Imtiaz Dharker: This Room
This is a quite puzzling poem, if we try to find an explicit and exact interpretation - but its general meaning is clear enough: Imtiaz Dharker sees rooms and furniture as possibly limiting or imprisoning one, but when change comes, it as if the room “is breaking out of itself”. She presents this rather literally, with a bizarre or surreal vision of room, bed and chairs breaking out of the house and rising up - the chairs “crashing through clouds”. The crockery, meanwhile, crashes together noisily “in celebration”. And why is no one “looking for the door”? Presumably, because there are now so many different ways of leaving the room, without using the conventional route.
One’s sense of self is also confused - we say sometimes that we are all over the place, and Ms. Dharker depicts this literally, as well - she cannot find her feet (a common metaphor for gaining a sense of purpose or certainty) and realizes that her hands are not even in the same room - and have taken on a life of their own, applauding from somewhere else.
We do not know the cause of this joyful explosion, but it seems to be bound up with personal happiness and fulfilment - it might be romantic love, but it could be other things: maternity, a new job, artistic achievement, almost anything that is genuinely and profoundly life-changing.
The central idea in this poem is that opportunities come our way, and we need to recognize them and react in the right way, “when the…furniture of our lives/stirs” and “the improbable arrives”.
The poem works very much like an animated film - the excited “pots and pans” suggest the episode in Disney’s Fantasia of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It is a succession of vivid and exuberant images, full of joy and excitement. (Even if one does not enjoy the poem, the reader might like to know what made the poet feel like this - and perhaps give it a try.)
In the poem our homes and possessions symbolize our lives and ambitions in a limiting sense, while change and new opportunities are likened to space, light and “empty air”, where there is an opportunity to move and grow. Like Walcott’s Love After Love it is about change and personal growth - but at an earlier point, or perhaps at repeated points in one’s lif
- What do you think the poet means by imagining a room breaking out of itself?
- How does the poet suggest ideas of change and opportunity?
- This is a very happy poem - how does Imtiaz Dharker suggest her joy in it?
- Does the poem give us any clues as to why this upheaval is going on, or is the cause unimportant? What do you think might have caused it?
- ·What is the effect of the images in the poem - of rooms, furniture and crockery bursting into life?