A number of the poems from the Different Cultures and Traditions section deal with issues of language and speaking out. Using “Search for my Tongue” and one poem of your choice, write about how the poets tackle conflict and the need to express yourself clearly to others.
“Search…” and “Half-Caste”: Points to compare
Both poets use language to reveal character and stay true to themselves. Bhatt uses Gujarati at the centre of her poem and includes both a phonetic version in English lettering and a translation. This may be seen as representing that the Gujarati language is at the heart of her life, or as reflecting the way it is being swallowed up by her use of English everyday. In addition, it encourages the reader to empathise with her difficulty in contending with an unfamiliar language, as within the poem we are presented with a “foreign tongue”, which excludes and confuses us. Similarly, Agard uses phonetic spelling to represent his accent and uses Creole dialect words, such as “Ah rass” to express his frustration. By contrast with Bhatt’s words, this accent and dialect is close enough to Standard English to be easy for us to understand, yet it is uncompromisingly individual and demands that we recognise Agard as he is. He will not conform to someone else’s opinion to fit in, as he wants to be able to tell “de other half/of my story”.
In the same way, both poets address the reader directly, and write conversationally. Bhatt reiterates an imagined question in the opening two lines of her poem, and responds with a question of her own: “I ask you, what would you do/if you had two tongues in your mouth…”. The rest of her poem acts as a way of explaining herself and enabling us to understand and empathise with her experience. Likewise, Agard’s poem seems to be written in response to a racist taunt. Although he begins with apparent politeness “Excuse me”, as if trying to attract someone’s attention, or even apologise for his presence, his sarcasm...