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  1. Flag Notes for you to use to annotate with 2. Flag, by John Agard What's that fluttering in the breeze? It's just a piece of cloth that brings a nation to…
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  • 1. Flag Notes for you to use to annotate with
  • 2. Flag, by John Agard What's that fluttering in the breeze? It's just a piece of cloth that brings a nation to its knees. What's that unfurling from a pole? It's just a piece of cloth That makes the guts of men grow bold. What's that rising over the tent? It's just a piece of cloth that dares the coward to relent. Q & A structure present participles active gentle sounds Harder alliterative sounds Dismissive tone aba rhyme scheme Dulling, flattening sound, oft repeated Repetitious, simple structure. Adult talking to child?The flag is the subject of action in each verse – that is ‘rising’, that ‘dares’, for instance
  • 3. What's that flying across a field? It's just a piece of cloth that will outlive the blood you bleed. How can I possess such a cloth? Just ask for a flag my friend, Then blind your conscience to the end. Rhyming has stopped Violent alliteration Nature of relationship between voices exposed – ironic in tone, or genuine? Ends with couplet - finality Direct address – is this rude in tone, or pleading?
  • 4. What is our question? What is X? • Compare the ways the poets explore ideas about X in ‘Flag’ and in one other poem from ‘Conflict’. Which in this case will be ‘The Right Word’ • X= the themes and ideas of the poem
  • 5. Themes • The emptiness of flag-worship • The dangers of patriotism • The perils of ‘hiding behind the flag’, of using concepts of national identity to justify violence and ‘boldness’ • The notion that a flag is a powerful symbol, an idea of nationhood behind which people can unite • Inclusion also means exclusion. • The last verse suggests that flags are easy to acquire (‘just ask’) but harder to rid yourself of.
  • 6. Form and structure • Five stanzas – ABA rhyme scheme for first three verses. – Fourth verse does not rhyme. – Fifth verse ends with rhyming couplet. – First line always a simple question. – Lines two and three answer it. – Call-and-response/antiphonal in nature. – Child being answered by adult? Voices separate in view by the end of poem? • Identical/repetitious structure in each stanza – ‘What’s that…?’/’It’s just…’ – Line 2 is identical in verses 1-4. – Until the last stanza, which varies structure of line 2/3 from declarative to sequential statement (‘Just…then…’) – sounds conclusive.
  • 7. Language • Simple, for the most part. • Repetitious/short words in lines 1, 2. • The present participle that names the flag’s movement in line one is gentle in sound; there is contrastive alliteration after this in each verse. • Each stanza names a different element of a military encampment: breeze, pole, tent, field – as if the first voice is surveying it. • Line 2, beginning ‘just’, is dismissive, qualifying in tone. • The word ‘cloth’ is heavy, deadening in tone, and is repeated once in each verse and twice in the last verse. This repetition empties out its meaning, undermines its significance. • Line 3 in each stanza introduce a more abstract idea: nations, guts, cowards, blood, conscience. • Lines 3 in each stanza can also be seen as becoming more particular: nations, men, cowards – then, in the last two verses ‘you’ and ‘your’.
  • 8. Biography of poet • John Agard was born in Guyana in 1949. • He moved to Britain in 1977. He lives in Sussex now. • He has published many books of poetry on many themes. • A number of his poems are about identity. • John Agard performing this poem: http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/clips/zn4hfg8 • You’ll note that he uses what some would call a slightly exaggerated accent, to stress the part of the world he hails from. • However, ‘Flag’ doesn’t use dialect (the language and inflections of a particular region), unlike some of his other poems.
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