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Themes of racism and identity in all or some of the following poems: "Telephone Conversation", "On the Subway", "On an Afternoon Train from Purley to Victoria", and "Homecoming", paying particular attention to the poets' use of language and imagery.

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Introduction

Explore some of the ways in which the poets examine the themes of racism and identity in all or some of the following poems: "Telephone Conversation", "On the Subway", "On an Afternoon Train from Purley to Victoria", and "Homecoming", paying particular attention to the poets' use of language and imagery. The essay must show * Awareness of the "distinctive cultural context" of the poems - that is, the way in which the poems reflect the 20th century concerns with ignorance, racism, prejudice, urban alienation, violence, and the inheritance of colonialism and slavery. * Your understanding of the writer's purposes in writing the poems. * The writer's use of linguistic devices to create effects. * An ability to explore comparisons between poems * Your ability to consider different approaches to poems and alternative interpretations - that is, that there is rarely only one interpretation of a poem. Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian man who grew up in his homeland before moving to England and gaining a degree in English Literature, wrote the poem "Telephone Conversation". He became a playwright and a poet at a young age and throughout his career his poems and plays attacked racism and colonial repression in Africa. "Telephone Conversation" is an example of one of these poems. The poem is written in solid text and it begins, " The price seemed reasonable, location indifferent." ...read more.

Middle

As the woman hangs up he begs her to wait and finally announces "wouldn't you rather see for yourself?" "Homecoming" is another poem that concentrates on the topic of racism. It was written by Derek Walcott. Born on the island of St Lucia, he studied in Jamaica and the United States. Similarly to Wole Soyinka much of his poetry dealt with the difficulties of racism and cultural heritage. Walcott depicts a native man who has become famous and rich for his poetry, returning to his homeland, Anse La Raye. The man predicts he will return a hero; an idol for young children who wish to succeed in life. He does not receive this welcome however. He is not even recognised by the native people and is mistaken for a tourist in the area, "Your clothes, your posture seem like a tourist's." The man realises that western civilisation has changed him to be one of them on the outside, but inside he is not. He is not as welcome in the west as the west - born people are and he is no longer welcomed in his homeland, he has no home. Many parallels with the Ancient Greek story of Oddyseus are made throughout the poem. Oddyseus fought abroad in the Trojan Wars for many years, and on his return he was not recognised as the hero he was, in fact he was not recognised at all. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Quaker does not debate this untruthful fact, clearly as he does not know the situation of the two countries. The first and most obvious comparison I can make with these three poems is that they are all on the topic of racism and identity. They are also all written by men of black origin. Another interesting comparison is that all three poets are writing about them entering hostile environments. In "Telephone Conversation" the man is in London and because he is black he is not even allowed to live in a flat of his choice. "Homecoming" writes about an island which was once home, turning into place where is not liked or recognised. And James Berry's poem is about how people know nothing about his traditions or origins; even the people fighting for "racial brotherhood". For many people at the time the poems were written black people still had the reputation of being 'slaves'. Most of the black people's ancestors had been but times had changed without peoples views changing. It is a very difficult subject to deal with however; take "Telephone Conversation" as an example. The landlady tries not to be rude to the man but if she did let a black man inhabit one of her flats then it would be hugely frowned upon by the other residents and she would probably lose business. A very powerful factor in all three of these poems is the use of ambiguity. ...read more.

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