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The Poem ‘nothings changed’ is based on Tatamkhulu Afrika himself who spent many years in South Africa and his autobiographical poem which describes most of what him and others had experienced and his own feelings expressed during the policy of Apartheid, introduced by the government in his country. This forced many popular attractions such as beaches, buses and even towns to be changed to ‘white areas’ only. For some this meant leaving the country forever all just because of the colour of there skin.
The poem itself is set out in six stanzas, each including eight fairly short but important lines. This kind of layout and structure in the poem creates a sense of control, showing how the poet is extremely clear about what he is saying and feeling in his head with no sudden actions leading to rage. Within the pattern of the poem the line lengths do also vary from a whole entire stanza to just two little words. For example: ‘District Six. No board says it is: but my feet know, and my hands, and the skin about my bones, and the soft labouring of my lungs,and the hot, white, inwards turning’.
This shows how the structure of the strong poem changes in the stanza’s, gradually getting bigger sentences as the stanza speaks on, giving a feeling of confidence in the poet proving he knows what he is talking about with all the information gathering. The whole poem is written in the present tense, although always recalling past experience he had the poet is constantly reliving the experience as he writes every word.
This makes this poem in particular stand out from ‘what were they like?’ due to the fact it is easy to identify what is going on. The poet also clearly states how he is feeling and what he is exactly doing as he writes, describing every little detail by putting us in his shoes. The poem overall describes how he returns to the wasteland that was once his home and relives the anger he felt when the area was first destroyed.
With him seeing the restaurant Which consists of being expensive, stylish, exclusive with a guard at the gatepost it makes him think about the poverty around it especially the working mans cafi across from it were people live without eating from plates and on a plastic table top.
This makes him reflect that despite the changing political situation, there are still huge inequalities between blacks and whites. Even though South Africa is supposed to have changed, he knows the new restaurant is really ‘whites only’. He feels that nothing has really changed overall. The deep anger he feels makes him want to destroy the restaurant completely – ‘to smash the glass with a stone, or a bomb’.
Secondly the poem ‘what were they like’ written by Denise Levertov who wrote poems that opposed American fighting in Vietnam in the 1960’s. This particular poem is against the typical American ignorance of the Vietnam war. She published the poem to show her true feelings about what the American army themselves had done to the people and the way of life of Vietnam. The structure of the poem is like an interview, having the interviewer or questioner ask all the questions together and then the speaker answer each question after one another.
Altogether there are six questions followed by six very surprising answers. Also at the end of the poem the answers are followed by a rhetorical question ‘who can say? ‘ This makes the reader think in there head about the answer and shows the unusual treatment Vietnam received by the American army. In the poem itself she compares two different periods, before and after the war had ended showing the interesting experiences people were put in and what she wants answered for.
The tone in the first section of the poem includes a thought on curiosity and full of wonder and also could be considered as being questions which are asked quickly and impatiently as when reading them you want to get to the answers straight away. Also the tone of the questioner may seem to be angry and a state of foolishness and insensitivity, yet still having a sense of sadness because of the loss of such an innocent country and the people who lived there during this hectic time.
The questioner themselves represent the uninformed Americans and the response being Denise Levertov giving the impression that the questioner should have known more about Vietnam. The responses to the questions seem rather bitter and brutal to the suffering people as when read seem honest and quickly spoken in your head which is what the poet is trying to get at to show the emotion of which happened during the war itself. Overall both poems include some similar qualities, both being completely true and poets experiencing the lives lived out there.
Yet ‘nothings changed’ is describing the life long change of the country since introducing the law of Apartheid in the 1960’s and how the country is still living with it, and overcoming the stress and changes the country had to make to change the lives of black and white people which is something of anger and hatred. This is shown by a personal experience form living in the country and visiting local areas and recording the atmosphere of the place.
This anger can also be shown in ‘what were they like’ although this particular poet may have had experience from Vietnam she was not there to see it and includes in her poem questions referring to the fact she wants answers to what has happened in the past war against America. This shows the poems are different one including life experience on unfair laws made and the other just wanted answers on what she believes what happened in the Vietnam war is completely wrong.