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Poetry Analysis Tatamkhulu Afrika: Nothing's Changed, Sujata Bhatt: from Search for My Tongue, Tom Leonard: from Unrelated Incidents, Derek Walcott: Love after Love

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Tatamkhulu Afrika: Nothing's Changed This poem depicts a society where rich and poor are divided. In the apartheid era of racial segregation in South Africa, where the poem is set, laws, enforced by the police, kept apart black and white people. The poet looks at attempts to change this system, and shows how they are ineffective, making no real difference. Jackie Fielding writes: "I had always assumed that the poem was written post-apartheid and reflected the bitterness that knowing "one's place" in society is so deeply ingrained that the I-persona can't bring himself to accept his new-found freedom under Mandela. I also find it interesting that the poet is not South African and not black." "District Six" is the name of a poor area of Cape Town (one of South Africa's two capital cities; the other is Pretoria). This area was bulldozed as a slum in 1966, but never properly rebuilt. Although there is no sign there, the poet can feel that this is where he is: "...my feet know/and my hands." Similarly the "up-market" inn ("brash with glass" and the bright sign ,"flaring like a flag", which shows its name) is meant for white customers only. There is no sign to show this (as there would have been under apartheid) but black and coloured people, being poor, will not be allowed past the "guard at the gatepost". The "whites only inn" is elegant, with linen tablecloths and a "single rose" on each table. It is contrasted with the fast-food "working man's cafe" which sells the local snack ("bunny chows"). There is no tablecloth, just a plastic top, and there is nowhere to wash one's hands after eating: "wipe your fingers on your jeans". In the third stanza the sense of contrast is most clear: the smart inn "squats" amid "grass and weeds". Perhaps the most important image in the poem is that of the "glass" which shuts out the speaker in the poem. ...read more.


When you write about the poem you should perhaps not use the term "half-caste" except to discuss how Agard presents it. If you need to, use a term like "mixed race". For older readers, especially those aware of the (now scientifically discredited) racial theories of the Nazis, this poem seems powerful and relevant. And in Britain today, resistance to mixed-race couples (who may have mixed-race children) is as likely to come from an Asian or Afro-Caribbean parent as from a white Anglo-Saxon family. (In some ethnic groups, there is enormous family pressure to marry within the community.) Younger readers, especially in cosmopolitan communities, may wonder what the fuss is about. * How important is it for the poet to write in non-standard English? * The poem makes a serious point but uses humour to do so. What kinds of humour do you find here and how well do they work? * How does John Agard explore the meanings of "half" and "whole" in this poem? Derek Walcott: 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 second stanza suggests that one has to fit in with others' ideas or accommodate oneself to the world, and so become a stranger to oneself - but in time one will see who the stranger really is, and welcome him or her home. ...read more.


This may be the literal darkness of England in winter, or a metaphor for the poet's dismay at leaving her homeland. The fallen trees (which lie around in England after a tropical storm) are seen by the poet as like herself, uprooted from her home. The wind brings warmth to "break (the ice of) the frozen lake" in her - as if the English weather has caused her to lose touch with her emotions. (Associating one's mood with the prevailing weather is a well-established poetic convention, sometimes known as the pathetic fallacy. Here pathetic means to do with feelings [Greek pathos]. It is a fallacy [mistaken belief] because our moods do not literally control the weather (unless we have special magical powers), though often the weather does influence our moods!) Perhaps the most powerful image, from a Caribbean writer, is that which has its own line, where Grace Nichols asks: "O why is my heart unchained?" In expressing her sense of joy, after the storm has hit England, she recalls the image of freed slaves being released from the chains in which they have been held. Here she shows awareness of her historical culture. Finally, the sense that England and the Caribbean are all part of the same planet is spelled out in the poem's last line. This reads like a tautology (look it up) but expresses Ms. Nichols' sense that the reader needs to know the essential nature of the earth. It may be an imitation of a line by the comic writer Gertrude Stein, who wrote, in Sacred Emily, that "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose". * How does the poem (and the hurricane) connect England and the Caribbean? * Comment on the way that Grace Nichols uses the names of the tribal gods and the hurricanes in this poem. * How does Grace Nichols use images of weather and nature to explore human emotions? * What is the effect of the last line of the poem? ...read more.

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