Explore the feelings of two of the poets who now live in England but have their roots in another culture. ‘Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan’ and ‘Hurricane Hits England’ are two poems where the poets describe their new life in England but remember important connections with their past in the country where they were born. Grace Nicholls was born and brought up in the British colony of Guyana, but moved to England when she was 27. In her poem, ‘Hurricane Hits England’ she describes the effect of the violent storm, which hit England in 1987 and how this storm, awakened links with her past.
Moniza Alvi was born in Pakistan and moved to England when she was a child. In ‘Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan’ Alvi describes the Indian /Asian gifts which were sent from her homeland and she remembers how she reacted to these presents. In ‘Hurricane hits England Nicholls uses imagery to make the storm come alive: “The howling ship of the wind” and trees Falling heavy as whales” gives the reader an idea of the violent nature/intensity of the storm. Nicholls connects the storm with the voices of her Caribbean past.
Huracan, Oya and Shango are the Gods and Goddesses of wind, rain and thunder and she asks why they are visiting “An English coast? ” Nicholls feels that although the storm is fearful bringing “blinding illuminations” and “cratered graves” it is also reassuring; the “old tongues” are a comfort. The poet is “aligning”, “following” and “riding” the storm, suggesting that the storm is part of her. The reference to “sweet mystery” suggests that the storm – although mysterious and not normally associated with England – is in fact welcoming.
Moniza Alvi also uses imagery in her poem to describe the exotic colours and textures of her clothes: the “salwar kameez Peacock blue, And another Glistening like an orange split open” and “Candy-striped glass bangles” unfortunately seemed “alien” to her. However, the clothes represented a link with her past and although her school friend was not impressed she “admired the mirror work” of the “lovely” clothes. The clothes and other presents create a longing for her past, she tries to picture her “birthplace” and at the end of the poem Alvi imagines herself back, “staring through fretwork
At the Shalimar Gardens. ” In ‘Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan’ Alvi deliberately uses free verse and her sentences, of varying lengths, are set out in a very haphazard way. This helps to convey her mixed feelings and her struggle in coming to terms with the diversity of her two cultures. She feels she has “no fixed nationality” but feels close/ apart of both Pakistan and England. Alvi uses the references to her Aunts’ presents as symbolising her search for her own identity. In ‘Hurricane Hits England’ Nicholls is also coming to terms with belonging to two different cultures.
It is the hurricane in England, which has brought her closer “to the landscape. ” She also uses free verse in this poem and asks several rhetorical questions, one important one being: “O why is my heart unchained? ” It is as if she already knows the answers when she says: “That the earth is the earth is the earth. ” This use of repetition is like an echo, her own subconscious, answering her questions. She has come to love and admire England as much as the Caribbean and is thankful for the storm for reminding her of her roots. Both poets seem to be describing personal experiences; therefore their poems could be considered autobiographical.
Alvi said that she added the fictional account of her school friend to help express her own internal battle with coping with two different cultures. The poet has been torn between two cultures but has learned to appreciate both cultures. Nicholls suggests that the storm has broken “the frozen lake” in her, she has been uprooted from her “foundations”, her past, and has come to realise that, although she has strong connections with the Caribbean, she now feels at home in England. The physical presence of the storm, for Nicholls, and the presents, for Alvi, have provided vital links and both poets appreciate their past and present cultures.