In ‘Immigration’ Iranian writer Ali Alizadeh taps into his own history with immigration. He and his family left his home of Iran after several years of public school in order to escape the unending war and in search of freer, more peaceful lives. Upon arrival in Australia, he was met with racism and the various struggles outlined in this poem.
Within ‘Immigration’ Alizadeh explores themes of religion, alienation, and acceptance. The mood varies greatly as the poet moves between celebrating escaping a war-torn country and analyzing the racism he felt in his new home.
Summary of Immigration
The poem takes the reader through an immigrant’s experience with the process of immigrating and becoming adjusted to a new country. There are massive pros that he lists out in detail in the first part of the poem. In the second, he taps into the other side of the experience. The cons are very present as well. One is alienated form their new home by everyone. No one, the high and mighty, or the commoner, is willing to accept them. But, he concludes, was it worth it? The answer is yes.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure of Immigration
‘Immigration’ by Ali Alizadeh is a forty-eight line poem that is separated into sets of two lines, known as couplets. These couplets do not follow a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. But, an initial glance at the text reveals that they are all around the same length. The lines are short, ranging from two words up to six and usually, one line in the couplet is longer than the other.
Poetic Techniques in Immigration
Alizadeh makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Immigration’. These include alliteration, anaphora, caesura, and enjambment. The first, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, “world’s” and “war” in line seven and “skin” and “speech” in lines twenty-five and twenty-six.
Caesura occurs when a line is split in half, sometimes with punctuation, sometimes not. The use of punctuation in these moments creates a very intentional pause in the text. A reader should consider how the pause influences the rhythm of one’s reading and how it might proceed with an important turn or transition in the text. There are examples throughout the poem. For instance, line nineteen that reads: “The price? I’ll tell you”.
Alizadeh also makes use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This technique is often used to create emphasis. A list of phrases, items, or actions may be created through its implementation. For example, “To” starts eleven of the lines and “of” start a number more.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. Alizadeh uses this technique throughout ‘Immigration’. For instance, in the transitions between lines two and three, as well as four and five.
Analysis of Immigration
I’ll tell you why.
from the world’s longest war
since WWII. To live
In the first lines of ‘Immigration,’ the speaker begins by listing out a number of poignant reasons why someone would move to another country. The first reason is split between the second and third lines, placing an additional emphasis on the phrase “to survive”. Added onto this is “survive / the onslaught of religion”.
Religion, and its oppressive nature, is one of the major themes of this work and comes up throughout the poem. It is ever-present and controlling, mentally and physically. The poet speaks of war, one that is the “world’s longest war / since WWII”. Alizadeh and his family immigrated from Iran, as mentioned in the introduction to this analysis.
beyond the hatreds
of patriotism. To see
without the obligation
of forming belief.
Continuing on into the next lines of ‘Immigration’, he speaks of how immigrants, particularly those leaving countries in the region he’s from, do so in order to see “beyond the hatreds /of patriotism”. There’s another way to live in the world and respect one’s country without using that patriotism to harm others.
The speaker was looking for the “kinder face of humanity” and to have his own thoughts, without the manacles of “Faith”. Here, religion comes back into the poem, exerts its possible powers again.
the basic joys of being.
of skin, a tone
of speech, a taste
The speaker immigrated so that he might have the opportunity to “discover / the basic joys of being”. To exist without fear and obligation, but, there is a “price” the world exacts from immigrants. It’s a very painful price, one that strikes at the heart in a different way than the oppression of the country one originated from.
Immigrants evaporate. They are “Marginalized to the point / of disappearance”. People are locked out of the societies they seek acceptance from for no other reason than their skin, speech, or taste. They are “Alienated” in a way that is impossible to describe or fully understand if one has not lived it.
of lifestyle. Alienated
beyond the word.
humanity’s fraudulent truth.
On all sides, the immigrants are opposed. They are ignored by those in a position of power and with the ability to help them. They are also “Detested” by the “commoner,” their fellow citizens.
But, the speaker asks in the next lines of ‘Immigration’, is it worth it? Yes. He answers, it is worth it. It’s possible in this new world, despite its challenges, to “dream / the sweetness of equality” when it wasn’t in the past.
the sweetness of equality.
To see past
Only to loathsome enemies
and to my dearest friends.
Immigration, and the position that it puts one in when they move to their new home, is a double-edged sword. It’s painful to the point of misery but its also a relief from a world that was, in a different way, much worse. There are optimistic moments and pessimistic ones. The speaker asks in the last lines if he’d recommend it. Their answer is yes. To everyone, their dearest friends and their loathsome enemies, that is how troubling and emotional the situation is.