Nichols uses words to create pictures of two places in ‘Island Man’ as she contrasts the Island Man’s dream of his homeland, a peaceful, idyllic Caribbean island with his reality of a new home in London. In contrast, Dharker sets her poem in one place in an Indian community where the ‘municipal pipe bursts.’ However, she also uses contrast to depict the place as being hot and dry with the temporary blessing of the water running free.
Whereas the tone in ‘Island Man’ is rather calm and peaceful as he is dreaming of his island and waking to ‘the sound of blue surf’, the tone in Blessing is rather excited and positive, almost celebratory as it describes how silver crashes to the ground / and the flow has found/a roar of tongues. Nichols uses alliteration or sibilance to create a smooth, soothing sound of the sea whereas Dharker uses rhyme to describe the rushing water. Despite the chaos that ensues, this makes it seem as if this was somehow meant to be and its unity reflects the unity of community in this place. Yet her tone at the beginning is rather serious as the direct statement, ‘There never is enough water’ reflects that this place is one of hardship and poverty due to the hot dry weather. In contrast, the tone at the end of ‘Island Man’ is dull and realistic as he awakes from his dream to, ‘Another London day.’
Both poems use third person narrative to create a distancing effect towards the places they consider. The Island Man is revisiting his home in a dream, which his itself another sort of place, as he is not remembering the reality of the poverty he experienced on the island buy rather the fact that he lived in the paradise of a ‘small emerald isle.’ This simile reflects that this place is precious to him because it is home. Also, it reflects the bright colour of the island that stands out in the sea despite its small size. Again a sense of community is developed as he pictures, ‘fishermen pushing out to sea’ that later contrasts with the ‘surge of wheels/to dull North Circular roar as strangers surround him on the North Circular. ‘Blessing’ also uses a simile to imply that it is a dry place where nothing ever grows, ‘The skin cracks like a pod.’ A pod stores food and cracks open to dispense it; however, the fact that it is skin being described shows that people are mal-nourished or experience under-developed growth due to the lack of water there.
The structure of ‘Island Man’ reflects and contrasts the fact that the Island Man is inhabiting two places at once: the island of his dreams and the reality of his ‘London day.’ In the middle he begins to drift into consciousness and thus the natural pictures of the island or projected onto London so there is ‘the grey metallic soar’ of cars rather than the ‘wild seabirds’ and the ‘steady breaking and wombing’ of the sea surrounding the island, like a baby in the womb, as this is his birth place, is replaced with ‘surge of wheels’ as he is now on a sort of island in the middle of the North Circular.
The form of the poem reflects that he is beginning to wake in another time and place and his disorientation due to the time difference between the Caribbean and London:
‘he always comes back groggily groggily.’
The repeated words to show his awakening emphasise the struggle of having to leave one place for another and this is why the stand out. Also, ‘to surge of wheels’ is separated as it awakes him to the reality of living in polluted, cloudy London instead of the clean, sunny island. Thus, ‘Another London day’ is a broken line separated from the rest to show his separation from his home.
Blessing is a rather ordered, long-shaped poem and this form reflects the flow of the water. The statement of the dryness of the place is separated from the rest of the poem as is the imaginings of water and then the crisis of the pipe bursting. The first and last stanzas / verses are linked as they reinforce the temporary ‘blessing’ of having water running through the place and the fact that the people and place are under-developed as the last line states:
‘as the blessing sings
Over their small bones.’
The personified and holy water sort of blesses or baptises the water yet the heat of the place is still emphasised with the fact they are ‘screaming in the liquid sun’ which suggests pain at living in such a hot place. Yet this negative aspect is overridden by the fact that the water is called a blessing; it is like a reprieve from suffering for the impoverished community.
In conclusion, the two poems create effective mental pictures to describe the places by using contrasting visual imagery as ‘Blessing’ mixes hot and dry and ‘Island Man’ clean and polluted, exotic and dull places. Both personify the key aspects of the places in that given moment such as the ‘defiant sun’ that replaces dull London and the ‘liquid sun’ as the blessing has triumphed and managed to cool the Indian village for a while, as eventually the liquid Sun will equally triumph to make the village dry again. Both poems describe the best aspects of the places: Island Man is very nostalgic whereas Blessing celebrates a present moment where people are enjoying something that we have everyday as a religious ceremony or a blessing that unites a community in celebration.