discovery, Language

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About the poet: Sujata Bhatt

Sujata Bhatt was born in India, her native language Grujarati which is in the poem. It shows who she is a part of her in the poem. Later, her family lived for some years in the United States, where she learned English.

She has chosen to write poems in English, rather than Gujarati. But a number of her poems, including this one, are written in both languages.

This poem was written when she was studying English at university in America and was afraid she might lose her original language.

  • The poet explains what it is like to speak and think in two languages.
  • She wonders whether she might lose the language she began with.
  • However, the mother tongue remains with her in her dreams.
  • By the end, she is confident that it will always be part of who she is.
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Unrelated Incidents

Its is written in Non standard english, Glaswegian dialect. It is very structured 2,3,4 words per line.It is set out like a newspaper and the persona is very angry and that comes across in the words he uses.

  • There is almost no punctuation.
  • There are lots of slang and colloquial words ('scruff, belt up').
  • The newsreader talks directly to the reader (or viewer).

'Belt up'. Aggressive, angry

'Yirsellz cawz yi canny talk right'. trying to get his point across.

This poem is all about a man trying to get his point across that not everyone talks the same, has the same accent so forth. That everyone should accpect peoples voices for themselves

Scottish talk,The poem is carefully written in a phonetic version of the Glasgow accent. If you pronounce it exactly as it's written, it should sound more or less like a Glaswegian voice

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Tom Leonard

Tom Leonard was born in Glasgow, and still lives there. He has described his childhood upbringing as "working class West of Scotland Irish Catholic" (his father was from Dublin).

Some of his poetry is written in his own Glaswegian dialect. His aim has always been to make poetry using 'my own ordinary working-class West of Scotland speech, that is still poetry'. He says he is interested in 'the political nature of voice in British culture'.

'Unrelated Incidents' is a set of six poems, each of which looks at some aspect of the way we use language. It was written in 1976.

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'Standing on one leg im half caste'. Calling him half a person , introduces the subject in a 'jokey' way pocking fun at the word 'half caste'

'yu mean when picasso mix red and green is a half caste canvas/'

No punctuation, captial letters used when spelling the names of famous people. The poet compares having parents of different colours and cultures to the mixing of colours of a great painting.

'yu mean when light an shadow mix in de sky is a half-caste weather/'. Natural imagery, shows theres nothing wrong with mixing colours.

Agard use of creole(non standard dialect, caribbean patous) mixed with standard english shows he is comfortable with different sides to his background.

'ah rass/'. On a line of its own, expression of discust.

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Half Caste

'yu mean tchailkovsky sit down at dah piano an mix a black key wid a white key is a half-caste symphony/'.  Piano music uses a mixture of black and white keys, but people dont call it half caste- so why are people who are part black and white decribed as that?

'Ah listening to yu'. shows he is willing to hear other points of view

'Half of mih ear, looking at yu wid de keen half of mih eye'. he extends the idea of being half to the indivdual parts of his body to show how silly it is.

His lack of capital letters shows that he thinks everyone should or is equal.

' he will offer you half-a-hand'. Suggests that people have already made up their minds without even meeting him.

Rhyming in it makes it seem like a well planned argument rather than a rant.

'de other half of my story'. Takes it to the extreme, that the poem is only half the story.

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About John Agard

John Agard came to England from Guyana in 1977. Like many people from the Caribbean, he is mixed race - his mother is Portuguese, but born in Guyana and his father is black .However, one of the things he doesn't like is the view of racial origins, which is implied in the word 'half-caste', still used by many people to describe people of mixed race. The term now is considered rude and insulting.

The speaker in the poem ridicules the use of the term 'half-caste' by following the idea through to its logical conclusion:

  • Should Picasso be seen as second-rate because he mixed a variety of colours in his paintings?
  • Should the English weather be scorned because it is full of light and shadow?
  • Should the music of Tchaikovsky be seen as inferior because he used both the black notes and the white notes on the piano?
  • Is someone who is called a 'half caste' only half a person?
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Love After Love

This poem is about self-discovery. Walcott suggests that we spend years assuming an identity, but eventually discover who we really are - and this is like two different people meeting and making friends and sharing a meal together. Walcott presents this in terms of the love feast or Eucharist of the Christian church - “Eat...Give wine. Give bread.” And it is not clear whether this other person is merely human or in some way divine.

The poem begins with the forecast of the time when this recognition will occur - a moment of great happiness (“elation”) as “you...greet yourself” and “each will smile at the other's welcome”.

The poem is written in the second person - as if the poet addresses the reader directly. It is full of imperative verbs (commands) “sit”, “give”, “eat”, “take” and “feast”. The poet repeats words or variants of them - “give”, “love”, “stranger” and “life”. The verse form is irregular but most lines are loosely iambic and some (the 8th and 13th, for example) are quite regular tetrameters.

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Not my buisness

The poet used his poetry to obkect to the cruel dictatorship that ruled his country Nigeria.

'Beat himsoft like clay and stuffed him down the belly'. Use of personification- he describes the jeep as having a 'Belly' like a person or animal. This makes the image more powerful as it sounds like Akinni had been eaten by the jeep.

'Lengthly absence'. Euphemism where something serious is lightened by a milder choice of words, liked passed away< death. Also lengthly absence could be a long term of imprisionment or death. By using these words the poet makes Danaladis fate unclear.

'Only to find her job was gone, No query, No warning, no probe'. Repitition, emphsis that arrests and injustice were a regular occurence.

'So long as they dont take the yam from my savouring mouth?'. Shows that he enjoys his food and wants to ignore what is happening to the neighbours, like comfort eating.

Waiting is repeated in the last 2 lines, the poet has been waiting for this to happen to him for a very long time.

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Niyi Osundare

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Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan

The speaker/persona of the poem is mixed race. written in free verse.

'Salwar Kameez' Loose trousers, traditionally worn by pakistan women

'Cardigans from marks and spencers'. She is drawn to the lovelyness of these things, but feels akward when wearing them. She feels more comfortable in English clothes 'Denim and corduroy'.

'Mirror-work'. Asian clothing is often decorated in lots of tiny round mirrors.

'Recall the story of how the three of us sailed to England'. She tries to remember what it was like for her family to move to England.

'Photographs' 'Newspring'. The knowledge of her birthplace comes to her by old photos and newspaper reports, she left her home town as a baby.

Lahore her birthplace.

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Moniza Alvi

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Hurricane Hits England

This story involves the poets own history of moving between cultures- Carribbean and England. This story is based on an actual hurricane which hit England in 1987.

'Fearful and reasurring'. Controdicting words, the storms give her a sense of home

'Huracan' God of winds     'Oya, Shango' Storm Gods     'Hattie' The name of the Hurricane.

She addresses the wind as a god, she asks what it is doing creating such havoc in this part of the world. She feels like the hurricane has come with a message to her, prehaps to tell her that the same forces are at work in England as in the Caribbean

The poem is written with lines varying in length, prehaps this helps us to see how unpredictable the hurricane is.

Although the hurricane is violent, destructive it has created something positive inside her, it reminds her of home how the weather used to be.

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I type my name in the search bar and I get this :D and it is even relevant to me now!

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