Analysis of Poem This Room by Imtiaz Dharker
Imtiaz Dharker and This Room
This Room is a poem that is based on Imtiaz Dharker's own experience whilst living in the city of Mumbai (Bombay). It focuses on the idea that a room can suddenly become unstable and start to fall apart physically.
More than this, the same room can be turned into a metaphor which stands for personal change within, which affects change without.
This is what the poet has done, turn four walls and a ceiling into life itself - life includes culture, routines, privacy, customs, language, religion and personal belief.
- This Room is therefore an extended metaphor, progressing from the negative to the more positive as the changes take place within the room.
- The poem also contains personification, alliteration and onomatopoeia, more of which in the analysis below.
- The syntax - the way clauses, sentences and grammar fit together - is quite straightforward, more like chopped up prose. The shorter lines mean that the reader has to go a bit slower.
- Enjambment - when a line ends with no punctuation but meaning carries on into the next - occurs in the first four stanzas.
- The tone of the poem is a mix of surprise, relief and joy. At first there is objectivity, then hyperbole (exaggeration), then personal if somewhat surreal happiness.
Imtiaz Dharker first published this poem in 2001 in her book I Speak for the Devil and it has been a popular choice for schools and colleges since that time.
This room is breaking out
of itself, cracking through
its own walls
in search of space, light,
The bed is lifting out of
From dark corners, chairs
are rising up to crash through clouds.
This is the time and place
to be alive:
when the daily furniture of our lives
stirs, when the improbable arrives.
Pots and pans bang together
in celebration, clang
past the crowd of garlic, onion, spices,
fly by the ceiling fan.
No one is looking for the door.
In all this excitement
I'm wondering where
I've left my feet, and why
my hands are outside, clapping.
Analysis of This Room
This Room appears to focus on the physical disintegration of a room, the breaking up and cracking taking place in the here and now, but is actually an extended metaphor for personal change and transition from the negative to the positive.
- Imtiaz Dharker has said that this poem was inspired by a real life experience, when her ceiling in her apartment in India fell in and caused much chaos. She therefore took this potentially dangerous situation and transformed it into a poem which magically becomes a focal point for inner change.
What was once cosy domesticity is now radically altered. The private and personal space so welcoming and secure is now threatened with annihilation - the walls may tumble in, the roof collapse, the whole thing turned upside down.
This is what can happen in life when we sense a need for change or when circumstances force us to change direction, to search for a different space, to seek the light and gain a new perspective on life.
And in doing so it is often the case that our perception alters, we feel time is warped, our mindset unstable, the environment unpredictable.
What happens within can often affect what happens without. When we're unhappy the room we're in may feel oppressive, unsafe, a gloomy space. When we're in a good mood aren't the walls a bit brighter, isn't the space full of more positive vibes?
The poem reflects this idea in every stanza.
The room seems to be breaking up by itself, like some creature wanting to shed a skin it has this unstoppable urge to seek the new light and air. Already the reader is aware of the unreal - this room is doing all this by itself? Well, at least there is a hint of something positive happening.
Even the bed gets involved, that place where we dream, where we sleep - it seems the nightmares are over. Perhaps the speaker is relieved that at last change has come.
There's a certain levitation at work. Furniture lifts, as in a dream scenario, going up to the sky. Note the active verbs already - breaking out, cracking through, crashing through...this transition is dynamic.
The longest stanza for the most important lines perhaps...this is the time and place to be alive..indeed. The furniture shifts, the domestic scene is upset, the change is occurring and will happen no matter what is in its way.
It's as if the kitchen utensils are alive (they are because they're personified) and getting together with the foodstuffs which are gathered as if in anticipation. This is the shaking up of a whole culture, the traditional way of life...and its not going out the door, its staying.
This could be the poet's own Pakistani roots and influences remaining strong within, despite the upheaval.
The speaker now comes 'alive' so to speak, in the first person. This reflects the very personal change within, one of excitement and puzzlement, following the objective descriptions of previous stanzas.
And there is a hint of the surreal again as the speaker doesn't quite know where her feet are - has she a leg left to stand on, can't she find her feet? Her life has been up in the air recently but now is beginning to settle?
A single line, with some uncertainty and also happiness or relief. The speaker's hands are outside - applauding (clapping) - outside the room, the house? This is figurative language - the hands are symbols of a positive outcome and they want to show their appreciation of the events.
What could have been turmoil and emotional upset has turned into something wholly good.
More Analysis of This Room
This Room is a free verse poem with 22 lines made up of 5 stanzas of varying length. There is no set rhyme scheme and the metre (meter in American English) varies from line to line.
There is occasional rhyme but this is more accidental than formally consistent:
With no constraining rhyme scheme or regular beat pattern within the lines, the idea of freedom is introduced to the reader. So whilst a room may be a place of containment and restriction, in this particular case the form of the poem helps free everything up.
The room is a metaphor for life, new life, and the possibility that good things can emerge out of the negative.
When things are given human traits and behaviour then this is called personification. In the poem the furniture is personified because it stirs and is in celebration. Likewise, the room is also breaking out of itself and is in search.
When words that begin with consonants are placed close together in a poem their sounds are said to be alliterative, they sound the same and add interest and texture to the phonetics. So in the poem take note of:
Line 4 : in search of space
Line 9 : crash through clouds
Line 10 : This is the
Line 14 : Pots and pans
Line 17 : fly by the ceiling fan
Repeated words and phrases help reinforce certain meanings and sounds:
This room/itself/its own walls....This is....when the daily/when the improbable
When words sound like what they denote then this onomatopoeia. For example:
rising up to crash....Pots and pans bang....clang...fly
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Andrew Spacey