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Jesse Poon Year 12 English Advanced

Belonging Essay Skrzynecki Poems


The search for identity is the key concept that lies at the heart of belonging. A strong sense of identity is often formed through belonging. However, when our cultural identity is marginalized, we feel dislocated and displaced and believe that we do not belong to either our culture or the dominant culture. Peter Skrzyneckis poems offer an insight into these ideas and, during the personas search for identity, we discover that confrontation of your past and cultural heritage is needed in order to establish a strong sense of identity, language fosters a sense of belonging, and shared experiences can also lead to a collective sense of belonging and similar cultural identity. Furthermore, it can also be argued that an individual may not be able to choose certain aspects of their identity. These ideas of identity and belonging are explored extensively in Skrzyneckis poems, in particular, Migrant Hostel, Postcard, Ancestors and Feliks Skrzynecki. In order to fully establish a strong sense of identity one must come to terms with their heritage. By acknowledging your heritage, it also links you to your past, especially your ancestors, giving an individual a sense of security about their cultural identity. On the other hand, a lack of connection to your past and your ancestors can lead to feelings of displacement and foster insecurities about ones identity. In Ancestors, five rhetorical questions are used to structure the poem. By questioning his ancestors the persona has expressed self-doubt and is insecure about his heritage. As a result, he also questions his own identity, showing that the personas lack of belonging to his ancestors has led to a lack of confidence in his own identity. This idea is furthermore explored through the image of faceless men in the first stanza. The persona cant seem recognise or connect with his ancestors and therefore cannot identify with them. Similar themes are also explored in the poem Postcard. Initially, a tone of dismissal is established, as the persona doesnt feel any connection to the postcard of Warsaw and only identifies with universal aspects such as High-rise flats and something, its concrete pylons and The skys the brightest shade. He initially tries to distance himself from his cultural heritage through the use of imperative speech, which leads to the persona questioning his own position in part two Whats my choice/To be? However, the poems shift in tone to a more haunting one represents the poets confrontation to his cultural heritage. He hears The voices/Of red gables/And a cloudless sky, showing that he is finally addressing the postcard and coming to terms with his Polish heritage. As a result, the persona has acknowledged and accepted his cultural heritage and could only do so after he established a sense of belonging to his country of origin. Language can also foster a sense of belonging and therefore reinforce a strong sense of cultural identity. It is through language that an individual can communicate to others of similar cultural identity. In the poem Migrant Hostel, Skrzynecki discovered that those with the same nationality seemed to sought/Each other out instinctively. He compares this to a homing pigeon/Circling to get its bearings, showing that although everyone in this migrant hostel is of different nationality, those of similar ones seem to stick together due to the ability to communicate through language. As a result, a sense of belonging is established through cultural identity. On the other hand, an individual may choose not to belong to a dominant culture by choosing not to learn the language. In Feliks Skrzynecki, the personas father doesnt feel the need to belong to the English culture by not learning the English language. This is evoked through the use of direct speech at the end of stanza five, Did your father ever attempt to learn English?. Instead, the personas father has found a sense of belonging in his garden and doesnt feel the need to belong to the dominant culture. Therefore, it can be concluded that

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Jesse Poon Year 12 English Advanced

language can be used to both foster a sense of belonging or may be used ostracise an individual from being part of a certain society. However both reinforce ones cultural identity whether it may be choosing to be a part of or excluding a certain culture from being a part of their identity. Common experiences can lead to a collective sense of belonging and therefore similar identity. Shared experiences often help an individual empathise and relate to others, which helps to create a rapport within a community. In Postcard, a collective sense of belonging is expressed through the use of the personal pronoun They. The personas family seem to connect through the memories of their past shared experiences. Furthermore, the personal pronoun also excludes the persona himself from feeling the same sense of belonging his family do. This is because he hasnt experienced the same events as the rest of his family and therefore cannot relate to their experiences. As a result, his cultural identity is not the same as that of his parents. A patriotic tone is also established through reference of the Polish coat of arms, And drink to freedom/Under the White Eagles flag. This shows that it is through his familys shared experiences can they relate to each other and as a result, develop similar cultural identities. A similar theme is also seen in Feliks Skrzynecki where, in the third stanza, the same personal pronouns are used to create the same effect. The persona also lists the many experiences his family has shared, creating a nostalgic and reminiscent tone. It is through these shared experiences displayed in both poems that the personas family has developed a collective sense of belonging and, as a result, created a similar cultural identity to each other. Corresponding themes are again seen in Migrant Hostel, where the personas family finds belonging through memories of hunger and hate. The emotive line expresses the anger that connects these people and therefore the common experiences shared. For that reason, it can be concluded that there is a distinct link between belonging through shared experiences and identity. As a result, identity can be formed through different types of belonging, whether it may be through confrontation of your cultural heritage, language or common experiences. Belonging can help reinforce ones own sense of identity, whilst not belonging can lead to an individual not being part of a certain group yet still reinforcing their sense of identity. Belonging may emerge from strong sense of identity, however identity may also emerge from belonging. All ideas are expressed through Skrzyneckis poems, in particular Postcard, Migrant Hostel, Ancestors, and Feliks Skrzynecki. It can therefore be concluded that there is a direct link between belonging and identity, which shows that the search for identity is a key concept that lies at the heart of belonging.

Word Count: 1120

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