I have decided to compare in detail ‘Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan’ by Moniza Alvi, and ‘Search for my Tongue’ by Sujata Bhatt, because these are the two poems that I find most interesting. I shall begin by discussing them individually in some (hopefully not too much) detail. ‘Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan’ is a very cultural poem, focusing on the differences between Pakistani and English cultures. Generally, Pakistani culture is seen as more lavish than that of England, and this poem expresses that in the type or clothing worn by each culture. Pakistani clothing is described as lovely, clearly shown in line 18-19 “I could never be as lovely as these clothes”.
Alvi, describing the elaborate clothing worn by Pakistani women, goes on to say “I couldn’t rise out of its fire, half English” (Line 24-25). The poet also says, “I longed for denim and corduroy”. She is saying that she feels more comfortable in the simple clothes worn by English women, and doesn’t think she could live up to the Pakistani clothing. The clothing in this poem is used as a metaphor for the cultures of our two nations, and so she is in fact saying that she feels more comfortable in England that in Pakistan, but Pakistani culture is more elegant and beautiful than that of England. The story in the poem is that a girl is taken from Pakistan to England when she is very young, and only remembers a few images of her home.
The poet structured the poem in stanzas of irregular lengths, with each describing a different aspect of the cultures, or the story that the poet is telling. This seems to show a seriousness to the words in the poem, since other things have been deliberately left out. The poem uses imagery well describing cultures/clothing, using phrases like “glistening like an orange split open” (line 4). This allows of the poem to be assimilated in more depth by the reader, and also makes it more effective at ‘getting the message across’.
‘Search for my Tongue’ is a poem about a woman who speaks 2 languages – English and Indian. She is from India, but has been forced to speak English, but she sometimes forgets what language she is speaking. This is shown in the poem in line 17-29, which are written in her ‘mother tongue’. The entire poem describes her lingual conflict, and the way that whenever she thinks the mother tongue has gone from her mouth, it appears again.
This poem is structured in 3 sections. The first section is line 1-16, the second is line 16-30, and the final section is line 31-38. The first and last sections are in English, the second is written in her natural language. The third section describes the ‘mother tongue’, comparing it to a plant. This poem is a very good example of imagery, with lines like “it grows back, a stump of a shoot”. The third section of the poem all adds to the same image – that of a plant.
This image begins at line 31, and continues to the end of the poem using phrases like “the bud opens” and “it blossoms out of my mouth” to add to the metaphor of a plant. This metaphor gives a very strong image, and this image is very easy to see because plants are something that we all see every day, so have no trouble imagining, and it is a very appropriate metaphor because the idea of growth is commonly associated with plants.
Final Comparison Although imagery is used in both poems, Bhatt uses it best in her description of a tongue as a plant. I think that the most significant similarity between the poems is that they both describe a ‘cultural clash’ within a person. ‘Search for my tongue’ has a lingual clash, and the clash in ‘Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan’ is that of lifestlyes. Both poems use English as one of the cultures, and an Asian culture as the second. I am not aware of the significance of this, however I would guess that since Asian races are stereotyped in negative ways, and racism is directed at them in many parts of England, the writers (who are of Asian origin) are attempting to show the English people that we are not different, hoping to stop racism toward them.