C Choman Hardi

At The Border, 1979 by Choman Hardi

Second Interpretation

At The Border, 1979 is written by a contemporary author, Chomid Hardi. Hardi grew up experiencing conflict between Iraq and Kurdistan. In an online interview, she claims that many of her poems are autobiographical, and explains that they have dates because they revolve around historical events. In this way, she is able to use a very personal voice to explain the historical events that have taken place. At The Border, 1979 can be read in full here.


At The Border, 1979 Analysis

Stanza 1

‘It is your last check-in point in this country!’
We grabbed a drink –
soon everything would taste different.

The young speaker hears that she is at the last check-in point in the country she has been living in. The speaker clearly believes that every aspect of her life is about to change. As she grabs a drink, she thinks that everything will taste different when they enter the other country. This is the first hint that the speaker is young and innocent. She does not fully grasp the meaning of moving from one country to another. She simply thinks that everything will somehow change, even the taste of drinks.


Stanza 2

The land under our feet continued
divided by a thick iron chain.

This stanza continues to reveal the youth of the speaker. As she walked along, she noticed that the ground under her feet was “divided by a thick iron chain”. She is with her sister, which also suggests that she is a young child traveling with her family. Her sister calls out to her, “look over here”.


Stanza 3

My sister put her leg across it.
The border guards told her off.

Her sister is intrigued by the fact that she can put one leg in Iran, and the other in Kurdistan. The speaker does not specify the country, but the year given in the title along with her life story provides this knowledge. The fact that the speaker’s sister does this suggests that she is also young and perhaps does not fully understand the significance of the journey they are making. The cold tone of the border guards reveals the more serious nature of the situation the family is in. The sisters may not be aware of it, but the simple description of, “the border guards told her off” implies to the readers that this move is of grave significance.


Stanza 4

My mother informed me: We are going home.
and people are much kinder.

This stanza reveals that the speaker is very young indeed and that her mother had to explain to her what they were doing. The young speaker seems to have no remembrance of the place they are headed to, but the mother calls it “home” and she describes it to her daughter as a place infinitely more beautiful, where the “people are much kinder”. The speaker does not reveal her reaction to what her mother tells her. She seems to be unable to grasp what is going on, why so many people are moving from one country to another, and why her mother is so happy about it. This all reveals to the reader that this event is of much more significance than what the speaker can grasp at her young age.


Stanza 5

Dozens of families waited in the rain.
comparing both sides of the border.

Here, the speaker observes the reactions of the people around her. People waited, even in the rain. She heard someone say, “I can inhale home” and she observed that mothers were crying. Then she tells her age. Knowing that she is only five years old allows the readers to grasp the importance of this moment in her life. She was far too young to understand what was happening, and she was probably too young to have remembered the home she had left. From the reaction of the adults who were waiting with her, it is clear that they spent many years away from home. This implies that the speaker would have been far too young when she left her home to remember it. This is why she is confused as she observes all the people around her having such dramatic reactions to the trek from one place to another.


Stanza 6

The autumn soil continued on the other side
It rained on both sides of the chain.

With this stanza, the speaker shifts her attention from the people around her to the land. She notices that on both sides of the chain, the ground looks exactly the same. This suggests to the readers that the speaker’s mother thinks that “home” is a more beautiful landscape simply because it is her home, and she loves it. This also implies that perhaps the people are not necessarily kinder at home, but that the speaker’s mother simply perceives it that way. The child has a unique ability to look at the land on both sides of the chain objectively. This implies that perhaps that child will also be able to take an objective viewpoint of the people on either side of the chain.


Stanza 7

We waited while our papers were checked,
The same chain of mountains encompassed all of us.

By the end of At The Border, 1979, the people were able to return home. One man is so happy to be home that he “bent down and kissed his muddy homeland”. But the child recognized that “the same chain of mountains encompassed” them all on either side of the chain. This, again, gives the reader insight into the objectivity the child was able to possess. It stands in stark contrast to the loyal, homesick adults in the group. While the speaker’s mother clearly believes that home (in this case Kurdistan) is much better than the land they were in (Iran), the speaker herself, as a mere five-year-old child, is able to see that there really was not much of a difference between the two places. In light of her objectivity, the adult reader can begin to question whether the child has more insight than the adults. The adults are loyal to their homeland. They love it, and they believe that the land and the people are better. But the child is able to see both places with no bias of having ever loved one more than the other. This causes the readers to ponder the cause of conflict between countries. Does it not stem from the belief that one is better than the other? The voice of the child causes the readers to see the people and the land from an innocent point of view. It causes the readers to wonder if the world might become a better place if we could all see each other through the eyes of a child.


Chomid Hardi Background

Chomid Hardi, daughter of poet Ahmed Hardi, was born in Iraqi Kurdistan. In 1975, her family fled to Iran, but returned home in 1979. This is the event At The Border, 1979 is centered around. The poet was displaced yet again in 1988, and she became a refugee. During her years as a refugee, she was able to attend Oxford University and study Psychology and Philosophy. Her life experiences are described in her poetry through the voice of a young child. She was only five years old in 1979, and she writes the poem from the voice of an innocent child. Though she did not entirely understand what was happening when she returned home in 1979, the voice she uses in the poem allows the readers to grasp the depth of the event through the eyes of an innocent child.  Most of her poems were published in Kurdish. This is one of the few that were published in English (Dr. Choman Hardi).  

Works Cited:

  • “Dr. Choman Hardi.” Dr. Choman Hardi. Web. 28 July 2016.

Read the first analysis

We’ve made sure two of our poetry experts analysed ‘At The Border, 1979’ twice, to provide the best critical analysis and interpretation of the poem
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Lee-James, a.k.a. LJ, has been a Poem Analysis team member ever since Novemer 2015, providing critical analysis of poems from the past and present. Nowadays, he helps manage the team and the website.
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