21 Days/21 Poems: Prejudice


Excuse me
standing on one leg
I'm half-caste

Explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when picasso
mix red an green
is a half-caste canvas/
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when light an shadow
mix in de sky
is a half-caste weather/
well in dat case
england weather
nearly always half-caste
in fact some o dem cloud
half-caste till dem overcast
so spiteful dem dont want de sun pass
ah rass/
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean tchaikovsky
sit down at dah piano
an mix a black key
wid a white key
is a half-caste symphony/

Explain yuself
wha yu mean
Ah listening to yu wid de keen
half of mih ear
Ah lookin at yu wid de keen
half of mih eye
and when I'm introduced to yu
I'm sure you'll
why I offer yu half-a-hand
an when I sleep at night
I close half-a-eye
consequently when I dream
I dream half-a-dream
an when moon begin to glow
I half-caste human being
cast half-a-shadow
but yu must come back tomorrow
wid de whole of yu eye
an de whole of yu ear
an de whole of yu mind

an I will tell yu
de other half
of my story

“Half-Caste” by John Agard.

In “Half-Caste,” John Agard reverses the idea of “miscegenation” to repudiate the notion that his so-called “half-caste” is unnatural. He reveals the fallacy by a process of reductio ad absurdum to demonstrate the limited viewpoint of those who would deny his humanity,” I half-caste human being/ cast half-a-shadow,” by a series of questions:
when yu say half-caste/
yu mean Tchaikovsky
sit down at dah piano
an mix a black key
wid a white key
is a half-caste symphony/

While it may seem as if the speaker in the poem is a victim of prejudice, by his repetition of the words, “Explain yuself,” he turns the question around so that it become a method to refute the racist epithet. By implication, the speaker fully embraces his identity with even a bit of humor, “Excuse me/ standing on one leg/I'm half-caste” for he is as natural as England’s “half caste” weather.

About John Agard

John Agard (born 21 June 1949 in British Guyana) is an Afro-Guyanese playwright, poet and children's writer, now living in the United Kingdom. Agard grew up in Georgetown, British Guyana. He would love to listen to cricket commentary on the radio and began making up his own, which led to a love of language. He went on to study English, French and Latin at A level, writing his first poetry when he was in the sixth-form. Leaving school in 1967 he taught the languages he had studied, and worked in a local library. He was also a sub-editor and feature writer for the Guyana Sunday Chronicle, publishing two books published whilst still in Guyana. His father settled in London and Agard moved to the UK with his partner Grace Nichols in 1977, settling in Ironbridge, Shropshire. He worked for the Commonwealth Institute and the BBC in London. His awards include the Paul Hamlyn Award for Poetry in 1997 and the Cholmondeley Award in 2004. Agard was Poet-in-Residence at the National Maritime Museum in 2008. His poem "Half Caste" has been featured in the AQA English GCSE anthology since 2002, meaning that many GCSE students (Aged 14 – 16) study his work for their GCSE English qualification. Agard now lives in Lewes, East Sussex.

Source: Wikipedia


21 Days/21 Poems: Prejudice


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