Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print.
Imtiaz Dharker and a Summary of 'Blessing'
'Blessing' is a free verse poem, the main theme of which is poverty and the importance of water. It focuses on a slum on the outskirts of Mumbai in India and, in particular, the reaction of children who come to celebrate and drink when a pipe bursts.
- Vivid imagery and figurative language combine with personification, simile and other poetic devices to produce a visual feast that carries with it subtle messages. As humans, we all need water to survive but the poorest need it more than the rich, who perhaps take it for granted most of the time.
This is fitting because the poet is also a documentary filmmaker who, though born in Pakistan and raised in Scotland, lives in Mumbai, a city full of contrasts and contradictions.
First published in 1989 in her book Purdah, 'Blessing' was created directly from a typical Mumbai slum scene, in Dharavi, so it carries a freshness and immediacy that compliments the figurative and literary.
This is a poem for and of the senses. The language reflects the speaker's perception and observation:
There is also a suggestion that religion and fate play a part in this small drama. In the second stanza, there is mention of the voice of a kindly god, a benevolent deity capable of transforming into water.
And note the sudden rush of fortune in the third stanza, implying luck on behalf of the slum dwellers when the pipe bursts. When they gather the word used is congregation, again connected to religion.
In the final stanza, the title word blessing appears, suggesting divine favour and protection. It is interesting to note that the children are here seen perfected, turned into ideal figures, future hope for the poorer members of society.
The skin cracks like a pod.
There never is enough water.
Imagine the drip of it,
the small splash, echo
in a tin mug,
the voice of a kindly god.
Sometimes, the sudden rush
of fortune. The municipal pipe bursts,
silver crashes to the ground
and the flow has found
a roar of tongues. From the huts,
a congregation : every man woman
child for streets around
butts in, with pots,
brass, copper, aluminium,
and naked children
screaming in the liquid sun,
their highlights polished to perfection,
as the blessing sings
over their small bones.
Stanza by Stanza Analysis
'Blessing' has 4 stanzas of varying length, perhaps a reflection of the speaker's reaction to the scene they enter.
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Two distinct lines, complete sentences.
The first line refers to the effect of the climate on human skin - this is India where the sun can be cruel and baking hot. So the harsh, dry sounds of the hard k following one after another reinforce the feeling of the skin being scorched.
A pod holds seeds and often the dry warmth helps set the seeds free but here the sense is not of freedom but of limitation, even danger. Without moisture from water, human skin might quickly dry and shrivel up and start to crack, like dry earth.
The second line drives home the hard fact. In this part of the world, it is always a struggle to find water, the climate is so dry and hot. That word never resonates throughout the whole poem.
Four lines, a single sentence, three commas telling the reader to slow down a little, that opening verb imagine, inviting the reader to get closer via the mind.
There is just a single drop splashing into an empty tin mug, transformed metaphorically into a voice of a god, any god, who has life-giving qualities.
Eleven lines, three complete sentences, an example of what might be or what has gone before.
From the drip to the gush. Here is an accident, a result of government/council neglect perhaps. Or lack of funding for repair. A pipe bursts and water turns into a precious metal, silver, which is also a colour flowing to meet the tongues, the roaring tongues of a good many people.
They won't miss this opportunity. Water flows, people flow...a congregation...is that a reference to religion? Is this the equivalent of a church gathering, people meeting to worship the water god?
They bring anything to hand in order to capture the precious water. To store some for later. Poor people have to act immediately or it may be too late; the water has to be contained.
Note the comma at the end of stanza 3, so a slight pause for the reader before discovering that the naked children are going a bit bonkers in the hot sun, and why not, for the pipe has burst and brought a blessing of water...cool and fresh and flowing over their bodies, over their small bones.
How apt to end the poem with children, thin children, who are the future of the slum nevertheless, of that poor community, who benefit most from this outpouring. The voice of that god is now singing and for the time being at least, all is well in Dharavi.
Simile, Metaphor and Literary Devices in Blessing
When words beginning with the same consonants are close together in a line they are alliterative. This adds texture to the sounds:
small splash...flow has found...screaming in the liquid sun...polished to perfection
When words close together in a line have similar-sounding vowels:
Imagine the drip of it...in a tin...sudden rush...fortune. The municipal...tongues. From...frantic hands...blessing sings...over their small bones.
If there is no punctuation at the end of a line and it runs straight into the next, maintaining the sense:
so lines 4-5...echo/in a tin mug,
lines 7-8 rush/of fortune.
lines 9-10 and 10-11 and 12-13 and 13-14 and 18-19 and 22-23.
Enjambment helps keep the pace moving and is part of the syntactical structure.
In line 6...the voice of a kindly god...is a metaphor for the echo of the drip in the tin mug.
In line 9...silver crashes to the ground...is a metaphor for the water. Silver is both valueable as a precious metal and is also a colour.
When a phrase contains contradictory terms, so:
In line 19...liquid sun...suggests the sun is a fluid, is watery.
If a non-human object or thing is given human traits or characteristics:
In line 6...the voice of a kindly god...in line 10...the flow has found...in line 11... a roar of tongues.
The first line compares the skin to a pod, using the word like...The skin cracks like a pod
© 2018 Andrew Spacey