Write an essay that compares and contrasts the two poems ensuring that, in line with the Study Diamond, you comment on their effects, the techniques used in then, interpretations of their meanings and any relevant contextual information. Use no more than 1000 Words. In the following essay I intend to compare and contrast ‘Listen Mr Oxford Don’ by John Agard and ‘No rights Red an Half Dead’ by Benjamin Zephaniah. I will look at both poems in relation to the four points of the Study Diamond, effects, techniques, context and meaning.
I will begin by talking about Agard’s poem ‘Listen Mr Oxford Don’ then compare the points I have raised with Zephaniah’s ‘No rights Red an Half Dead’. I very much enjoyed reading John Agard’s “Listen Mr Oxford Don”, although the subject matter was clearly based around race I also found parts somewhat humorous, mainly due to the language Agard uses. Agard’s poem ‘Listen Mr Oxford Don’ uses irregular rhyme structured in fairly short verses. “Me not no Oxford Don, Me a simple immigrant, From Clapham Common, I didn’t graduate, I immigrate”.
Just reading the first verse I could almost hear the poem also being sang as a song which contributes to the rhythm of the poem also. In the lines “I don’t need no axe, to split / up yu syntax, I don’t need no hammer, to mash up/ yu grammar”, Agard draws attention to the words “axe”, “syntax”, “ hammer” and “grammar”, he is comparing the words syntax and grammar to actual weapons and adds to the meaning of the poem, being that he believes just because he lives in England he doesn’t have to speak the Queen’s English, he is free and able to speak how he wishes.
The rhythm used in the poem creates a fairly fast pace throughout, “I ent have no gun, I ent have no knife, but mugging de Queen’s English, is the story of my life”, in these lines we as the reader are drawn to the words gun and knife, again Agard is using weapons to demonstrate his anger at the way he feels, which is an effective technique. Page 2 – U0388700 Agard uses language to reinforce to the reader the message he is trying to get across, he is proud of his Caribbean roots and this is conveyed in the poem using the word “de” instead if “the” and the word “dem” instead of “them”.
Agard is a prominent voice of Caribbean culture in Britain after moving from Guyana in 1977. On reading “No rights Red an Half Dead” it struck me as being a very sad and morose poem using far more detail to describe the event taking place. In contrast to Agards poem “Listen Mr Oxford Don”, Benjamin Zephaniah’s “No rights Red an Half Dead” has longer and more descriptive verses using imagery to describe an incident of police brutality against what we are led to believe is a black person, although this is not actually made clear in the poem itself.
The first lines of the poem read “Dem drag him to de police van, An it was broad daylight, Dem kick him down de street to it, I knew it was not right”, this sets a sad tone to the poem immediately as we as the reader imagine the victim being kicked down the street and hauled into the van in daylight in front of onlookers. “His nose had moved, bloody head, it was an ugly sight” conjures up an image of someone’s nose being broken and having moved on his face and his head being bloody caused by injuries made by the police.
Zephaniah uses imagery throughout the poem in contrast to Agard as “No rights Red an Half Dead” is describing a particular event whereas Agard’s poem is talking about a general feeling. Agards poem uses irregular rhyme and rhythm to create the effect of anger and frustration, while Zephaniah uses a more structured rhyming pattern to create a more sad and morose mood. “Down de road dem speed away, All traffic pulls aside, Next to me a high class girl said, ‘Hope they whip his hide’”. This line also adds to the meaning of the poem being race and how white people perceive black people in the community.
In likeness to Agard’s poem Zephaniah replaces the word “the” with “de” and “them” with “Dem” so we as the reader can clearly pick up on the accent and language used in both poems. The last line of both poems I felt were important to the meaning and message being conveyed. Agard says “I making de Queen’s English accessory/to my offence”, reinforcing the anger he feels, and Zephaniah says in the final line “An if yu tink yu seeing justice, You mus be bloody blind”, this also feels angry because of the use of the word “bloody”.