Could someone help me to identify the poet's attitude for writing the poem? Also, could you help me to interpret this poem utilising the SPECS (Subject matter, Purpose, Emotion, Craftmanship, Summary) and SLIMS (Structure, Language, Imagery, Movement, Sounds) method?

(Neighbours by Alfian Sa'at)

During Hari Raya she knocks on my conscience,
I knock on her door and I give her cakes.

She says she likes them and gives me
Sweets with gelatine inside. I throw them away.

Poor woman, doesn’t know how to make cakes.
Her children eat Maggi after school every day.

That's why the elder one is in Normal stream
And the younger one can't spell her name.

If I was her age I wouldn't be wearing shorts at home.
No shame, she doesn't know how to hide her womanhood.

When the children are naughty and I beat them
I close the door: I hear she's a gossip.

But she beats her children harder than I do
What to do her children are like that.

I once hear her scream she wanted to kill herself.
These people never value their own lives.

Other times I see her I smile and she smiles back
And her children smile and call me auntie.

But in our hands we hold with fists clenched tight
The keys to our homes, each night we slam the bolt shut.
1 2
Dear Anon;

We do not do other people's original work for them. That's not helping; on the contrary, it will impede your learning to think for yourself. So if you write what you think about this, we will assist you with your essay.
Dear Anon;

We do not do other people's original work for them. That's not helping; on the contrary, it will retard your learning to think for yourself. So if you write what you think about this, we will assist you with your essay.
[foul language removed by moderator; please read points 5, 8, and 9 of our guidelines ]
AlpheccaStars you're so rude
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Hello Bobby;

I did not mean any rudeness. I only said that students need to do their own work first. By making your own efforts, you will learn and do well on tests. You did not understand my reply at all. Perhaps you did not understand the verb "retard". It means to limit or slow down. Here is an example: Speed bumps on the road retard traffic and reduce accidents.

You may have confused it with an idiomatic use of the noun "retard" which was not intended at all.

If you try to write something about your subject first, we will help you; your mastery of invective will not help you much in school.


A-Emotion: stars

We don't often discuss invective in the forums, so let's give it a few moments..

- Calling people geeks, freaks and retards is not amusing

- Trying to back out of the insult by saying that a retard is a speed bump is amusing - but not very persuasive

- Using the f word is appropriate if someone has insulted you. I can't disagree with that

- "You're so rude" - yeah - that's very London [Y]


Does anyone mind if mention Alfian's poem? Here are a few brief ideas..


To an English ear, it is a 20-line sonnet in mainly iambic tetrameter couplets = There are four beats to the line, each one preceded by a weak beat; the whole is arranged into pairs of lines, in a satisfying way. The first couplet contains strong poetic imagery, as does the last. Occasionally the poet adds or omits a beat, but this adds to the realism of the speech

It is traditional to introduce a "difficulty" early on, to show that the poem is going to express tension: "Sweets with gelatine inside: I throw them away" = there are things about the neighbour that the speaker will strongly reject


Apart from the first and last couplets, the poet uses conversational speech, but does so in a way that fits the rhythm of the poem. You can imagine meeting the speaker in a block of flats


There's a lot to choose from. I like the way that Hari, in the first line, echoes Maggi in the sixth line. The first is a day when people, in celebration, make food for each other at the end of Ramadan. The second, sadly, is a dried food product that you can buy cheaply in supermarkets


The poem moves along well. Partly because the poet has mastery of the rhythm; but also because, until we reach the last line, we're not sure of the end - will the woman decide that she quite likes her neighbour, or will she say otherwise?


The last couplet is monosyllabic. They are single dull sounds that express the fact that, sadly, the woman cannot quite like her neighbour


It is about how we think of people who live close to us but whom we do not know that well. They may be quite different from us. We may feel that we ought to like them - but it doesn't always work out that way


I think, to show the difficulty in deciding whether you like someone or not. There are some good things about them; some not so good. What is interesting is partly what the speaker decides; but also the fact that she is debating the ideas in her head in a way that moves us on from one line to the next


In a word, I think it is sadness. When we have a clear picture of someone who lives close to us, we hope that we like them. But here it is not so: "each night we slam the bolt shut"

Craft and Summary

I think it is perfectly done. Can't think of anything more to add. There are plenty of themes that I've barely mentioned - childrens' education; food; dress; the values that we put on our lives

Hope this helps, Dave
Please note that the use of "retard" was not to insult, and the usage of said word in that context was to mean "hinder". Although it is true that giving a little help or ideas would of been more amusing, please do not try and put AlpheccaStars in a bad light.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Yeah not sure why people focused more on the term retard.. the term is specifically used in the maritime industry, mainly for when jumping through time zones. For example, clocks on the ship need to be adjusted to the appropriate time zone.. so clocks are then "advanced" or "retarded" .. so what the guy actually meant to say is if the guy who wants people to do his homework, will make him FALL BACK in school... bunch of retards would only interpret the term incorrectly.. and yes i meant to use retard..sorry but my opinion had to be heard, even if its 3 years too late... but i still have faith in humanity.
second line
it states that she throws them away. infering from the passage the speaker is muslim ,geletine is cnsidered non-halal and thus has to throw them away.this shows that either the neighbour is ignorant of this fact or she simply does not care
I'm not really sure how to use the methods you mentioned but i try to make this poem easier to understand.It's not really the poet's attitude but rather the speaker's attitude.
In this poem, we can infer on the surface that it is about the racial tension between the Chinese and Malay, the two dominant races in Singapore. Coincidentally, it is also related to the racial riots that happened in Singapore in 1969. However, at the end of this story, you see that the word 'I' changes to the word 'we', it is a generalization meaning that this is a Singaporean problem where this poem is about the lack of trust, honesty and the insincere relationship.
Why is the poem situated in Singapore? The line, "What to do her children are like that." is Singlish, a common identity of Singaporeans.
* I'm not targeting Singaporeans, I'm very sorry if you are offended but on a short note I'm also a Singaporean. And I'm just breaking down this poem.*
The lines "I throw them away" and "I hear she's a gossip" are abrupt and very straightforward. This shows the hostility of the Malay woman and the frustration on her neighbour's ignorance of the Malay culture when her neighbour give her "sweets with gelatine inside". Gelatine contains animal fats and it is not halal.
"Poor woman.." shows the speaker is looking down on her, hints a bit of mockery. "...doesn't know how to make cakes" is a biased stereotype of tradition: if a woman can't cook, she's not a good mother.
In stanza 5, the speaker is culturally biased against her neighbour, she is consciously or subconsciously imposing her cultural beliefs on her .
"I hear she's a gossip" is an irony as the speaker is also a gossip. It also shows that there are people not mentioned in the poem also talking badly of the speaker's neighbour. There's also prejudice inside here.
In short, this whole poem is an irony. The speaker and her neighbour are living side by side but they did not take a step to understand each other and also each other' culturally beliefs.
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Show more