Is John Agard’s poem ‘Flag’ set out like a flag?

Errrrr….. no!

This is precisely what I’m fighting against! Is it set out like a flag? I guess you could say so. It’s flat down the left side. Mind you, so are most poems. Are they about flags too? Rubbish!

Maybe it’s set out like a pennant?

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Err…. NO! Hardly any countries have a non-rectangular flag. Two have square flags and only Nepal has a pennant flag. And it looks like this:

Most are rectangular, like this:

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

You might as well say that the poem looks like lava, looks like waves, looks like a weird vase on its side. What IS this preoccupation with saying a poem looks like something else?!

And where did I read this? In a Hodder Education revision guide. Note to kids: don’t believe everything you read. And if you write that this poem looks like a flag, I will cry. This is why I only trust my own word on things 😦

Dear Lord of English teachers, give me strength.

Does it look like a flag fluttering in the breeze? Only as much as most poems do. Did Agard WANT it to look like a flag? Not unless he’s never seen a flag before. Does he write concrete poetry like Herbert and Edwin Morgan. No. Please think before you take statements like this into the exam room, and please read my post on Flag which I hope is based much more on sensible things to say.

If you want to read more about the AQA poetry anthology contemporary poetry, you can find my ebook here. Remember, you don’t need a kindle or e-reader to read it; just download the ‘Kindle for PC’ software. If you want an hour’s lesson with me (or even half an hour!) you can find all my details on my website. One hour via skype is £10.00 only! By the end, I promise you will OWN the poems!!

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3 thoughts on “Is John Agard’s poem ‘Flag’ set out like a flag?

  1. Pingback: Russia, milkmaids and pipers | Lady Justine's Blog

  2. What if it’s one of those flags on two posts being seen from the side? Remember that anything is right as long as it can be backed up in english!

    • So how would you back that up then? 🙂 Have you evidence John Agard meant that it was a two-posted flagpole? Of course, I have no evidence that he DIDN’T mean that but I would argue that if you have to turn a poem on its side, you’re doing something wrong, since there are very few examples of any concrete poetry that do this – and none of John Agard’s (though he has written some concrete poetry). I’d also say that since no national flag requires two poles on purpose (though there are sometimes two flags on one pole) that it is an unlikely response. Finally, if that’s all you can say about the form and structure, well… knowing some more about poetry would definitely help!! You’ve got to go with what’s sensible and likely and not speculate about what the poet meant, but more what it means to you. So, you can’t say ‘John Agard meant XXXXX’ unless you know for sure but you can say ‘it reminds ME of a flag because XXXXXX’. In all honesty, though, steer clear of flag-comparisons! There’s much more important stuff to focus on in this poem.

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