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GCSE English Paper 2 – Poems from Different Cultures Is this an A* Essay?

Steph Atkinson | Monday September 28, 2009


Compare the ways an event is described in ‘Blessing’ with the ways an event is described in ‘Island Man’.

Imtiaz Dharker and Grace Nichols are both clearly concerned with issues of identity and clashing cultures when exploring the main events in their poems ‘Blessing’ and ‘Island Man’. Despite the fact that Dharker originates from Pakistan, and Nichols from Guyana, each seems able to use similar poetic techniques to get to grips with wider issues beyond the apparently mundane occurrences in their poetry.

The concept of identity is explored by both poets through the powerful use of sound. Dharker uses onomatopoeic, uncomfortable sounds, such as ‘cracks’, ‘crashes’ and ‘roar’, to explore the reaction to the bursting of a municipal pipe in an impoverished Mumbai district. Nichols uses equally harsh sounds but seems in addition to use softer, more mellifluous sounds to examine how the ‘Island Man’ is questioning his identity.

Sounds such as that ‘of blue surf’ and ‘muffling, muffling’ suggest that as the island man awakes from his dream of the Caribbean, the calming, regular rhythm of the sea breaking on the shore is mitigated by the soft muffling of his pillow; the concatenation of the two sounds perhaps implies that in his mind, the two cultures to which he is linked (that of London and of the Caribbean) are inseparable. The unease which he experiences in his dreams is highlighted by the contrasting harsh, discordant sounds, such as ‘grey metallic soar’, ‘surge of wheels’ and ‘dull North Circular roar’. However, despite the fact that these sounds may seem to be discordant, the fact that the roar is ‘dull’ suggests that the island man is still able to soften the harsh London sounds in order to remain part of both cultures; although his London life is loud and cacophonous, he can make it as soft and calming as Caribbean life through the power of his imagination. Therefore the two aspects...

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