Where to start with ‘Tissue’?  If you’re studying the Power and Conflict anthology as part of your AQA GCSE English Literature, or have studied it in the past, you’ll be familiar with the poem ‘Tissue’ written by Imtiaz Dharker.

Believe me, you’re not alone in your attempts to understand what this poem is all about and how it relates to ’tissue paper’.  The poem’s concept and meaning is notoriously difficult to grasp and is typical of the speaker who writes profusely about religion, terrorism, global politics and identity.  I’m hoping this blog will help your understanding and support you into analysing and writing about it.  Let’s break it down into small chunks, shall we?

  1. The poem is written from the perspective of someone looking out at a conflict and the troubles of the modern world such as destruction, war and politics. Someone who wants to break free of these restrictions
  2. There are references to different things which control human life such as money, religion, nature, pride and governments
  3. The poem starts by looking at the pleasure of simple things (like well used paper) and how it’s used to record history.  It questions what the world would be like if it had the same qualities
  4. There’s a focus that nothing is meant to last and we should be willing to let go and pass things on – in other words, the world would be better if it shared more of the qualities of ’tissue’
  5. The speaker emphasises that we build our world around greed and pride and make our own conflict by holding onto power and control, reminding us we’re all human and the importance of relaxing and just letting go
  6. There are references discussing what is familiar with the use of tactile language to describe what is written down, with a mood of hope and the language about light presented as a positive force
  7. Biblical terms suggest the bigger picture and a sense of spiritual fulfillment, encouraging us to build to improve our life, not allow things which hold us back
  8. The poem’s structure is an on-going monologue with some internal rhyme, although there’s no strict pattern suggesting the constancy of conflict, but enjambment is used in contrast creating a more human and peaceful tone
  9. Pride is seen as a negative quality with the poem ending in a feeling of hope, depicted again by the use of the sun and light which encourage emotions in favour of growth and acceptance
  10. The poem most closely follows the topics of the power of humans, power of nature, memory and identity

Another poem in your anthology also focuses on the power of nature being more powerful than human power.  ‘Ozymandias’, is a lot simpler to understand and remains one of the most popular from the group.  Similarly, ‘Poppies’ describes the importance of family identity and would contrast well with Tissue should the exam question centre on this topic. There are more resources on my resources and tools website page.

Don’t feel overwhelmed by complex poetry!  Remember, understanding the layers of meaning is something which will enhance your ability to think critically, question meaning and promote your analysis skills. Where to start with ‘Tissue’?  Take the time to read and consider the different aspects of this poem and don’t be tempted to write it off hoping it doesn’t pop up on exam day!