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I Shall Paint My Nails Red

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1 I Shall Paint My Nails Red
by Carole Satyamurti (pg 29)

2 I Shall Paint My Nails Red
This is a short poem written in one complete stanza. The title forms the opening to each line and the poet responds by justifying why she wants to paint her nails red. Each line begins with ‘because’ and gives a full response to the title. The ‘red’ nails are supposed to represent all the different ideas in the poem: femininity, excitement, surprise, sex, embarrassment to her children. These different ideas address what it means to be a modern woman: professional, strong, attractive, proud, a mother, a lover.

3 Subject & Themes Femininity Appearance Pride Stereotypes

4 she thinks a woman’s role is to look good and brighten her environment
she has self-respect because a bit of colour is a public service because I am proud of my hands. because it will remind me I'm a woman. because I will look like a survivor. symbolises her femininity the red is a symbol of strength and resilience

5 slightly humorous, but also indication that she is independent
because I can admire them in traffic jams because my daughter will say ugh. because my lover will be surprised. sweet and funny, she is fulfilling her role as a mother role as a lover

6 another option she has: the poem is about being able to adapt to different situations – emphasised in the final line because it is quicker than dyeing my hair. because it is a ten-minute moratorium. because it is reversible. ‘moratorium’ – meaning break – it is something she can do to occupy herself this final line is key – ‘reversible’ means she can always remove the varnish unlike a tattoo or surgery. She can change her appearance in a subtle way to please herself, others etc. but the results are always reversible

7 Links to other poems… The defiant feminist tone makes ‘Warning’ its obvious comparison. Both poems are concerned with stereotypes – what people expect of us. Satyamurti does not battle with expectations in the way Jenny Joseph does. She is a strong woman but seems content. ‘Not My Best Side’ is also linked in this way. ‘Still I Rise’ is another one for comparison as it is another strong female voice.

8 Hints and Tips I would avoid writing about this poem in an exam as it is too short and simple to make lots of effective PEE statements about. If it comes up, or you do choose it as a comparison point, you will need to comment on its straightforward, bold style – one stanza with each line making a powerful statement about what it is to be a woman. There is a pattern to the use of the words used – ‘shall’ in the title, ‘’will’, ‘can’, ‘my’, ‘is’ in the later lines reveal definite statements about her life.

9 Example Questions Look again at this poem and another poem in the anthology written by a female poet. What do these poems reveal about what it means to be a woman? Both ‘I Shall Paint My Nails Red’ and ‘Still I Rise’ are poems full of self-confidence. In which ways are they similar and in which ways do they differ?

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