Grace Nicholls - Praise song for my mother

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Nicholls' Praise Song - analysis
AQA Relationships

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Grace Nicholls - Praise song for my mother

  1. 1. Praise Song For My Mother by Grace Nicholls Learning Objective: Am I able to explain how language, structure and form contribute to the writer Grace Nicholls’ presentation of ideas, themes and settings?
  2. 2. Grace Nicholls is Guyanese (located in S. America but identified as West Indian) and only moved to the UK when she was in her mid-20s. Her poetry reflects her Caribbean traditions through sensory language. Her heritage is an important part of her poetry. Guyana was a former British colony until 1966.
  3. 3. The entire poem resembles a staircase First 3 stanzas have 3 lines each – balanced - reflecting on her stable relationship with mum 4th stanza begins in the same way but is extended, focusing on the final line. The last line shows the daughter detaching from her mother and launching into adulthood – moving toward ‘wide futures’. Answer in your book: What do you think the ‘staircase shape’ of the poem is a metaphor for? Structure
  4. 4. Written in the past tense shows us she is reflecting, looking back on the influence of her mother (deceased… or have they grown apart) First 3 stanzas end with a line that shows her mother’s qualities Uses metaphors and natural imagery Influence of her Caribbean upbringing (sunrise, warmth) `moon, water and sun` are constant, natural rhythms of the earth = stability of her mother. Uses active verbs She remembers her mother as always doing things Language & Imagery
  5. 5. Stability Uncertainty about her relationship with her mum Nourishment (physical & spiritual) Celebratory (it is a praise song, after all!) Natural rhythms of the earth – basic elements like water, sun, moon. Line by line analysis next! Themes
  6. 6. You were Is her mother deceased or has her mother`s influence decreased? water to me Elemental; necessary in literature: represents fluidity; rebirth; survival; a journey deep and bold and fathoming Not necessarily a compliment… did her mother have a strong personality? Many meanings: brave or even over-bearing? Intellectual depth (clever) A serious personality Long-lasting & strongly felt (lasting impact) Depth (being in the `deep end`) A fathom is a unit of measure for water – 6ft deep. Mum was tall? Or…. To fathom (verb) is to make sense of something mysterious after much thought. Was her mother hard to read? Enigmatic?
  7. 7. You were repetition; pattern – reflects stability Moon goddess Yemoja from West African Yaruba religion; represents the reign over all as a mother Nicholls is referring to her mother as the matriarch. moon’s eye to me always there at night Watching from above pull and grained and mantling Gravitational pull Grew from her mother like a seedling… Earth’s mantle shelters of the moon or is she ‘going against the grain’ the inner core of world. Moon/ocean pull – of her mother? Referring to mum’s natural rhythms again! protection or being over-bearing?
  8. 8. You were sunrise to me Always there at the start of every day rise and warm and streaming Mum was there to … temperate personality flowing, gushing - Wake her up did she grow to like mum? (of tears?) - to motivate her to move Constant outpouring upwards/better herself of orders possibly. - To get a rise out of someone Answer in your book: Nicholls has deliberately chosen ambiguous language to describe her relationship with her mother. So far, do you think this poem is more praising or more criticising? Why?
  9. 9. You were simple repetition of this at each stanza mimics a song (link to title) the fishes red gill to me fish out of water; cultural displacement Red fish is essential part of Caribbean diet Also: the gills are essential to breathing – in water (link back to natural imagery) The very breath of Nicholls’ life is linked to her mother the flame tree’s spread to me Caribbean/West African tree; its shape provides a ‘spread’ of cover. Nicholls felt both protected and sheltered/stifled by her mum’s love… Or does she mean ‘family tree’ HAS spread to me? Has she taken on her mum’s traits? Should be a possessive apostrophe; does she feel she does not belong to her mother?
  10. 10. the crab’s leg/the fried plantain smell Traditional C. food – Nicholls can smell her mother’s cooking; perhaps now she has already left to UK – smell is sense most strongly tied to memory. D I S T A N C E between last line Nicholls moves from Guyana to UK, leaves her mother behind. This kind of pause is called a caesura (say-zhura) Nicholls is thinking of the best way to sum of her complicated relationship with her mum. replenishing replenishing Mother’s love is endless – links back to the sun rising every morning to replenish the earth… too much?
  11. 11. Go to your wide futures, you said does her mum think her dreams are too big? Unachievable? Is this the last thing her mum said to her before Nicholls left for the UK? - Bitter, dismissive, passive-aggressive. Answer in your book: Thinking about the title ‘Praise Song for My Mother”, explain how this poem could be considered an anti-praise or backhanded praise song? Think about ambiguity…
  12. 12. Homework for “Harmonium” Write 3 P-E-E paragraphs showing how Armitage uses metaphor, personification and symbols/imagery in his poem to describe his relationship between him and his father? On Learning Gateway For next Friday – you have a whole week!

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