The theme “home” incorporates many different meanings that can be either a place, person, item, or subject of memory in which impacts a particular individual’s experience. These different meanings were distinctly embellished in the art of poetry to express the significant value of “home. ” The conditions that each poet faced during exile or crisis from the Middle East, Asia, and other countries were illustrated through verse in similar techniques and purpose. The ideas encompassed through each verse conveys deep struggle of lost, regain, and hope for their home.
Even though the poets had nothing but “memories and the language, the portable world I [they] could carry” (Nafisi). Their loyalty to their home brought out strength, will, insight to break oppression were embedded meticulously within art of poetry. The influence of the poets strut the lives of many people that has shared the same sentiment. The art of poetry flourished during these harsh periods to maintain a universal understanding of their personalized meaning of a home: a place of refuge/protection, fragmentation of self, and strength/hope in forging a new identity.
I. Home as refuge/protection In Ode to my Mother’s Hair by Joseph Legaspi and The Road Back by Pak Chesam, home is expressed as a matter of refuge and protection. The two poems are similar in the fact that “home” is defined as a symbolic figure, which is the mother. For example, in the poem Ode to my Mother’s Hair, the comparison of the mother’s hair as “dark as cuttlefish ink,” (Legaspi 9) signifies a mother’s natural instinct when danger is sensed. This analogy provides a vivid imagery on a mother’s character in that they would defend and protect, like a cuttlefish secreting ink, when danger lurks.
Legaspi powerfully integrates dramatic use of diction and metaphors of the narrator’s mother as the nurturer and protector; which symbolically emphasize qualities of home. The poet highlights on “teetered and threatened to split open,/exposing the diorama/of our barely protected lives” (Legaspi 11); which indicates that although the family was living in poverty, the mother had the strength to protect the children. In the event of when the mother’s hair was cut off after the father disappearance, signifies an identity renewal for the mother’s role.
She now possesses the role, as not only the nurturer, but also the provider and prime protector as father once did. The absence of a father figure gave primitive rise to the mother’s role to shelter, shield, and sustain the household; which conveys distinguishing features of their personalized home. In the poem, The Road Back, Chaesam incorporates an analogy of when the mother “unties the starlight she carries back on her forehead,/and shakes loose the moonlight/ that clings on her sleeves,” (Chaesam 20) emphasizing that she embodies attributes of a strong, independent figure.
Chaesam underlines that although the narrator was living in poverty, mother’s presence gave hope, light, and encouragement that things nothing is more wealthy than the wealthy of a unified love in family. Her existence conveys similar aspects of a home in a way that she brings forth refuge when danger stumbles upon. Furthermore, Chaesam entices the reader “to acknowledge that despite the lack of material success, this woman’s courage, dignity, and spirit are an inner wealth, uncounted in the eyes of the world perhaps, but visible nonetheless in the eyes of the poet and world of the poem” (Black 41).
The mother provides a spiritual sense of security and trust that cannot be replaced by any other person or object. The predominant female role that the mother sustains compares to the generalized meaning of home: a place that will always remain, where one can find their way back, and rely on for safety. II. Homes stolen/occupied/violated When a home is stolen, not only a shelter is being robbed from, but also the sense of security is violated and no longer can be repaired. In the poems, A Child who Returned from There Told Us and The Blue Flower, home is portrayed as a safe haven where one can be guaranteed for comfort and safety.
The feelings of relief and separation of the outside world given by home is what makes it personal to each individual. In A Child who Returned from There Told Us by Dilawar Karadaghi, the setting was taking place after the genocide massacre in Iraq during the 1990s, leaving “nothing but darkness” (Karadaghi 38). The poet underlines the mourning of a child being stripped of his home through meaningful use of diction. Karadaghi describes what home is perceived through a naive, innocent child’s perspective of the tragic event.
