Search for My Tongue

Search for My Tongue

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What kind of poem is it?

'Search for My Tongue' is a personal, emotional poem about language and identity. The use of the personal pronoun "I" suggests it is about her own experience. Identity is important in the poem as her fears of losing her first language are about a key part of what makes her who she is.

Metaphors and ideas

The poem uses the tongue in your mouth as a metaphor to explore the idea of having both your mother tongue and a second language:

"I ask you, what would you do
if you had two tongues in your mouth."

This quotation emphasises that, for the writer, being able to speak two languages has led to difficulties. "I ask you" involves the reader in her situation, making the reader empathise with Bhatt about speaking a foreign language so much that she fears she is losing her mother tongue.

The metaphor of two tongues, her mother tongue and the second language, is extended throughout the poem and relates to the themes of possible death and rebirth of her language.

The development of the poem

The poem moves from explaining what it's like to lose your mother tongue:

"your mother tongue would rot,
rot and die in your mouth
until you had to spit it out"

to showing the joy of rediscovering it, saying:

"it grows back...
the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth,
it pushes the other tongue aside."

The repetition of the word "rot" in the first quotation accentuates the negative feelings of the speaker while "spit it out" creates a powerful image of someone disposing of something disgusting. Images of regrowth in the second quotation suggest something familiar and secure returning.

The tone of the poem

The narrator moves from initial feelings of grief and loss:

"your mother tongue would rot,
rot and die in your mouth..."

to feeling joy in her own language:

"it ties the other tongue in knots
the bud opens ...
it pushes the other tongue aside."

Here it seems that she is joyous that her mother tongue returns and becomes strong again. The speaker also uses the word "blossom" to describe the first language returning, conveying a happier tone.

Poetic techniques

Repetition of certain words such as 'tongue', 'grows', 'bud' and 'mouth' works powerfully to emphasise the ideas of the poem:

"it grows back, a stump of a shoot
grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins..."

The repetition of "grows" emphasises the idea of a new beginning, a new life. Describing the different stages of growth creates a positive image of rebirth in the reader's mind, conveying the idea that the speaker's first language returns slowly when she did not think it would.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Search for My Tongue." 21 Jan 2020

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