The poem is about the persona is reminiscing her childhood memories. It describes the persona’s “Peranakan” household during the monsoon season. In the “Monsoon History”, the lines are arranged in a particular way to create effect and the choice of words that the poet is focused on engaging the audience to interact with the poem. One of the themes of this poem is appreciating nature. The poem provides a vivid description of nature, which are the presence of creatures that are full of life, and the natural phenomena such as the monsoon.
The monsoon is a period of uncertainties but when it is over there is tranquillity. We should learn to live by understanding the wonder of nature, even at times of uncertainties. The poet uses a lot of elements of nature and even small insects such as “ gnats”, “black spiders”, ”termites” in her poem. This shows that the poet is really observant of the things that are going around her and appreciating nature as she realised their peaceful co-existence. Furthermore, the persona faces the realities of life especially during the monsoon where the situation reflects uncertainties as indicated in stanza 2. The monsoon brings thunderstorm and rain, the atmosphere becomes moist. This is the reality of life in Monsoon History. One has to face this reality.
Natural phenomenon in the form of the monsoon is in control and there is rolling darkness. The poem provides a realistic picture of what happens during the monsoon. The poem also highlights cultural richness. Traditions and customs are part of the culture practised by the people portrayed in the poem. There is a rich cultural heritage that needs to be preserved from generation to generation. This can be seen through strong presence of cultural sentiments that are symbolically presented this poem. For example, the poem provides some of the cultural practices such as the Nyonya-Baba tradition of wearing “sarong” and the burning of “silver paper” for the death. The “pantun” is also part of their culture and the “wash feet” is a taboo for them which symbolises whoever does not wash their feet before sleeping may have nightmares. The poem shows that people are identified through their cultural practices.
The poet uses a lot of imageries which make our senses engage through the use of particular imagery in this poem. We as the readers feel the experiences as if we too are part of the experiences. For example, the auditory imagery such as “the air ticks” and “listening to down-pouring” are used to describe atmosphere. The poet also uses a lot of kinaesthetic as well as sight imagery by personifying animals, insects and the elements of nature in this poem. The use of words such as “air walking” and “fat white slugs furled” in this poem show actions and movement that makes the poem seem alive and engages our senses. The poem above is suitable to teach students for a reading lesson. For the pre-reading stage, teacher may ask students to work in pairs and share their childhood memories with their friends. They can talk about the foods, the clothes, the places that they used to eat, wear and go.
This warm-up activity is helpful in activating students’ schemata and arousing their interests to analyse and understand the poem. As Aebersold and Field (1997) state, pre-reading is important to raise students’ awareness of the text that they are going to read later. After the warm-up activity students are usually ready to look at the poem. Therefore, as while reading activities, there will be two activities. First is the teacher introduces the poem to students. Teacher does a reading chain activity with students by asking the students to read one line each. Teacher may then ask students to get into group and discuss the elements such as the meaning, the themes and literacy devices of the poem as well as discuss the questions that are given to them by relating it to what they understand from the poem. By doing this activity, students may share their opinions and ideas.
As a result, it may develop students’ interpretive skills. Lastly, as follow up activity at the post-reading stage, teacher may ask students to do a class project of Baba and Nyoya culture. Students are divided into four group: (1) Clothes, (2) beliefs, (3) traditions, and (4) background. In groups, they have to discuss, write and draw the ideas about Baba and Nyonya’s culture. Then, teacher compiles all the students’ work for the class magazine. This activity helps students to appreciate the poem more. In conclusion, Monsoon History is one of the good poems written by a famous Malaysian poet that has many good values to be taught to Malaysian students. Other than incorporating other type of literature such as British and American literature, Malaysian literature should also be
embraced in education system seem they are appeal to students’ culture.