Annotate poem


You will then read the attached analysis and add information from it to your annotations of the poem.

(Add annotations to the poem after reading the analysis.)

“The Wedding” by Moniza Alvi

I expected a quiet wedding

high above a lost city

a marriage to balance on my head

like a forest of sticks, a pot of water.

The ceremony tasted of nothing 5

had little color – guests arrived

stealthy as sandalwood smugglers.

When they opened their suitcases

England spilled out.

They scratched at my veil 10

like beggars on a car window.

I insisted my dowry was simple-

a smile, a shadow, a whisper,

my house an incredible structure

of stiffened rags and bamboo. 15

We traveled around roads with English

names, my bridegroom and I.

Our eyes changed color

like traffic-lights, so they said.

The time was not ripe 20

for us to view each other.

We stared straight ahead as if

we could see through mountains

breathe life into new cities.

I wanted to marry a country 25

take up a river for a veil

sing in the Jinnah Gardens

hold up my dream, tricky

as a snake-charmer’s snake.


“The Wedding” by Moniza Alvi from Songs of Ourselves, HSC, English Literature for CIE

The poem tells of the dreams of a bride but it is not a wedding. It is a migration, that is a marriage of two cultures when the migrator leaves his homeland for a host country. The audience undergoes a parody of a bland marriage,while it is a sorrowful tale of a couple departing from a country which does ñot resonate with their ambitions. They choose to follow their dreams, at the expense of losing their cultural imprint. This emotion does not only desolate them but also shatters the moment when they are leaving.

Moniza Alvi is herself someone who has experienced such a migratory turmoil. She was only a few months old, when she was uprooted to Britain by her Pakistani father and British mother. Though bred and educated in England, Alvi has always carried the burden of duality of cultures,nationalities and ways of perceiving life.

She knows that her wedding will be very boring as this is how she finds quiet to be. The ceremony has been as burdensome as carrying a forest of sticks and a pot of water simultaneously. She suffers. She lives in a city that is not hers, hence she calls it ‘a lost city’. Alvi also plays with the words marriage and wedding, contrasting her feelings, that is her feelings are not connected to her dreams. There is no balance, though she is expected to maintain the link between her life now in London and what her aspirations have been.

The ceremony has been bland and bleak. It ‘tasted of nothing,had little colour’ suggest how this bride is lamenting of the cultural values which are absent in one of the most important celebrations of her life. Indeed, in the Pakistani culture, a wedding is not about two individuals being together but also two families and backgrounds intertwining in a new relationship. The colours accompany the myriads of rites which embellish the ceremony. Likewise, the taste is not only found in the food but also in the sweetness of the ceremony. A wedding is pregnant of expectations which bind the spouses,their families and traditions which have been prevailing in the country.

The guests arrived stealthy as sandalwood smugglers : this clearly indicates the lack of lustre and merriment in the celebrations. Guests are being compared to smugglers, meaning they are not hailing the atmosphere nor enjoying the moment as it is usually done during a wedding. On the contrary, the comparison made indicates the shady atmosphere ruling the ceremony as well as how the poet is condemning her present backdrop as being her culprit. Her current homeland lacks the joy she has experienced from her country of origin.

England spilled out: bears testimony that the guests have now been transformed into non-Pakistani entities, who are totally separated from their birth traditions and who have neglected their cultural being to embrace their host country’s values. The poet feels betrayed.

The guests have been quite impolite in imposing their gaze on her. She is supposed to be coy and secluded from everbody’s gaze. However, at her wedding the guests have been at her, peering at her, without allowing her the bride’s space and shyness. She suffers.

She speaks of dowry, an essential Pakistani traditionalist custom, which is very much condemned. Her dowry however is the memories she brings with her from Britain. She longs to relive some moments spent in Pakistan, yet she remembers her life in dire poverty, of rags and bamboo. The audience is reminded that the poet leaves Pakistan for a better future in England. However, she cries over what she leaves behind.

With her husband, she is now settled in England. She is goes on British roads, and accentuates on the difference as the roads have English names. She remembers the local Pakistani roads.

Both are impressed with their new surroundings. They need to get adapted, which will delay them getting to know eavh other. The time was not ripe for us to view each other signifies first they have to be settled with Britain,the British culture, the British way of living and most importantly, retain their cultural identity for the spouses to blen in each other. The new country can bring out differences rather than compatibilities.



She expects to finds similarities between her country of origin and her host country through nature. She wants nature to act as a balm to her agonies because she finds overwhelming to accept and indulge in so many changes.

She has never thought of leaving her home country and agonises herself for doing so. She is suffering.

hold up my dreams,tricky as a snake-charmer’s snake: the poet accepts that her dreams are like the snake and she is the snake-charmer. If she is suffering now, it is because she has been too ambitious and has rejected the capability of Pakistan to fulfill her dreams. She is paying a heavy price for dreaming. Her distress lies how she looks down upon Pakistan and yet she is at the very moment weeping for having left Pakistan.

Still under the impact of her decision, she faces her husband who is as devastated as she is. The word turbulence showcases how difficult it is for them to adapt here and forget there.

imprints like maps on our hands: they are the writers of their fate and will suffer as they cannot revert into going back. Now, they will have to live with missing their country of origin.

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