Having a Word (by Benjamin Zephaniah)

        Having a Word
        I have learnt that equality
        May not mean freedom,
        And freedom
        May not mean liberation,
        You can vote my friend
        And have no democracy.
        Being together dear neighbour
        May not mean unity,
        Your oppressors may give you chances
        But no opportunities,
        And the state that you are in
        May have its state security
        Yet you may be stateless
        Without protection.
        You my friend do not have to follow your leader.
        The government does not have to govern you,
        I’m telling you Mom, you are greater than the law
        If you are just when the law is not.
        You see, once you are aware that new Labour
        Does not care for the old workers
        You may also know that change
        May not mean revolution,
        Once you realise that old conservatives
        Are running out of things to conserve
        You may also know that all politicians suck the same.
        Babylon must burn,
        Burn Babylon, burn.
        Politics is like dis
        Life is like dis.
        Intelligence may not mean intelligent,
        The news may not be new.
        From where we are
        To be awake
        May not mean
        To be conscious.

Neighbours

I am the type you are supposed to fear
Black and foreign
Big and dreadlocks
An uneducated grass eater.

I talk in tongues
I chant at night
I appear anywhere,
I sleep with lions
And when the moon gets me
I am a Wailer.

I am moving in
Next door to you
So you can get to know me,
You will see my shadow
In the bathroom window,
My aromas will occupy
Your space,
Our ball will be in your court.
How will you feel?

You should feel good
You have been chosen.

I am the type you are supposed to love
Dark and mysterious
Tall and natural
Thinking, tea total.
I talk in schools
I sing on TV
I am in the papers,
I keep cool cats

And when the sun is shining
I go Carnival.

After reading the two poems, read this article about the writer:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/jul/04/benjamin-zephaniah-family-values

-What parts of the interview are reflected on the poems?

-What are the themes of these two poems?

-Who´s the voice?

-Having a word: what is the message of the poem? Explain the last 4 lines.

-Neighbours: What is the voice trying to tell us?

-Write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the two poems using quotations from the poems and the article.

 

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6 Responses to Having a Word (by Benjamin Zephaniah)

  1. Pilar Olaizola, Agustina subira says:

    -What parts of the interview are reflected on the poems?
    -What are the themes of these two poems?
    -Who´s the voice?
    -Having a word: what is the message of the poem? Explain the last 4 lines.
    -Neighbours: What is the voice trying to tell us?
    -Write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the two poems using quotations from the poems and the article.
    1) The parts of the interview that are reflected on the poems, are when he explains how rough was his life, and his childhood. And the humble place he comes from and the fact that he felt part of America. Also, when he talks about racism; when his cousin died in hands of the police.
    2) In the poem “having a word” the themes are: human rights, present world, vulnerability trough injustice. And in “Neighbours” the theme is: racism, discrimination.
    3) The voice in the first poem is a man, who felt that this world has a lot of injustice, and that the ones who are supposed to protect us, politicians for example, are corrupt and are not able to make their jobs. And they end damaging us. The voice in the second poem, is also a man that felts rejected by society, specifically by the colour of his skin. He even describes himself as a “An uneducated grass eater”, even though he has respect of himself, since in the last stanza he states that society is wrong and he should be admired.
    4) The last for lines of this poem, allude to the fact that society is blind, in the sense that even that they are with their eyes open, they are not conscious. They do not know what they are doing, deep in themselves. This metaphor states how masses are easily influenced between them, and sometimes misjudge and misunderstand.
    5) In “Neighbours” the voice is trying to tell us, that the man who is feared and rejected by society, in fact he should be admired and highly respect;” I am the type you are supposed to love” , “Tall and natural. Thinking, tea total.”. This shows how mistaken can society be, since they appreciate more the superficial things, like clothes and the color of the skin, rather than the essence of the person.
    6)
    On the one hand, the two poems of Benjamin Zephaniah have the same voice and try to give the same message. Both poems talk about discrimination and injustice in the present world, and how this two themes are put in society and many people suffer because of this. This shows that the present world is a world full of discrimination, and that not every word represents what it has to represent “I have learnt that equality may not mean freedom” and he makes a self-reflection how is the world through his eyes.
    On the other hand, both poems are different, they want to give a different message. Because one shows how cruel reality is and the other shows this but gives an emotional message, saying that being black is great and that we do not have to care on what people say and think about us only because of our color “ You should feel good
    You have been chosen” by these lines we can see that he wanted to encourage himself showing that he is a valuable person.

    Pilar Olaizola
    Agustina Subirá

  2. MIGUENS AND LAFUENTE says:

    CONTRASTING PARAGRAPH
    In Having a Word, the author shows anger towards the word, but in Neighbors the author wants to teach us a moral lesson, he wants to put across the message of equality, of the conception of human as equal, not depending on their characteristics. ‘You may also know that all politicians suck the same’ he is angry with reality, he wants to open people’s eyes, the poem has a purpose and is to leave a message to the society to encourage a change but Neighbors wants to teach a moral lesson ‘You should feel good You have been chosen.I am the type you are supposed to love’.
    In the article, also Zephaniah points to the objective of change, but taking into account reality, the fact that immigrants is not the same that in previous generations, he is British and he feels British, and he wants to act and encourage change ‘Their attitude was that we were guests in this country and we should be grateful and not cause trouble, but I am not a guest here – I was born here’
    Furthermore, both poems show that there is something to change in the world and in society, the poem ‘Neighbors’ aim to society and ´Having a Word’ aims to the society but taking into account their relationship with the political life of the country.

