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Paper 2 Section A. Don’t forget to bring your anthology for this exam. Poetry from Different Cultures. 45 minutes 1 essay There will be two questions to choose from. You answer only ONE question.

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Paper 2 Section A

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Paper 2 section a

Paper 2 Section A

Don’t forget to bring your anthology for this exam

Poetry from different cultures

Poetry from Different Cultures

  • 45 minutes

  • 1 essay

  • There will be two questions to choose from. You answer only ONE question.

  • You need to know all of the poems in one whole cluster as the examiners will name one poem in each question.

  • You only compare TWO poems in this essay. The examiner will name one in the title and you must choose the second to compare it to.

  • Learn a variety of comparative connectives and compare in every paragraph.

Limbo place for lost or unbaptised

Limbo = place for lost or unbaptised

  • Silent dark of slave ship is described = terrible experience of being human cargo

  • Strong beat of limbo dance links to poem’s rhythm (chorus, repetition, “limbo, limbo like me”, like some music (eg jazz) group of notes is repeated and developed)

  • Hypnotic effect of drummer (37)

  • Speaker squeezes under the stick (34-36), rises in triumph and feels exhilarated = triumph over his suffering.

  • These celebratory feelings are likely to be short lived – arriving at his destination means the suffering will continue (“burning ground”)

Nothing changed

Nothing’ Changed

  • Setting = scrubland of District Six

  • Modern restaurant contrasts with “bunny chows” from the “working man’s café”

  • No sign (as there would have been during apartheid) but still the restaurant would not welcome Black people

  • Anger of narrator that in reality the end of apartheid has changed nothing.

Paper 2 section a

  • District Six is the name of a former neighbourhood of Cape Town, South Africa, best known for the forced removal of its inhabitants during the 1970s. It was named in 1867 as the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town, but by the turn of the century it was already a lively community made up of freed slaves, artisans, merchants and other immigrants. It was home to almost a 10th of the city of Cape Town's population.

Paper 2 section a

  • During the earlier part of the apartheid era, District Six was a remarkably multicultural district, with a heavy concentration of the people known in South Africa as coloured, including a substantial Cape Malay community, as well as other black, white and Asian people of various backgrounds. Many former District Six residents see this cosmopolitanism as one of the main reasons that it became a target for destruction. The removals were also doubtlessly motivated by the district's beautiful views of the ocean and of Cape Town, and, as the city grew larger, its proximity to the Cape Town city centre; all of these factors made it attractive for real estate development aimed at white residents

Paper 2 section a

  • On 11 February1966, the apartheid-era government declared District Six a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act, with removals starting in 1968. By 1982, more than 60 000 people had been relocated to the comparatively bleak Cape Flats some 25 kilometers away, and the old houses bulldozed. The only buildings left standing were places of worship. International and local pressure made redevelopment difficult for the government, however. The Cape Technikon (now part of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology) was built on part of the former District Six and the area was renamed Zonnebloem, but apart from this the area was left as a wasteland until relatively recently.

Island man

Island Man

  • Sounds of the sea (island life) in the man’s head remind him of the Caribbean – dreamy, groggy start to the poem (lack of punctuation highlights this)

  • Contrast with the noise and bustle of London traffic.

  • Still feels a sense of belonging to original home and culture but at same time has to face another day in London.

  • Colours/sounds (London = “grey”, “metallic”, “roar”, Caribbean = “emerald”, “blue”, “wild”)

  • “breaking and wombing” creates a sea-like rhythm, waves on pillow compared to waves on shore.

  • Line 12 – uses “sands” when it should be “sounds” which highlights his groggy nature as he slowly wakes up.



  • Need for water is desperate – heat is unremitting/unrelenting/constant: “the skin cracks like a pod” (simile)

  • We are asked to imagine collecting water – use of onomatopoeia: “drip” “splash”

  • The water main (“municipal pipe”) bursts – “silver crashes”, “flow”, “roar of tongues”,

  • “congregation” = religious connotations

  • People rush to gather water – light imagery/celebratory mood

Two scavengers in a truck setting 1960s america

Bin men


“gargoyle Quasimodo”

“plastic blazers”

“scavengers” = job title, truth? Or society’s label for them?

“hanging on” to bottom rung of society? Morally superior to couple they are “looking down” upon.

