Noah’s Flood by Amal Dunqul

Within ‘Noah’s Flood’ Dunqul depict the destruction of a city and the efforts of a select few who try to save it from the flood. There are themes of religion and loss present throughout ‘Noah’s Flood,’ but even more important is the commentary on the contemporary world. 

The city is nameless, as are the youths, and the speaker, who try to save it. A reader should consider the bravery of those who stayed behind, the battle these young people engaged in, and what the poet might be trying to say about the modern world and attempts to save towns, cities, regions and whole countries from other metaphorical waves, related to political and social change. 

 

Summary of Noah’s Flood

‘Noah’s Flood’ by Amal Dunqul is a dynamic contemporary depiction of the story of the Great Flood, and attempts to save a city. 

The poet takes the reader through a series of destructive images. At first, the flood is overwhelming a city on a very general level, but also, even more dramatically on a smaller one. Everything this speaker knows is being consumed but rather than climb on board the ship like the “sword bearer” and “tax collector” he decides to say. He’s going to fight for his homeland and do what he can to stem the flow of water. It is a fruitless fight but one that he’s willing to lose his life for. 

You can read the full poem here.

 

Structure of Noah’s Flood 

‘Noah’s Flood’ by Amal Dunqul is a sixty-three line poem that’s contained within one stanza of text. The lines do not conform to a specific rhyme scheme nor do they follow a metrical pattern. They vary greatly in length with numerous containing only one word and others stretching to around eleven. 

Upon first glancing at this piece a reader will be struck by the use of single-word lines. These extremely short lines, which create a list of sites, objects and actions during the Flood, appear in the first part of the poem. These lines can then be contrasted with the second half of the poem in which Dunqul uses line lengths that readers of poetry will be more familiar with, lasting between five and eleven words. 

 

Poetic Techniques in Noah’s Flood 

Dunqul makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Noah’s Flood’. These include repetition, anaphora, and enjambment. The first, repetition, is the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone or phrase within a poem. The phrase “Noah’s flood is coming nearer” works as a refrain in the poem. It appears in the first line and the twenty-fourth. There are also several examples in which words are used multiple times, even in the same line. Such as “judge of judges” in line twenty-six. 

Dunqul also makes use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This can be seen in lines twelve, thirteen, and fourteen where “The” starts each line. 

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. There are numerous examples in this poem due to the fact that Dunqul uses minimal punctuation especially in the first part of the poem. A reader only needs to look to lines two through fifteen for an example. Or, in the second half of the poem, the transition between lines forty-three and forty-four. 

 

Analysis of Noah’s Flood 

 Lines 1-23 

In the first lines of ‘Noah’s Flood,’ the speaker makes a proclamation about the future. He exclaims that “Noah’s flood is coming nearer!” With the exclamation mark, there is certain energy imbued to these first lines. It is emphasized by the use of enjambment and the list of items, actions, and sites that follow. The waters are rising in “the city” and it appears to be “sinking”. 

While looking around the scene the speaker takes note of everything that’s changing. He can see the birds flying away as well as the water rising to take over houses, shops, banks, and statues. The destruction of hospitals and prisons follows. Nothing is spared. 

Now the poem slows down, emphasized by the use of the word “Slowly” twice. The water seems to have calmed somewhat and things can be seen, animals and toys, floating by on it. The mood is solemn and quiet, interrupted by the fear and loss of those who are still alive. 

 

Lines 24-37 

Dunqul uses the refrain again in line twenty-four of ‘Noah’s Flood’. The flood is not over, he declares, it’s still coming. Now though, rather than list out briefly everything human-made that’s destroyed, he goes into more detail about who is saved. 

Unlike the traditional story of Noah’s ark, there is a stream of people of different professions who flee to the ship. These include “the prince’s horsemen” and the “sword bearer”. There are a number of people in power as well as those deemed less respectable, like “cowards”. The speaker is passing judgment on those who decide to abandon their homes.

In some instances the poet goes into more detail, referring to the “princess’s lover in his radiant effeminate manner”. These brief details are sometimes humorous and at other times surprising. They add another layer of interest to the events playing out.

In the eleventh line, the speaker uses first-person for the first time. He speaks about himself and describes how he “was…” The poet uses ellipses to trail off the speaker’s description of himself. It runs into his depiction of the “city’s youth”. They were trying to stem the flood, doing what they could to race against time and save the city and their homes. 

 

Lines 38-52 

After the destruction hinted at in the first lines of ‘Noah’s Flood,’ it seems impossible that these youths are going to do anything that could possibly save the city. But, there is passion in these lines and the speaker seems to be one and the same with the youths. He too is “Hoping to save…the homeland!” 

In religiously tinged language the speaker carries on a convention with “the master of the ark”. Noah yells out to him, telling him to “Escape from a country…where the spirit is no longer”. The speaker pushes back against this, declaring that glory will come to those, “us,” who “have stood / to defy destruction”. They may not be remembered, but they tried to save their people. 

 

Lines 53-63 

The speaker, talking for all those like him who do not want to give up on their homeland, says that they “refuse to fee” and “wander”. He, and those who rally with him, are willing to die for their home and say “No” to the ship”. It is they who truly loved the homeland and are not resting “on the city’s remains”. They could not save it and ended up losing their lives to it, but it was a fight they wanted to have. 

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