The Border Builder (by Carol Rumens) Analysis

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The Poem

Background of the Poet

  • Contemporary British poet
  • Born in 1944

Structure of the Poem

  • No rhyme scheme —> Overflowing with questions. No rhyme scheme could denote confusion in the way questions are being related to the poet and therefore the unnatural selection of questions asks. Denotes the confusion the poet feels.
  • No stanza division —> Could almost denote a wall or concrete idea between one polar and the other polar, therefore emphasising segregation, discrimination, polarisation and extremism.


  • Travel, migration and society
  • Borders and division between people
  • Identification
  • Segregation
  • Polarisation

Critical Evaluation and Language Techniques

  • ‘Genuine’: Most important individual quote and word which is consistently repeated in the poem. Purity in nature that you can either be ‘one or the other’ (not a quote), and thus cannot reach some sort of middle ground. Everything is polarised in modern age is the message being related to us.
  • Almost praising and thanking the ‘bricks’ because they allow physical and tangible division of countries, borders, people, and thus signifies the polarisation the contemporary world is facing between each other.
  • ‘Genuine blood’: Signifies wars in the past that advocated for more land and thus through the efforts of ancestors of a country’s inhabitants borders have been gauged and constructed and this has been done through the process of yielding blood and time.
  • Overflowing with questions —> but NO answers —> filled with so many segregating questions become problematic answering them because essentially the answers are rendered irrelevant and do not matter by the end of the poem. All that matters are the questions being ask, which is why they are in abundance throughout the poem, emphasising their importance and power/authority in segregating individuals on the basis of identification.
  • So much repetition, e.g. ‘Which colour are you, which colour?’: comment on the fast-paced nature and impatient ideals of patriots. All that matters is your identification and you are reduced to a passport. No questions about your personality, character or idiosyncrasies and thus all that matters are tangible elements of yourself: e.g. ‘tattoo?’ and ‘qualifications?’ because this is how you can be physically identified.
  • Description of the walls grow throughout the duration of the poem, e.g. by the middle/near end it develops into ‘starry dendrons’
  • ‘colour’: Important word because any element of your identification can fit into this word and thus important.
  • ‘eyes and ears: Personifying the wall —> denotes the dominance and power of the wall as now an inanimate object possesses human qualities and characteristics, somewhat making it superior and stronger than other objects.
  • ‘Slamming’: Force and an action —> denotes strong emotion as well
  • ‘Genuine hand’: Passport almost symbolises a hand, and thus if you choose ‘this’ side then you must renounce your passport and resign your ‘blood’ with ‘this’ side.
  • ‘A border likes blood’: To maintain a border; to feed it. Before we saw the personification of the border to having eyes and ears, therefore at this point blood becomes almost like its food and is what is demanded from humans by the border for it’s maintenance.
  • Enjambment is used a lot: This shows the longing/how long it takes to be admitted into a country due to the endless stream of questions which follow you and thus an almost depiction of how long it takes by continuing questions onto another line.
  • Anaphora: Repetition of questions for emphasis.
  • Ends with a question —> and that ultimately tells us that all that matters is the question; not the answer.

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