Tissue Analysis by Imtiaz Dharker

This article is an analysis of the poem Tissue by Imtiaz Dharker.

About the Imtiaz Dharker:

Imtiaz Dharker was born in Pakistan and raised in Glasgow. Her poem Tissue is from her 2006 collection "A Terrorist at My Table". All the poems in this collection really question how well we know all of the people around us.

About the Tissue:

So a few things that you need to know about the poem before we start. The poem sounds very simple but it really resists a straightforward interpretation.

There are quite a few key themes than ideas that we're going to see run throughout the entire poem.

So the first three stanzas really talk about the importance of paper as a means of recording our own history and our own lives.

The next four to six stanzas really shift focus and kind of question how something like paper can be so fragile but is still able to control our lives and really dictate every aspect of them.

The final 13 lines by the end of the poem are really looking at creating things particularly human life. So life is more complex and precious than any other things that we create. It's also it tells us very temporary but forms a much bigger and ongoing story.

Tissue Poem:

Paper that lets the light
shine through, this
is what could alter things.
Paper thinned by age or touching,
the kind you find in well-used books,
the back of the Koran, where a hand
has written in the names and histories,
who was born to whom,
the height and weight, who
died where and how, on which sepia date,
pages smoothed and stroked and turned
transparent with attention.
If buildings were paper, I might
feel their drift, see how easily
they fall away on a sigh, a shift
in the direction of the wind.
Maps too. The sun shines through
their borderlines, the marks
that rivers make, roads,
railtracks, mountainfolds,
Fine slips from grocery shops
that say how much was sold
and what was paid by credit card
might fly our lives like paper kites.
An architect could use all this,
place layer over layer, luminous
script over numbers over line,
and never wish to build again with brick
or block, but let the daylight break
through capitals and monoliths,
through the shapes that pride can make,
find a way to trace a grand design
with living tissue, raise a structure
never meant to last,
of paper smoothed and stroked
and thinned to be transparent,
turned into your skin.

Analysis of Tissue:

So I think there are three very important lines in this poem and what we'll do is trace through. The first three stanzas the middle three stanzas and the remainder.

So in the first three stanzas in stanza two lines seven we really see the importance of paper when it says where hand has written in the names and histories who was born to him the height and weight. So the paper is used the poet says to record family history whole lives can be summed up simply by making marks on paper. So it keeps our story alive it keeps your family alive it keeps your generation alive and it's hugely crucial to us to have that information.

As we move into the middle three stanzas on line 21 we see kind of a change in attitude towards the paper. Line 21 says fine slips from grocery shops that say how much was sold and what was pay by credit card might fly our lives. So it's almost a criticism here talking about how much our lives can be controlled by money. And we have to question what is money just simple slips of paper.

So these receipts record our day-to-day lives they can tell you where you've been what you've done what you ate who you've gone with what you've seen. All of this information stored on tiny little bits of paper can tell their life story.


Then in the final stanzas we see on line 26 it says an architect could use all of this play layer over layer luminous script over numbers over line.

And I think what Dharker is trying to say here is that the work of the poet really mirrors the work of the architect. So just like the poet builds layers of words and meanings into each poem or each line and an architect is able to design physical structures. So the repetition of over and over and over reinforces the ideas of layers.


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