The poems I am comparing are “Half-Caste”, written by John Agard possibly during the twentieth century, due to that being the era Agard moved to England, encountering racism and misunderstanding of other cultures. The other poem is “Unrelated Incidents” written by Tom Leonard in 1969, the date is also shown in his poem by mentioning “BBC” which was created 50 years earlier.
Both poems share many similarities such as; they make important points about shared identities as well as individual identity, cultures and the use of phonetics. These poems can also be linked as protest poems, poems that raise and to a degree complain about issues related to their cultural origins. “Explain yuself”, a repeated phrase throughout “Half-Caste”, portrays that Agard is complaining about our closed minds, and our ignorance to judge people on their appearance. However, the phrase may also mean that we do not express ourselves vividly.
Moreover, “yoo scruff”, also repeated throughout the stanza of “Unrelated Incidents”, portrays that Leonard voices his complaints in insults, a different approach from Agard, in turn making this poem least effective from Agard’s, because not many take notice in something to which they are being offended. “Half-Caste”, in my perspective, is about how differently people are treated for being a mixture, Agard describes how wrong it is, using metaphors in his rhetorical questions emphasizing that many things in this world are created using a mixture of things, but they are treated equally yet we treat each other according to our skin colour.
However, in a different perspective, “Half-Caste” could further be about contradicting its readers into awareness that everything is Half-Caste, “Picasso”, a famous artist, was used with contrasting colours, “mix red an green” to show that even the famous are not a whole of something. Agard wanted its readers to clearly understand this point as he gives another example of it, ‘Tchaikovsky’, famous for his composing, shows that his work is great because he uses a mixture, “mix a black key wid a white key”.
John Agard’s mother was Portuguese, and his father was black. Agard had his education in Guiana. When Agard moved to England, he became a touring lecturer for the common wealth institute, travelling to schools throughout the UK to promote a better understanding of Caribbean culture. Such experience could have shown Agard that thought and sight can corrupt language, revealing that language and sight can also corrupt thought, which could have affected Agard’s choice of rhetorical questions, grammar and the stanza structure.
This poem may have also been used in other parts of the world due to the reflection of English culture, “england weather nearly always half-caste”, this implies that our weather is not at a high degrees on a daily basis, implying that England wears different clothes and our houses are made of different material due to the climate difference, which is completely different to the Caribbean culture, where they wear, what we call summer clothes, all year round.
Agard’s culture is also shown in his punctuation, he is not English therefore he does not use English punctuation. This is effective because the reader would recognise this as they are familiar with their own punctuation and ways of writing and expect others to follow in their example, but Agard doesn’t do this allowing for the reader to realise that they’ve been deceived and that there isn’t correct way of punctuation and writing. The moods in the poem vary from each stanza. In the first stanza the mood is humorous, “standing on one leg” this could possibly be because Agard had overheard some people talking and wanted to enter the convosation politely, or it could be he wanted to gain their attention by using an intriguing simile.
In the second stanza, the mood is intolerable, “ah rass”, an unpleasant Jamaican word, is used to show that Agard is tired of the same close-mindedness of people. Moreover, the third stanza is more or less the same as the second, however, the forth and final stanza is pleasant and welcoming, “an I will tell yu de other half of my story”, in my point of view, this tells me that if you talk to him again open-minded he will share his knowledge of other cultures. Nevertheless it could also mean that if you are willing to listen he will explain the other part of his life.