Ash Robinson 10F
Show How The Poets Sense Of Cultural Identities Is Explored In Two Of The Poems You Have Studied
Cultural identity remarks upon: place, , , history, , , , and . Culture, as a social practice, is not something that individuals possess. Rather, it is a social process in which individuals participate, in the context of changing historical conditions. As an historical reservoir, culture is an important factor in shaping identity some critics of cultural identity argue that the preservation of cultural identity, being based upon difference, is a divisive force in society, and that gives individuals a greater sense of shared citizenship.
Sujata Bhatt was born in 1956 in Ahmedabad, the largest city in the Indian state of Gujarat, where her was Gujarati. Later, her family lived for some years in the United States, where she learned English. She now lives in Germany. 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 is part of a longer poem “Search for my Tongue”; written when she was studying English at university in America and was afraid she might lose her original language. In an interview, she says:” I have always thought of myself as an Indian who is outside India." Her mother tongue is for her an important link to her family, and to her childhood: "That's the deepest layer of my identity."
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Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore in Pakistan, the daughter of a Pakistani father and an English mother. She moved to Hatfield in England when she was a few months old. She didn't revisit Pakistan until after the publication of her first book of poems “The Country over my Shoulder” from which this poem comes. The poem “Presents from my aunts in Pakistan” was written was one of the first poems she wrote. When she wrote this poem, She hadn't actually been back to Pakistan. The writer in the poem would be Alvi at the age about thirteen.
In “Search for my Tongue” Sujatta Bhatt talks about there are two tongues in her mouth, metaphorically that there are two different languages in her mouth. The poet explains what it is like to speak and think in two languages and she wonders whether she might lose the language she began with. However, the “” remains with her in her dreams. By the end, she is confident that it will always be part of who she is and will always be attached to her culture.
In “Presents from my aunt in Pakistan” the narrator in the poem, who is of mixed race, describes the gifts of clothes and jewellery sent to her in England by her Pakistani relatives. She is drawn to the loveliness of these things, but feels awkward wearing them. She feels more comfortable in English clothes like “denim and corduroy”. The writer contrasts the beautiful clothes and jewellery of India with boring English “cardigans from Marks and Spencer”. She tries to remember what it was like for her family to travel to England and reflects on the fact that knowledge of her birthplace, which she left as a baby, comes to her only through old photographs and newspaper reports. The writer then tries to imagine what that world might be like back in Pakistan.
In “Search for my Tongue” The poem is written in three sections. In the first section the poet expresses how hard it is for her to know two languages, but neglect the one she feels most belongs to her. She then explains these ideas in Gujarati. She then translates her thoughts for us into English showing that although her “mother tongue” dies during the day, it “grows back” in her dreams at night, becoming strong and producing “blossoms”.
“Presents from my aunts in Pakistan” is written in free verse meaning the phrases are arranged loosely across the page. It is divided into stanzas of varying length. When there is no set pattern to a poem, the writer can always break a line to create emphasis.
In “Search for my Tongue” the poet plays around with the different definitions for the word tongue. The tongue is a part of the body - the part you speak with but it has also come to mean the language that you speak. The phrase “lost my tongue” is used in a sense to mean that someone is tongue-tied and does not know what to say.
In “Presents from my aunts in Pakistan” poem is a sequence of personal memories. I is repeated a lot in the poem. When we are remembering things, our minds often drift from one image to another, in the way that the poem does, and sometimes surprise us by fixing on odd details - like the “tin boat”.
In “Search for my Tongue” The poet compares her tongue to a plant, as she develops her ideas in an extended metaphor. In the poem her mother tongue is compared to a plant as plants die in the wrong environment. This image is as successful as it the contrasts. Some of the imagery used is quite startling, when she imagines that the “mother tongue” might “rot and die in your mouth”, as the second “foreign” language takes over. The lost tongue grows back at night when she dreams in Gujarati - like a plant that seems to have died, but then starts to bud and grow strong and beautiful “blossoms” again. It also “grows strong veins”
The poem “Presents from my aunts in Pakistan” is full of associated, sometimes contrasting, images. The girl in the poem doesn't quite know what to think about the presents. The way she describes them makes them sound beautiful. “peacock-blue” and “glistening like an orange split open” but also slightly dangerous, because the bangle “drew blood”, and she felt “aflame” when she put them on. They make her feel “alien in the sitting room”, when your sitting room should be where you feel at home. The clothes remind her that she is “half-English”, which makes her feel uncomfortable. At the same time, she says the clothes are “radiant in the wardrobe”. Even though she isn't wearing them, they seem full of light and beauty compared with her other things. She is drawn to the rich colours, the same as she is drawn to her mother's jewellery and her parents “camel-skin lamp” as she marvels at the colours like stained glass. She realises that all this is part of her own family's past, and another side of her identity. At the end of the poem, she tries to imagine how it might have been if she'd lived in Lahore instead, and wonders would she have been more or less at home in the other half of her background.
The Gurajati in “Search for my Tongue” is translated into phonetic English underneath perhaps proving her mastery of both languages, English and Gurajati. This shows how the two tongues in her mouth fit together and without Gurajati the poem wouldn’t have the same effect.
The narrator imagines herself “there” in Lahore somewhere she has been only in her thoughts. However, she is “of no fixed nationality”. This sounds a slightly threatening phrase. There’s a similar phrase “of no fixed abode” which is used in law courts when the defendant is homeless.. The speaker imagines herself staring “through fretwork” at the beautiful Shalimar Gardens. This is such an effective image to end on as it gives the impression that the narrators sees the beauty of her home country and a sense of longing for where she believes she belongs. This final image in the poem carries a particular significance as it's the one the imagination is left with.