Poverty is a poem that belies Reka’s young age and shows maturity both in terms of tackling such a mature subject and in terms of the structure which is well-balanced and consistent. There is not a lot of colourful metaphors associated with romantic poetry but what Reka was do very well is use rhetoric in order to engage the reader this causes the poem to be thought-provoking as when you ask questions people instinctively want to answer those questions and when those questions are challenging it creates a situation whereby the reader challenges themselves.
Form and Tone
The poem, which can be read in full here, presents itself in a single stanza which contains sixteen lines. End rhymes are used throughout the poem but not on every line so essentially the rhyme pattern is (-A-A-B-B-C-C-DDD) the poem then is effectively free-verse. All of the lines have a similar length and vary between 7 and 10 syllables. The poem is fairly sombre in its tone. That is entirely unsurprisingly given the content of the poem.
Their smiles: sincere like angles
I’m assuming that there is a misspelling on the copy of the poem that I have and this is supposed to be angels rather than angles? The “their” that the narrator is referring to is clearly the people in poverty. She heralds these people by pointing out their sincerity. The comparison with angels is nice as it creates an image of the poor being heavenly.
The narrator refers to their hearts being scarred. Obviously this is a metaphor. The heart is the organ we associate with love and compassion. By saying that this is scarred the narrator suggests that the person’s soul, their essence is damaged by their situation.
In line 3, we see the aforementioned rhetoric. The narrator invites the reader to question whether the destiny of those in poverty was just the cruelty of a random universe. Or if it was a case that their situation arose because of our greed. This causes a reader to question their own morals. A typical reader might ask themselves. “What do I do to help those in poverty.”
A question asked, but we ignore
This is the narrator’s way of further shaming the reader. They are saying that we are often asked this question but yet it remains unanswered. They have in effect answered the previous question on our behalf. This gives the poem a feeling like it is “telling off” the reader like they are being lectured or chastised.
Clearly the narrator has a dichotomy of ideas. I don’t think they are certain whose fault poverty is. They have hinted that poverty is our fault (the our being society, but represented by the reader) but here is the suggestion they are born into it. I think the narrator shows an air of their own uncertainty.
Opportunity is a very interesting choice of word. Some in modern society say that the main differences between those that end up wealthy and those that live in poverty is opportunity. Modern wisdom dictates that those who are born into wealthy families are presented with more opportunities to be successful. That doesn’t mean that someone who is poor can’t take the opportunities that are given to them, obviously being given more chances to succeed means you are more likely to succeed. And some people in extreme poverty are offered very few opportunities or maybe even none at all.
In this line the narrator emphasises the hurt felt by those in poverty this is to help the reader sympathise with their plight.
But we sit back and let it go by
It is interesting how the narrator uses “we” here. Once again the narrator is challenging us, but what is interesting is they don’t omit themselves from the potential criticism. They don’t say “you sit back and let it go by” They are sharing the blame and taking responsibility.
The word shattered at the beginning of this line is particularly powerful. It really does evoke an air of fragility. The suggestion being that these were homes that were unstable from the off, which is probably both literally and figuratively true for some. They repeat the “sh “ sound in the final word of the line as well, which gives a symmetry to this line which elevates and emphasises it .
“poor conditions” helps to once again point out the difficulties faced by the impoverished. But then the narrator offers an insight into what a resolution would look like, albeit via a broad statement. They simply point out that they need help.
Here we see the desires of the poor. Although this is a generalisation. To be honest, who doesn’t want to be joyful and healthy? Rich and poor alike. It is however more achievable by the wealthy. Once again this leads back to the Idea of opportunities.
They want a better life to lead
Again the narrator talks about the yearnings of the poor. The repetitive nature of these lines makes it seem like the narrator is imploring us to do something to help these people get what they want.
It would seem that this line is suggesting that the poor may literally have less time than the rest of us. Certainly if you were to look up the life spans for those living in poverty they would almost be considerably shorter than those of the wealthy.
This means that at any time their fragile lives can end. Once again this is the case for everybody, but with those living in poverty the likelihood of this is far greater.
This is a call to arms. But note how the narrator has changed the way she addresses the reader. Previously she had used “we” and “our” but here they use “you” This is their way of emphasizing the responsibility and perhaps suggesting that the narrator already helps.
Their future lies in your hand
Once again the narrator puts the onus on the reader. This is powerful stuff. Actively holding the reader responsible for the fate of the poor. Is this fair? Should we do more? Figures suggest that the majority of our planet’s wealth is held by the top one percent of the wealthy. If those people decided to help they could have a massive impact.
About Marinela Reka
Marinela Reka is a contemporary poet. She is very young and very talented. She started writing at the tender age of sixteen. She was born April 1996. A lot of her poems are about her feelings but according to her website not all of her poems fall into the category. She likes to share inspirational quotes and has a wealth of poems that can be accessed on her website. To date she has released two books containing collections of her poems. As with many contemporary writers she is an active Twitter user.