“Cool couple”


“open Mercedes”

“coifed” hair

“suit” & “sunglasses”

“TV advert” – perfection, “odourless” (unreal)

Beautiful – character or appearance? – ‘beauty is only skin deep’

Represent the American Dream – ‘anything is possible’

Two Scavengers in a Truck…Setting: 1960s America

Message society should unite people of all kinds

Message: Society should unite people of all kinds…

  • Both couples have sunglasses and one of binmen has “long hair” (fashionable in the 60s) = are they more similar than we are first led to believe??

  • Concern with image important to all?

  • Are their lifestyle aspirations more closely linked than seems apparent at first? We are encouraged to see links between the two couples…

  • But final image is of “gulf” between them, which cannot be bridged = separate elements…

Night of a scorpion

Night of a Scorpion

  • Mother bitten by a scorpion in rural India (setting). Peasant population steeped in a culture of religion and legend – life and death are closely related.

  • Neighbours chant prayers and search for scorpion

  • Husband more logical – attempts to cleanse the bite with burning paraffin

  • Traditional Indian values compared to “Sceptic”, “rationalist” (education brings his ideas closer to western ideas)

  • Mother recovered and gives thanks that the scorpion chose her not one of her children.

  • Themes?

  • Key language features?



  • Vultures used as a metaphor for the presentation of the Commandant at Belson

  • What are their similarities?

  • What point is the poet making about the good and evil of mankind?

Paper 2 section a

Vultures - The poem begins with an unpleasant description of a pair of vultures who nestle lovingly together after feasting on a corpse. The poet remarks on the strangeness of love, existing in places one would not have thought possible.

He then considers the love a concentration camp commander shows to his family - having spent his day burning human corpses, he buys them sweets on the way home


The descriptions of the vultures is just a way to introduce the topic of good and evil. They are a metaphor for the Nazi Commandant.

The conclusion of the poem is ambiguous. On one hand, Achebe praises providence (fate/chance) that even the cruellest of beings can show sparks of love, yet on the other he despairs - they show love solely for their family, and so allow themselves to commit atrocities towards others.

What were they like part 1

What Were They Like - Part 1

  • The first part of the poem is a set of questions about the people of Vietnam and their way of life. Part two consists of the answers.

  • The layout is deliberate – separate, clear

  • It highlights the fact that to most Americans at the time of the Vietnam War, Vietnam was a remote and unknown country.

  • The people of Vietnam were the ‘ememy’ but very alien to Americans

  • The poem highlights the ancient culture of Vietnam

Search for my tongue

Search For My Tongue

  • The writer worries that her “mother tongue” (Gujarati) is being taken over by her “foreign tongue” (English).

  • Use of disease, decay and rotting imagery to show how she lost her mother tongue.

  • The Gujarati script are incomprehensible to us but it shows the cultural differences influencing the writer.

  • Her mother tongue hasn’t left her though. Through the use of the extended metaphor of the flower, we see that it grows back.

Unrelated incidents

Unrelated Incidents

  • Written in Scottish accent and dialect

  • Challenging the idea that BBC English is better than other accents

  • Use of sarcasm to make his point

Half caste

Half Caste

  • Monologue

  • Term ‘half-caste’ is absurd to the speaker – think about the connotations of this label

  • Use of satire (ridicule to make a political statement) highlights some of the ridiculous ideas some people have

  • Use of metaphor to illustrate his point – for example Picasso painting, Tchaikovsky, weather

  • How does the tone change in the final section?

Love after love

Love After Love

  • Self reflective poem.

  • Idea that we have different parts to our personality, in the “mirror” different parts are reflected.

  • Rediscovering true self, issues of identity explored.

  • “Love letters..photographs..desperate notes” are left overs from emotional times. Maybe the writer wants to express the idea that you need to appreciate yourself before you can connect with someone else.

  • Celebration of self – take time to know yourself: “Feast on your life”.

This room

This Room

  • The room can be seen as a metaphor for someone’s life.

  • The room is trying to break free of its walls, in a way a person might try and challenge stereotypes, look for freedom in society away from the claustrophobia of their daily life.

  • “The bed is lifting out” as though it is trying to escape. There is a move from the “dark” to the “clouds” which could again represent a person becoming more open and free.

  • Mundane nature of everyday life is challenged in verse 3. The “improbable” interrupts the dull day.

  • A feeling of celebration is created with the “bang” and the “hands…clapping”. (Use of onomatopoeia/sounds)

  • A sense of excitement at sampling new things and attempting new experiences.

