An unknown girl - WordPress.com

An unknown girl - WordPress.com

W O N K N U0 N G L R I N /2 A /19 2 J O N AT H A N P E E L S G S 2 0 1 2 OVERVIEW Written in a single, continuous stanza of free verse. Single stanza suggests a single memory that stretches on and which the poet does not wish to end. The memory builds in layers to form a continuous pattern in her mind. In this, the added detail of each section builds like the detail of the henna decoration being applied. Free verse gives the poet the freedom to use words for their power and placement without having to acknowledge the need for rhyme or regular rhythm. The poem describes a memory and explores the poets links with her original culture that of her heritage: India/Pakistan. J O N AT H A N P E E L S G S 2 0 1 2 THE POEM

In the evening bazaar Studded with neon An unknown girl Is hennaing my hand She squeezes a wet brown line Form a nozzle She is icing my hand, Which she steadies with her On her satin peach knee. In the evening bazaar For a few rupees An unknown girl is hennaing my hand As a little air catches My shadow stitched kameez A peacock spreads its lines Across my palm. Colours leave the street Float up in balloons. Dummies in shop-fronts Tilt and stare With their western perms. Banners for Miss India 1993 For curtain cloth And sofa cloth Canopy me. I have new brown veins. In the evening bazaar Very deftly An unknown girl is hennaing my hand I am clinging To these firm peacock lines Like people who cling to sides of a train. J O N AT H A N P E E L S G S 2 0 1 2 The poem opens with a

straightforward description of the setting a bazaar. studded with neon manages to suggest both decoration and the colour of the modern world. This theme will be returned to. Alvi sees the art as icing relating it to Western obsessions with surface beauty. In the evening bazaar Studded with neon An unknown girl Is hennaing my hand She squeezes a wet brown line From a nozzle She is icing my hand, Which she steadies with her On her satin-peach knee. Hennaing is the focus of the memory. At this stage a wet brown line is far from beautiful and the nozzle is very matter of fact a prosaic response to an act which does not have any great significance yet.

This compound adjective is the first suggestion of beauty and sensuality in this poem. It hints at a growing awareness of the beauty of the local clothing this will link in the poets mind to the next section. J O N AT H A N P E E L S G S 2 0 1 2 The repetitive form of the poems setting is established. Each time it recurs, a new layer is added. At this stage it establishes the relationship is one of a business transaction As the design grows, so the transient and Westernised decorations seem to leave the poet. Balloons float away and dummies (surely a deliberate double meaning here) are seen. The banners are a mixture of Western and Eastern

cultures, they are said to canopy her, as though protecting her. Nature, in the for of the In the evening bazaar breeze, draws attention to the For a few rupees speakers own Indian dress. She is part of the culure at a An unknown girl is hennaing my hand surface level. As a little air catches My shadow stitched kameez A peacock spreads its lines The design is personified a symbol of beauty is growing. It is no longer a Across my palm. functional activity. Colours leave the street Float up in balloons. Dummies in shop-fronts Tilt and stare With their western perms. Banners for Miss India 1993 For curtain cloth And sofa cloth This metaphor suggests that the hennaing is closely Canopy me. linked with her life providing a new layer of brown I have new brown veins. veins which sustain her as she continues to live in both cultures. J O N AT H A N P E E L S G S 2 0 1 2 The third repetition

introduces an awareness of skill in the work of the henna artist. No longer thinking in purely Western terms, the simile here is rooted in modern Indian culture. The single line sentence is clear and strong. The poet knows the reality of the situation. In the evening bazaar Very deftly An unknown girl is hennaing my hand I am clinging To these firm peacock lines Like people who cling to sides of a train. Now the furious streets Are hushed. Ill scrape off The dry brown lines Before I sleep, Reveal soft as a snail trail The amber bird beneath. It will fade in a week. As her awareness of the new culture develops, so Alvi is clinging to the art as a symbol of her new (true) identity. The lines have

become firm as her certainty increased. She looks ahead to removing the outer layer (dry brown lines) to reveal the fragile magic of the amber bird. This suggests an awareness of peeling away her westernised outer layer to reveal the core of truth beneath. Amber is a precious material which suggests that the lower layer her Indian/Pakistani heritage is also valuable. Amber is also a preservative and often forms around ancient insects, preserving them until they are found by archeologists her culture is similarly preserved here. J O N AT H A N P E E L S G S 2 0 1 2 The metaphor is gentle, not aggressive and suggests begging in the outstetched hands. Placed at the end of a line, emphasis is placed on this action which is increased by longing which follows with no break due to the enjambment of the lines. A clear desire to recapture the lost culture is evident here.

when is definite, the poet knows that such occurrences will happen in the future. When India appears and reappears Ill lean across a country With my hands outstretched Longing for the unknown girl In the neon bazaar. The bazaar is no longer studded with neon which suggests some form of applied decoration studded is harsh and not beautiful. Now the whole is given a sense of belonging -the neon bazaar wears its colour naturally, as though it is meant to be thus. Somehow, the two cultures have united in the sae way that the bazaar has changed its own form. J O N AT H A N P E E L S G S 2 0 1 2 TO SUM UP A poem in which culture is explored and the poet expresses her longing to experience her heritage. A poem which compares: East and West Superficiality and what lies beneath A sense of loss and a sense of recognition There is a sense of acceptance by the end of the poem, how is this generated? J O N AT H A N P E E L S G S 2 0 1 2

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