At The Border, 1979

At The Border, 1979
LO) To explore how Hardi uses
narrative structure to explore her
relationship with her home country.
Choman Hardi
Hardi is Kurdish – the ‘Kurds’ have their own language, culture
and traditions, which stretch back thousands of years, but they
live in 5 different countries: Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and
Armenia. So, they exist as a people, an ethnic group, but do not
have their own country.
Hardi was born in Iraq 1974. Her family moved to Iran in 1975
but returned to Iraq in 1979.
1. Why did Iraq go to war with Iran? 1980 - 1988
2. 1988 chemical weapons attack on the Kurds
3. The full effect of chemical weapons
4. Now at the Iraq/ Iran border.
Her family fled from Iraq back to Iran in 1988 in an attempt to
escape the devastating effect of chemical weapons.
A reading
• At The Border,1979
• What relationships are discussed in the poem?
(These might not all be between humans!)
• Use evidence from the text to support your
mark draws a
emphasis to
the line,
the nature of
the change.
Use of the word ‘last’
suggests an ending; the
border is not only a
border between countries
but a border between
different stages of life.
The 'last check-in point' can be
interpreted as the last point of a
certain way of life, the poets life
will change at this point.
“It is your last check-in point in this The verb
We grabbed a drinkdesperation; in
this case, 'the
soon everything would taste different. drink' is a
symbol of
The land under our feet continued
therefore, the
tone here is
divided by a thick iron chain.
one of
My sister put her leg across it.
yearning for
End stop reflects significance/
danger of crossing a threshold
amongst a
Single line stanza + enjambment
changing life.
elongates the sentence, evoking a
significant image,
pondering tone - apt, considering
strong and firm
the poignant nature of the poem.
This sentence is divided into
three lines; this mirrors the
separation and division in the
mind of our protagonist and
his sister.
“Look over here,” she said to us,
“my right leg is in this country
and my left leg in the other”.
The border guards told her off.
Contrasts the childish innocence of the sister with the
officiousness of the guards,
drawing attention to the absurdity of the border in reality
the mother’s love of her home
is clear, but the reported
speech carries a hint of irony;
the poet doesn’t accept or
present this at face value
direct speech and italics emphasises
My mother informed me: We are going home.
She said that the roads are much cleaner
the landscape is more beautiful
and people are much kinder.
Repetition of comparatives (‘much cleaner’, ‘more beautiful’,
‘much kinder’) has the effect of undermining the mother’s
message, exposing it as opinion and prejudice
Builds a picture of crowds
undermines special
excitement of returning home;
in reality they are standing in
the rain
Dozens of families waited in the rain.
“I can inhale home,” somebody said.
Now our mothers were crying. I was five years old
standing by the check-in point
comparing both sides of the border.
‘home’ is symbolic – the ‘past’ is a
‘better place’. In reality is isn’t as they
were attacked in their birth place,
forcing them to exile
The negative tone throughout the
poem implies that the change is
enforced, not voluntary
the clear-sighted child compares the
two sides and sees the lack of
Links back to line 6 – that land
separation is manmade by borders.
Repetition of the word ’same’
shows that there is no real
difference between the two
The autumn soil continued on the other side
with the same colour, the same texture.
It rained on both sides of the chain.
We waited while our papers were checked,
our faces thoroughly inspected.
Suggests caution/ tension. Identity not
linked back to land but formal documents,
reflecting idea that identity is imposed (not
Double meaning (polysemic) nature
does not reflect devision, maybe
implying again, that separation of
the border is not natural, as nature
does not separate the land by
raining in one half and not the
finally the chain, the border, is removed
Repetition of ‘chain’ permeates negativity;
imposed restriction, entrapment, constraint.
Then the chain was removed to let us through.
A man bent down and kissed his muddy homeland.
The same chain of mountains encompasses all of us.
Also creates sense of
connection, through land and
The verb 'encompassing' can be
interpreted in two different ways. On
one hand, it implies security; safety; on
another, it implies entrapment and
Sense that they are all trapped by the land; like there’s no way out.
• The poem is about a child’s innocent perspective casting
doubt on the ridiculousness of the behaviour of adults and
the artificial nature of borders that cause so much conflict.
• What is the purpose and value of the border to which there
is so much significance and weight.
• The poem plays with ideas of:
– similarity and difference,
– continuity and division, asking whether it has any real physical
meaning on the ground, or if it exists purely as a concept, something
within people’s minds.
• Hardi ends the poem by seeing a different chain, the ‘same
chain of mountains’ which exists on both sides of the
border, and which holds everyone together rather than
keeping them apart. Man’s sketchy lines and chains are
made to seem trivial in comparison.
Key Points about Language, Structure
and Form
• ‘chain’ = effective: it represents and embodies the
border, but also implies that people are enslaved
by borders.
• Use of direct speech – allows Hardi to realistically
present and challenge a range of views
• The paradox of the land that ‘continued / divided’
is emphasised by the use of enjambment, which
forces the reader to reflect on what they are being
told to do.
Now over to you
This is a narrative poem, which tells the story,
often to prove a point.
Q. How does the poet use narrative to express
her views about her relationship to her
• How does it tell a story?
• What is her view of the relationship with the

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