Not my business

Not My Business

  • Akanni beaten up and taken away

  • Danladi taken in middle of night – narrator sees is as not being his business (“yam”)

  • Chinwe is dismissed from her job with no warning

  • Knock on narrator’s door as he is about to eat

  • How are language techniques used so effectively here?

  • What message is the poet giving us? (fable/moral tale/justice vs. comfort)

  • Poem is rooted in Nigeria’s civil war and military dictatorship

Presents from my aunts in pakistan

Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan

  • Writer feels she has “no fixed nationality”. She has mixed identity (English and Pakistani) but doesn’t feel like she fits fully into either culture.

  • Look at the language to describe the Pakistani clothes – exotic and bright. She appreciates their beauty but they also feel “alien” to her, like a “costume”. Compare to the “denim and corduroy” she longs for to fit in with her friends.

  • Contrasts between cultures is explored

  • Confusion about her sense of belonging – feels like the “beggar girls”

Hurricane hits england

Hurricane Hits England

  • Hurricanes in England in 1987

  • Hurricanes link the writer with her Caribbean upbringing – the hurricane is “ancestral” to her, she feels related to it: “back-home cousin”

  • Sense that the lightening of the storm is also a “blinding illumination” or flash of inspiration – she begins to feel closer to English culture and her split identity.

  • The “mystery” is lifted as “the frozen lake” is defrosted in her mind. She feels a greater sense of belonging, her roots and foundation in the Caribbean are linking her to England now.

Essay planning

Essay Planning

Use this phrase to help you plan essays:

A bean sandwich ruptured across the ceiling

Bean = theme/meaning

Sandwich = language

Rupture = structure

Ceiling = feeling

  • Use these four sections to write 4-6 paragraphs that compare the two poems.

  • Remember to compare in each paragraph using a comparative connective to link ideas.

Paper 2 section a

Cluster 1 Past Questions

  • Compare the ways an event s described in ‘Blessing’ with the ways an event is described in one other poem.

  • Compare the way people are presented in ‘Vultures’ and one other poem.

    Cluster 2 Past Questions

  • Compare the methods the poets use to explore the connection between people and the places in which they live in ‘Hurricane Hits England’ and one other poem.

  • Compare the way identity is presented in ‘Half-Caste’ and ‘Nothing’s Changed’

Ways to revise

Ways to Revise

  • Make links between poems

  • Learn which poems focus on the same themes

  • Learn a variety of comparative connectives to help you compare

  • Ensure you can say something the effect of poetic techniques in each poem

  • Brainstorm quick essay plans

What is a theme

What is a theme?

A theme is an overriding issue idea or concern that the poem deals with.

Brainstorm these themes

Brainstorm these Themes

  • Violence

  • Journeys

  • Identity

  • Politics, Political Protest

  • First Person

  • People, Humanity

  • Change

  • Non Standard English

  • Culture

  • Metaphor

  • Sense of place, Roots

Which poems are linked by which theme?



  • This basically means who am I?

  • Many factors influence our identity: environment, friends, education, class, ethnicity, job, parents, religion, interests, age.



  • This is a similar term to identity. It means what connects us to a certain place, or culture or religion.

  • The urge to put down roots is a very strong emotion.

  • Many people in the anthology are displaced from their roots.

Cultural differences and conflicts

Cultural Differences and Conflicts

  • When individuals from different traditions and cultures live in the same country or community CONFLICT sometimes arises.

  • CONFLICT however, can sometimes be personal or internal. For example some young people who have come to England to live grow apart from the culture of their parents. Sometimes they REDISCOVER this culture as they get older.

Politics culture and injustice

Politics, culture and injustice

  • Again cultures can come into conflict due to differences in class, race, politics and religion.

  • Differences can breed mistrust, hate, suspicion and division.

  • Alternatively some of the poems highlight how shared cultures and traditions can bring individual together.

A sense of place

A Sense of Place

  • Many of the poems highlight how a place or environment has affected individuals cultural outlook.

  • Sometimes the description of a place is issued to reflect or illustrate a particular idea: e.g. The description of the brooding vultures on the African plains is used to represent the idea of the darker side of human nature.



  • Some of the poems focus on people or human nature.

  • Often the dark side of humanity is represented. Sometimes differences in cultural beliefs lead to savage uncivilised behaviour.

  • Sometimes shared cultural beliefs unite individuals.

Poetic techniques









Rhyme & Rhythm

How do the use of senses help bring the characters or feelings to life?

Poetic Techniques

Comparative connectives

On the other hand


In contrast




Is similar to

Comparative Connectives

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