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SENTENCES

After allowing you into some major points related to Patience Agbabi both as writer and a poet,
it is now time to analyze the chosen poem, in this case, the poem named Sentences. It comes from
Agbabis first collection of poetry, called R.A.W., which is, at the same time, source we got it from,
published in 1995. First of all, some formal elements of the poem, such as its structure and language
used, shall be mentioned; this will be followed by poem analysis, dealing mostly with the message it
sends, i.e. its meaning and purpose.

When it comes to structure, it is important to say that the poem consists of 15 stanzas that are
not separated punctually - neither are lines, as a matter of fact - and it is written in free verse (it starts
with 11-lines-stanza, the next one has only 2 lines, the one after it has 7 lines, then 2 lines again, then 9
lines etc.). One line does not end where sentence ends, but lines continue making a sort of a narrative
within a poem. The last line stands out by way of what it contains, since it is the speakers overall
conclusion to the poem. Altogether, this makes the rhythm of the poem quite inconsistent and if we
were to sketch it, it would look like a curve with sudden ups and downs, as shown below. Strictly
speaking, when positive events occur, rhythm is more dynamic; on the other hand, it declines in
strength as marriage starts to wear off. In other words, the stronger the emotion, the faster the rhythm
is.


Another important element is rhyme, which is generally irregular, but still exists to some extent.
For example, the rhyme pattern in the first stanza is abcdaccecfc, while in the third stanza the pattern is
abcadea. It is, however, interesting that stanzas containing only two lines have a regular aa rhyme. Not
unintentionally, there is a similar pattern of words used and rhyme made throughout the poem, so some
of the words that rhyme the most are alright - night- bright - right or life - wife - knife.

Sentences is a song that does not contain many figures of speech, since its narrative form and
rather simple manner of writing already offers more than a reader expects to get from a poem. It does,
however, contain few personifications such as "love is beginning to die" or "the wedding camera lied".
Nevertheless, quite an interesting thing to mention is syntactic ambiguity that could lead either to
personification or an ordinary premodification: "married life" and "shy date" - if the life is married and
the date is shy, again we are talking about a personification. Similarly, quite prominent is the repetition
of not only some words, as mentioned above, but also the repetition of whole phrases, such as: "I now
pronounce you man and wife", "And he comes home pissed from the pub one night" or "The ring
shines bright on the finger", which is employed as constant reminder and gives even louder fortitude to
the rhythm.

Finally, the language used is sometimes rather informal. More precisely, the author uses
contractions and even some slang expressions are included into the poem to emphasize how unbearable
the situation ended up. What is even more interesting is that the poet uses some somewhat offensive
words such as "bitch" or "pissed off", which is something that is not said to be typical of the traditional
poetry writing style; luckily enough, it is the 21
st
century and poets are strongly encouraged to express
themselves whichever way they want to.

As far as its content is concerned, one could say that the poem reflects conditions and
deprivations which affected social minorities during the Conservative governments of Margaret
Thatcher and John Major, and clearly the author herself. More precisely, the poem deals with the
treatment, or, - shall I say, mistreatment - of a woman by her husband, and their falling out of love with
each other, which gradually leads to the feeling of hatred and repulsion. From the first stanza, Agbabi
emphasizes that marriage is merely a patriarchal institution - the man "may kiss the bride" as "for him
to kiss her it is his right". Later we find out that the unnamed wife of the poem is "expecting a baby,
their love is complete". All these symbols - marriage, kiss and child - seem to be the norm: a woman is
supposed to get married, have kids and please the husband. However, Agbabi treats them with the irony
they clearly deserve, being motifs employed by the man to bring about the illusion of a happy
relationship; even the baby is just another milestone to be reached as a signifier of the mans success,
not as something woman accomplished.

In the third stanza, Agbabi writes that the husband "slaps her a bit to keep her quiet" because
"he hates to be questioned about his life". In other words, his desire for privacy highlights that this
whole marriage is just a status symbol, as he prefers to spend his time away from her, away from home,
which in turn reveals that he is repressing his unhappiness within the marriage or more precisely, this
shows his lack of braveness to confront the fact that their marriage is just a big fat lie. This inability to
do something about it, the lack of strength causes his bad temper, which gradually develops into
violence, culminating when he rapes her. He starts calling her "bitch", declaring "Im a man and youre
my wife", which obviously suggests that the man has no respect for his wife, and feels that it is
acceptable to inflict the desires of his sexual appetite upon her - it is her "job" to support him in
whatever decision he makes and to be in the mood to please him whenever he wants to. However,
generally speaking, this is a reflection of how society is male-dominated, seeing men as intrinsically
above women and thus allowing them to treat them however they want.

Unlike in most cases of domestic violence, however, the wife asks the police to help her with
her extremely violent husband. As usual, the police "took him in but they sympathised with him", and
hence he is not prosecuted. Her choice of word is quite interesting here, since the specific use of the
word "sympathised" implies that the police actually identify with the husbands position. This does
suggest, somewhat controversially, that not only all police officers are men, but also that all men would
side with their own gender despite the levels of cruelty being depicted. However, Agbabis aim here
was probably to highlight the corruption within authoritative positions in Britain under the
Conservative government, which sees woman as a minority group having less or no value at all.