This study guide will help you analyze the poem “Remember the Ship” (1998) by John Agard. You can also find a summary of the poem, as well as ideas for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.
John Agard (b. 1949) is a playwright, poet, and children’s writer from Guyana who is currently living in London, in the UK. He has received several awards for his writing including the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2012.
Excerpt from the study guide:
In this way, the speaker aims to remind people that being a citizen of a country is tied to more than just the place where people were born. The speaker says that people who come from different places, such as immigrants sailing to Europe in ships, should also be allowed to be citizens.
Another instance of wordplay can be found in the eighth stanza:
I’m here to navigate -
with a whip of the past (ll. 19-21)
The “whip of the past” (l. 21) the speaker refers to can mean that he does not want to punish others, or himself, for past mistakes. Instead, he is looking to “navigate” and go to new places, and thus look at how the future can be different than the past. At the same time, the “whip of the past” can be an allusion to the way black people used to be punished and whipped when they were enslaved. With this reference in mind, the speaker could also be saying that he wants to navigate to a new future where race is no longer a reason to discriminate against people.