Use the following comments and questions as a guide to help you further explore the details of this poem.
The title of this poem is “Minority” and as early as in the first few lines of the poem, the importance of the title becomes clear. A minority can be defined as “a small number of people that are part of a larger group but different in some way from most of the group (or: the majority)”.
Take a few minutes to write down some of the minority groups that we have in our society or in the world in general today. Compare your list to the other members of your class.
How can someone be “born a foreigner”?
What do you think it feels like to feel like a foreigner everywhere?
A simile is a phrase that describes something by comparing it to something else using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’. “I don’t fit, like a clumsily-translated poem” is an example of a simile. This person is emphasising that she/he does not fit in or belong, by using the concept of a clumsily-translated poem. A person who is clumsy is not very graceful or careful and might typically bump into things, drop things or break them.
But what is a clumsily-translated poem? And how can this image describe a person?
Personification is a literary feature where human qualities are given to something that is not human, like an animal, an object or a concept. In the fifth stanza, the language or way of speaking of the “I” of the poem is described as words that “tumble over a cunning tripwire of the tongue”.
A tripwire is a trap. It is a hidden piece of wire that is stretched just above the ground so that someone will trip up and fall over. Here it’s as if the tongue has turned into a clever but wicked trickster, and words or language are the victim. Think about your own experiences of speaking a foreign language, like English - can you relate to this description?
Like a simile, a metaphor is also a comparison of two different things in order to show some connection or similarity between the two. A metaphor however, does not use comparison words like “as” or “like” and is therefore more direct.
In the sixth stanza, the poet uses a metaphor to describe the process of writing: “And so I scratch, scratch through the night, at this growing scab of black on white”. Writing a poem is described as the rather unpleasant act of picking at a scab, the blood turning into ink on the blank page. The scab, or words of the poem, grow as one continues to scratch and scratch throughout the night.
What is the effect of this metaphor? How does it influence your understanding of the poem?
Use of pronouns
In the final two stanzas, the perspective shifts from the personal pronoun “I” to the personal pronoun “you” and the possessive pronoun “your”. What is the effect of this?
The last stanza is a puzzle for the reader to solve, but this puzzle has no correct answer. Your reaction to it will depend on how you understand and interpret the entire poem.
Read very carefully through the final stanza and ask yourself: what does this have to do with me?