Image: White Cliffs© NOTE BENE
‘So various, so beautiful, so new…’ – Matthew Arnold, ‘Dover Beach’
This epigraph reminds us of the powerful literary heritage of Dover. Matthew Arnold’s poem is a famous poem written in 1851 which expresses society’s growing anxiety about the modern secular world. Nagra’s poem also echoes Arnold’s in the implied presence of beloved to whom the poem is addressed. In contrast to Arnold’s poem, however, the title’s exclamation mark is expressive of an energetic optimism which sets the tone for what follows.
‘Look we Have Coming to Dover’ by Daljit Nagra alerts us to concepts of England and Englishness which are gleefully dismantled in the rest of the poem.
The title is grammatically incorrect, setting the context for a speaker for whom English is a second language. The mention of Dover, one of the key entry points into the UK for immigrants, legal and illegal, provides a further clue as to the narrative voice. Dover is also a deeply resonant English location, its famous white cliffs, a cultural shorthand for the country history as an island power.