  3. Tomas Burgio y Alejo Zubizarreta says:

    -What parts of the interview are reflected on the poems? In the interview we can see Benjamin firmly believes in equality and is a very positive person, This is also reflected in both his poems, both talk about equality

    -What are the themes of these two poems? “Having a word” says that not everything is what it seems and that you dont have to believe blindly in the government. “Neighbours” says that he should not be discriminated (specially by his neighbours) for just being “Black and foreign Big and dreadlocks” but he should be enjoyed.

    -Who´s the voice? -Having a word: what is the message of the poem? Explain the last 4 lines. The message of the poem is that everything is not as it seems, The last 4 lines mean that even though that we are alive or here right now we might not be concious or be aware of what is really going on.

    -Neighbours: What is the voice trying to tell us?
    That people should look past colour and to stop descriminating, to not judge a book by its cover because looks can give the wrong illusion.

    -Having a word: what is the message of the poem? Explain the last 4 lines.
    The message of the poem is that everything is not as it seems, The last 4 lines mean that even though that we are alive or here right now we might not be concious or be aware of what is really going on.

    -Write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the two poems using quotations from the poems and the article.
    Contrasting “Having a word” and “Neighbours” from Benjamin Zephaniah: Both poems talk about equalty and justice, but they talk in other way. Having a word tries to show the reallity of the world that not everything what is said is true and that not everything is what it seems : “The government does not have to govern you,
    I’m telling you Mom, you are greater than the law”. Neighbour says that he should not be discriminated by what he seems “Black and foreign Big and dreadlocks” but he should be accepted and people should be grated to be with him.

  4. MIGUENS AND LAFUENTE says:

    -In the poems, is reflected the fact of racism and the feeling of not belonging. Zephaniah is a son of Jamaicans but he feels the British belonging. Also in the poems we can see the need that is expressed of changing and intervene, and in the article he expresses that he wants action and does not want no be as his parents that could not intervene because they were not part of that place, he feels British.
    – Reality, Today´s World, Racism, The feeling of belonging
    -The voice is a man that describes his life and expresses his feelings of belonging to a place, he wants to change the attitude of immigrants, because he feels British.
    -The message of the poem is to be awake, to participate in life, in government and to know where and how we are.We need to open our eyes and act.
    -The voice is trying to tell us that we should open our minds and do not prejudge without knowing someone.

  5. Lucas G & Tomas L says:

    -What parts of the interview are reflected on the poems?
    In the poems he talks about prejudice and discrimination, while in the interview we find that the he explains how he was and is, forming part of a good place inside the society.
    -What are the themes of these two poems?
    The themes on these two poems are: discrimination, prejudice, inequality.
    -Who´s the voice?
    The voice in these two poems is the whole black society, complaining about how they are treated.
    -Having a word: what is the message of the poem? Explain the last 4 lines.
    The message of this poem is that not everything is what it seems to be, and that sometimes something may mean the exact same opposite. What the 4 last lines say is that, in a society where nothing is what it seems to be, that’s why he says that being awake may not necessarily mean being conscious.
    -Neighbors: What is the voice trying to tell us?
    The voice is trying to change people’s mind about him, because he feels that people prejudice him thinking he is someone bad, and in the end of the poem he explains what he does, that he is a good, fun person
    -Write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the two poems using quotations from the poems and the article.
    Both poems are very similar on their message, but as regards content each one is differently characterized. Neighbors is a poem that transmits discrimination, prejudice and hate over black people by a typical racist family that has this odd idea about their culture, given by movies or some source of misleading information. ‘’ I talk in tongues I chant at night
    I appear anywhere, I sleep with lions’’. On the other hand we have ‘’having a word’’. This poem transmits some kind of empathy. We, by imageries, understand what he felt. How the government miss treats their society and culture, how they are seen on a wrong way and somehow hated. ‘’I have learnt that equality May not mean freedom, and freedom May not mean liberation,’’ This is how a black person must learn about their ‘’musts’’. Discrimination is among Zephaniahs poetry, but is easily seen how they differ.

  6. Greta Matienzo, Serena Griffin says:

    1) On the poem there are reflected his thoughts about racism, about leaving people defend their rights, and about his great relation with her mother.
    2) The themes of this two poems are prejudice and racism.
    3) Benjamin Zephaniah.
    4) That not everything is what it seems to be. In the last 4 lines he talks about people who are awake but do not realize what is going on in the world.
    5) That he want to have a relationship with the white, and has no prejudice against them.

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