In My CountryWalking by the waters,down where an honest rivershakes hands with the sea,a woman passed around mein a slow, watchful circle,as if I were a superstition;or the worst dregs of her imagination,so when she finally spokeher words spliced into barsof an old wheel. A segment of air.Where do you come from?‘Here,’ I said, ‘Here. These parts.’ Jackie KayImmigrantNovember ’63: eight months in London.I pause on the low bridge to watch the pelicans:they float swanlike, arching their white necksover only slightly ruffled bundles of wingsburying awkward beaks in the lake’s water.I clench cold fists in my Marks and Spencer’s jacketand secretly test my accent once again:St James’s Park; St James’s Park; St James’s Park. Fleur Adcock
In My Country by Jackie KayTask 1: Read through the poem quietly, only to yourself. Read to eachpunctuation mark – this means you do not stop at the end of a line, you read tillthere is a comma(,) or full stop(.) or a question mark (?) or a semicolon (;).Task 2: Decide if the following statements are True or False about this poem.Look at the box below to help you to choose a reason to justify your answer.You should write the statement and the reason you have chosen in your book.Statements: 1. It sounds as if the poet is speaking about herself. 2. She was walking where the river and sea meets. 3. The woman who passes her seems suspicious of the poet. 4. When the woman speaks to the poet she is asking a question or a type of question she has heard before. 5. The poet’s exact words as she answers the woman are used.Reasons: A. The poet describes her as looking at her as if she “were a superstition” or “the worst dregs of her imagination.” B. She is talking in the first person using “I” in the first and second stanza. C. This is made clear in the last line where speech marks ‘Here’ and ‘These parts’ are used to show the words she uses in her answer. D. In line 2 & 3 she describes it as “where an honest river/shakes hands with the sea”. E. I think this is made clear when she describes the woman’s words as “spliced into bars /of an old wheel.” It is the world “old” that make me think she has heard this type of question before.
Task 3: a) What is meant by the line “where an honest river/shakes hands with the sea”? Do we expect a river to be able to shake hands with the sea? What does this remind us of – who normally shakes hands? There is a special word to describe the technique the poet has used in this line – do you know what it is? (Clue – it starts with a p.) b) Read the line 5 of the first stanza, “in a slow, watchful circle” aloud. Does it sound fast or slower than other lines? Why do you think the poet has written this so that it is slower than other lines? (Clue – think about what the woman is doing at that point.) c) Look up the meaning of the words ‘superstition’ and ‘dregs’. Poets choose words deliberately because of their meanings or the meanings we associate with the words. Why do you think has the poet chosen these two words? What do these words show us about the thinking of the woman who speaks to the poet? d) The poet says the woman’s words “spliced into bars of an old wheel”. What do you think does this image tell you about how the poet feels about the woman’s question? Do you know what we call this type of image? (Clue – it starts with the letter m.) e) The woman’s question in the second last line of the poem is written in italics and not in speech marks like the poet’s answer in the last line. Why do you think has the poet decided to write the woman’s question down like this? f) Why do you think does the poet repeat the word “here” in the last line? What does this show us about her feelings? g) Is the poet writing about her language, identity or culture? Or is she saying something about more than one of them? The poet has based this poem on an incident that really happened. What would we call a poem that is about your own experience? Do you think the poet is trying to make a point in general or only about herself?
Revision task – the words, definitions and examples in the next three columns are all mixedup. You need to put them in the right order. The first one has been done for you as an example.Poetic Device or technique Definition An example of the device fromused by the poet. Explanation of the device the poems we have studiedalliteration Using the same letter or sound at ‘walking by the waters’ the start of wordsmetaphor Giving an animal or object or ‘Here,....Here’ something NOT human the qualities of a human beingpersonification Repeating a word or phrase ‘her words spliced into bars of an old wheel’repetition Comparing two things but saying ‘an honest river shakes hands the one IS the other with the sea,’ Immigrant by Fleur Adcock.Answer the following questions in full sentences. Sometimes there is more than one questionwritten next to the number, these are not separate questions but more than one question tohelp you think about the poem. You need to use quotations from the poem to prove your answers.Remember the quotation can be part of your answer. Use quotation marks “ ” to show that youare using the exact words from the poem. 1. Where is this poem set? How do you know? 2. When is the poem set? How do you know? 3. Who is speaking in the poem? 4. What is the title of the poem, ‘Immigrant’, telling you about the poet? How does the title help you to understand what the poem is about? 5. Why has the poet used a colon (:)at the end of the second line? 6. What is the poet describing in lines 3 – 5? How does she feel as she is looking at them? 7. What technique has the poet used in line 6 when she says “I clench cold fists” ? Why do you think has she used this? What does she want us to make of her choice of words here? 8. Why does the poet put the last three lines in a new stanza? What is she showing us about her feelings in these three lines? 9. What poetic technique has the poet used in the last line? Why? 10. Which line or description in the poem do you like the best and why?