Island Man and Blessing

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Compare “Island Man” by Grace Nichols with “Blessing” by Imtiaz Dharker

Water is a necessity of life and affects people both physically and mentally. The poets Grace Nichols and Imtiaz Dharker explore the different themes of water in their poems “Island Man” and “Blessing”. These two poems give us a perspective of the cultures and lives of the people described in the poems, but are based on the running theme of water. Although they appear to be very different, they do have some similarities. Looking first at “Island Man”, Grace Nichols, the poet, was born in Guyana in 1950, one of seven children. Her father was a headmaster and her mother a piano teacher. When she left school she met Agard and left her Caribbean island in 1977 to go with him to England. Her poem “Island Man” talks of a man who lived on an island, who is now in London, and a man who dreams of being back on his island. Nichols herself moved to a foreign place and this could relate to how Nichols is missing her home and maybe even symbolises her own dreams of being there. Before the poem actually begins Nichols gives a brief introduction: “for a Caribbean island man in London who still wakes up to the sound of the sea”. Nichols does this to give the reader more information about the poem as well as to add realism to the situation. The poem is written in free verse, which gives the poem a rhythm and means the poem flows effectively. This allows the thoughts within the poem to merge freely into one another, which could reflect the constant theme of the sea, the flow of the water and the way the waves break. The theme seems to be how the lack of water affects him mentally. The first stanza shows the reader how the island man is missing the sea and how he imagines being there. The island man is never given a name: “and island man wakes up”

which could represent the way he is not his own person; he is a representative of lots of migrants who are trying to fit in. As well as this, when the poem says “island man wakes up to the sound of blue surf” the reader is led to believe that the island man is actually waking up by the sea but the next line says it is “in his head” showing that he is imagining the sea and is dreaming of it; therefore, it is not real, reflecting his disappointment. The last line of this stanza: “the steady breaking and wombing”

represents how the waves make him feel safe, protected and comforted, which is underlined by the use of the soft syllables. He feels safe thinking about his island, as that is where he fits in and wants to be. The word “wombing” is made up and relates back to the island man’s home. It refers to the womb, which suggests birth and being safe and protected. Moreover, onomatepia is used for effect to create the sound of the waves breaking on the shore. As the island man has made up his own word, it could represent how he feels like he doesn’t fit in. The poem is in continuous present tense, which relates to the continuance presence of his dreams and the waves. The second stanza starts with

“wild seabirds and fisherman pushing out to sea”
which could relate to the way island man misses the freedom he used to have in contrast to how the wild birds still have this freedom; this is the way of life that he misses. The next line: “the sun surfacing defiantly”

is an example of how the poet uses personification to show that island man doesn’t want the dream to end and if the sun comes up then that means that it is the end, it will bring him back to reality. This is a reality that he doesn’t want to go back to because he is like the sun, getting up “defiantly”. Following this, we have a description of the island: “from the east of his small emerald island”

which is a metaphor. This shows how special the island is to him because emeralds are precious and beautiful like the island. It also shows how the island looks like a gem in the sea. It is a bright green, which is a natural colour, in contrast to the “grey” city. The...
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