Imtiaz Dharker's poem can be read in two ways. A straightforward reading might suggest that the poem is simply a description of an incident when a pipe bursts and people run excitedly for the water.
A more considered reading, however, would see the poem as being more ominous and disturbing.
Under the apparent good fortune and excitement of the scene are darker ideas about the poverty and superstition of the people in the poet's native country.
It is the second reading we will be exploring in this revision programme.
Either way, the attitude to water in the poem should make us in the West wonder at how much we all take for granted, and how too often we squander the earth's resources.
Dharker paints for the reader a vivid scene using visual and aural imagery.
For instance, after opening with a powerful visual image, the poet goes on to make us hear the smallest noise 'echo/ in a tin mug', before upping the sound level with the 'roar of tongues' as people descend on the pipe.
The title of the poem appears to be ironic.
These people are not blessed - they have little water of their own. Only superstition could lead them to count this 'municipal pipe' burst as a blessing.
In reality, it shows the poor state of the pipes, part of the city's basic infrastructure, pipes that should be carrying water to the people. The fact that the people live in 'huts', that the children are 'naked' and that everyone is 'frantic' for the water tell us a lot about the living conditions.
There is a lot of sensual imagery in this poem. Mainly we hear and see the unfolding scene.
These details show us what the people's lives are like. In the following table are some of the visual details with explanations of what they tell us about the lives of the people, and some analysis of the effect of the lines.
However, the analysis only offers a mostly 'positive' reading of the poem: That the burst pipe is a stroke of good fortune.
|Quote:||What it tells us:||Effect:|
|The skin cracks like a pod||That there is very little water, and that the burst pipe is therefore a bit of luck.||The skin could refer metaphorically to the earth. In this case an image of broken drought stricken land comes to mind.|
|Imagine the drip of it... the voice of a kindly god.||The people are devout and religious, appreciating what's given to them.||We are made to see something we think of as ordinary as something precious.|
|Silver crashes to the ground||The water is precious.||The water is seen as being very positive - it is like winning the lottery.|
|From the huts, a congregation||The people are orderly and religious.||They appreciate what God has done for them.|
|Naked children||The society is not embarrassed by nudity.||The children are excited, exuberant and are enjoying the water.|
|Highlights polished to perfection||The children bodies shine and sparkle, as the water covers them.||This is an image of brightness and energy.|
|As the blessing sings over their small bones||The people are happy and singing. Children are small.||They need the water and count it as a blessing.|
|Frantic hands||They all want the water.||They are all excited.|
The poem is like one of those pictures you can see in two different ways.
Perhaps the best way to write about the poem is to say that at first it appears 'positive', but below the surface are some more disturbing ideas.
Notice how the poem builds from its first two-line stanza to the central incident and the commotion.
This build up of rhythm and pace is also created by the end stopping of the first two lines ? the full stops after 'pod' and 'water', and the commas and end-stopping of the second stanza; three commas and a full-stop in four lines.
The third stanza swells and runs into the fourth, imitating the bursting over of the water. The movement and energy doesn't stop from line 11 to the full-stop that ends the poem.
In all poetry questions you will be asked to write about the following:
- The subject(s) of the poem
- The attitude of the poet
- The poetic devices the poet uses
In other words you will be asked about what the poet is writing about, what the poet feels about the subject(s) and how the poem is written.
|The poem is about an incident where a pipe bursts and a whole community rush to collect the water.|
|At first it seems just an exciting occasion vividly brought to life.|
|However from the first line there is a sense of something darker, and harder hitting.|
|The layers of the poem reflect the way different people will see the same scene/culuture differently.|
|The poet appears at first to be objective, describing but not commenting on the incident.|
|And to some extent she leaves the reader to decide the feeling and meaning of the poem.|
|Perhaps though there is horror and pity in that opening image of skin cracking 'like a pod'.|
|To me the poem seems like a lament for the poverty of these people and for the value system that keeps them poor, yet humble and thankful.|
|Dharker uses sensual imagery to evoke the scene, and builds the rhythm of the poem into a crescendo at the bursting of the pipe.|
|She uses an extended metaphor, comparing water to a god.|
|She makes lines intentionally ambiguous, uncertain, so that the scene can be interpreted in more than one way.|