At The Border, 1979

Mind Map by minkiewicz, updated more than 1 year ago
Created by minkiewicz about 5 years ago


Mind Map on At The Border, 1979, created by minkiewicz on 22/04/2015.

Resource summary

At The Border, 1979
1 Context
1.1 The poem is set at the border of Iran. The date is 1979, the year that Choman Hardi returned, with her family, to their homeland of Kurdistan, an area to the north of Iraq. The poem is therefore partly autobiographical.
2 Form and Structure
2.1 The poem follows no set poetic form. The length of the lines and stanzas varies. There is a sense that where the lines break it follows no rules:
2.1.1 Many of the lines are end-stopped (have some kind of punctuation at the end).
2.1.2 Some are broken by sounds (the 'd' of lines 4-5).
2.1.3 Others flow naturally as single phrases (e.g. lines 12-14 and 17-19).
2.1.4 This reflects the main theme of the poem – national borders follow no rules. They are wherever a person or government has decided to put them.
2.2 The story is organised around four different perspectives: the guards, the adult refugees and the two children (the five-year-old narrator and her sister).
2.2.1 Stanza one – the border guard and the families. Stanza two (lines 4 and 5) - the private reflection of the child. Stanza three - the focus shifts to the sister. Stanza four – the mother. Stanza five – the families and mothers crying. Stanza six – another reflection from the child, repeating the theme of stanza two
3 Language
3.1 The poem does not use a lot of 'poetic' language but much of the language has many connotations. For example, the word "border" could be a border between life and death, youth and age, innocence and experience. The date of the title fixes this poem in a particular time and place.
3.2 There are very few adjectives and these are mostly unexciting: "last" and "different". The more colourful adjectives ("clean", "beautiful" and "kind") come from the child's mother.
3.2.1 However, the contrast with the boring wait at the check-point and the child's lack of excitement makes it seem like the mother's promises are not real. This sense is confirmed by the following line: "Dozens of families waited in the rain". This uses the anticlimax of a dream being replaced by reality to create a poetic effect.
3.3 Describing the "homeland" as "Muddy" in line 26 shows the contrast between the adult's romantic vision of the place, and the child's simple, clear view of it.
4 Themes and ideas
4.1 The poem dramatises a core experience of being a refugee: the growing distance between the adults' idea of home and the reality.
4.2 The child is cold and distant not just because she is tired. The lands they are coming from and going to are meaningless to her. Where is home to her?
4.3 The final line ("The same chain of mountains encompassed all of us") is can be interpreted in more than one way. The repeated 'ai' sounds suggests weariness. So the observation could almost be about how we are all chained to ideas of 'home' that may not be 'real'. They may be home but they cannot leave themselves, or their problems, at the border.
5 Comparison
5.1 Flag - This poem also explores the way ideas (of home and nationhood) can be expressed in symbols. Like Hardi, Agard had early experience of different cultures and saw the way differences were created by politicians. Where Hardi's poem is rooted in a real time and place, however, Agard's is abstract – creating an imaginary conversation to explore a world of ideas.
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At the Border, 1979: Choman Hardi
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