When the children came back to their once-called home, their reaction to the scenery was: “we saw nothing but the desert. /We heard nothing but our own heartbeats/ as we were dying” (Karadaghi 38). The home held significant value to the children. The home that a memory of childhood was built on, the place where they relied on for security, and that it belongs to them was shattered and vanished. Karadaghi envisioned a home to be a place in which could be protected from harm; however the reference to a return to a dark land was understood as gone forever.
In addition, Xuan Quynh emphasizes similar aspects of home to Karadaghi. In The Blue Flower, Quynh felt that that “life is not yet marred by sudden separation. / The whole of the trampled field is blue with flowers. /Their fragrance fills the world” (Quynh 21). Quynh depicts home as to be where pleasant memories could reside. The narrator in The Blue Flower faced a personal challenge that he could not accept. He was in the state of denial of the horrific calamity that had happen to his beloved home.
In this poem, Quynh skillfully uses the blue flower as a symbolic reference of the narrator’s blissful memories before the destruction of his home. Quynh expressed emotions of disappointment, contradiction, and uncertainty within his art during the time of the Vietnam War that caused many people to be forced into exile. Through the poet’s use of diction, feelings of uncertainty if reality has actually taken place. War seemed to be unrealistic and coping with the lost of security was unbearable. The reality of the war seemed unreal in the mind but the eyes see the truth.
These two pieces of art related to the loss of a home that resulted in a fragmentation of self. The poets want the reader to realize that “nationalism is an assertion of belonging in and to a place, a people, a heritage... by doing so, it fends off exile, fights to prevent its ravages” (Said 176). A sense of nationalism formed from childhood creates a home and people must defend it even though a fragmentation of their life was destroyed. Both poets had the same objective: to encourage others to take part in gaining their identity and building a new hope, a new home. III.
Reclaiming Home The poets during this time went through an epiphany after experiencing exile, violence, or distress. Through this epiphany, the poets gain hope, resistance, and strength to form a new identity. Into Olive Leaves by Shamsur Rahman depicts a change of hope by the narrator writing his last letter to his mother. He wished for his mother to look after his child and turn him into a man of peace. The meaning embodied within the poem was to express the narrator’s hope that his son can “weave his dreams into the olive leaves” (Rahman 370) rather than experience a wicked path.
This metaphor signifies that like olive leaves, where countless are spread out endlessly throughout the vine, his son has the ability to live without limitations, even when it seems impossible to do so. Rahman skillfully uses olive leaves in his poem to give an effect of tranquility to the mind during tragic and challenging times. Also, Rahman dramatically embodies in his poem feelings of discouraging people who felt that “sometimes it feels like/as if I [they] have no dream, no memory, no attachment,/no tomorrow” (Rahman 369).
Even though the military leaves soldiers were in despair, Rahman illustrates that there is hope raising the younger generation to become people of nonviolence. His message to the public was that the loss of something great, means a gain for something better. In Our Land by Aharon Shabtai, portrays a period when there were two different cultures that was once peacefully united, transforms into enemies filled with resent and disparity. The narrator is the only one left with hope in reuniting the two cultures into one home, as like it was once before.
The author describes that “the heart will make room/like a table/opening its wings” (Shabtai 214) as a symbolic meaning that a table opening its wings meant people can soar from nothing. With that, the narrator incorporates his belief that the Israeli and Palestine is one people and should be able to become a whole new identity to recreate peace. The poets such as Shamsur Rahman wanted others to realize that a new identity can be found if people fought for it. He often “clashed with reactionary, undemocratic, or religious forces” (Radice, "Shamsur Rahman: Visionary poet of Bangladesh”) but made great impact to campaigns in movements.
The struggle and hardship that people faced needed to be spoken in order to break free in society. Conclusion The voice of the poets made strong impacts not only in the literary world, but also to society. The poets incorporated their experiences from losing a home into the poems to make people realize that people from all over are being oppressed. The emphasis of the poems was to focus on how the oppressed dealt with a lost identity. The lost of a home was a struggle that needed spiritual unification of a whole to gain a much greater sense of a stronger home.