Compare how language is used to explore ideas and feelings in ‘Checking out me History’ and one other poem from the Anthology.
Checking out me History is a poem about a Caribbean man’s frustration at the teaching of history- he believes that he is only taught about white historical figures and argues that some important black icons are neglected. He argues for more freedom to learn about icons from other cultures- reflecting multi-cultural society more accurately. Singh Song is a poem written from the perspective of a newly-wed Indian shop-worker in Britain, and tells the reader about his relationship with his bride and how this affects his work. The poem explores ideas about cultural identity- particularly looking at how ethnic cultures fit into Western (British) society. In ‘Checking out me History’ John Agard uses a Caribbean dialect “lick back”, and phonetic spelling “dem… dat” which reflects the Caribbean accent, to create a clear character voice. He does this to emphasize that he is a black Caribbean man and therefore the issues he explores are relevant and personal to him. Agard is in fact half Guyanese and so the character of the poem could in fact be him; this could be auto-biographical. ‘Singh song’ is similar in that Daljit Nagra uses phonetic spelling “My vife is on di web” to reflect an Indian accent, and uses some humorous examples of language ‘lost in translation’ such as “at di cheese ov her price”. Like Agard, Nagra uses a ‘voice’ which is directly linked to his own, as he is a British born Punjabi Indian, and the character speaks in what is referred to as ‘Punglish’ a Punjabi influenced version of standard English. The tone of the two poems is very different- ‘Checking out me History’ has an angry and negative tone. He is using the dialect and accent to emphasize how different black Caribbean is from white British. The choice to write in non-standard English perhaps reflects his disapproval of the idea of ‘standard...
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