I need help comparing the poems "Nettles" by Vernon Scannell and "Praise Song for My Mother" by Grace Nichols.

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To begin your comparison (which includes contrasts as well as similarities), consider the two titles. One is very positive "Praise Song," while the other is very negative, "Nettles." There is everything good contained within a praise song in someone's honor while there everything painful contained with the painful agony of falling nettles.

Next look at who is speaking. The poetic persona is an element of a poem's structure and is an important part of focalizing the mood and meaning of the poem. Both poetic personas are adults, but one is the adult child of the mother being praised while the other is the adult parent of the child who was hurt. [While it can never be assumed that the poet and the poetic persona are the same, in these poems it is generally accepted that the poet and the persona are the same. This contrasts with Robert Browning's dramatic monologues.]

Now consider the structural element of mood in the two poems. "Nettles" reveals its true mood in the last half of the poem:  

And then I took my billhook, honed the blade
And went outside and slashed in fury with it
Till not a nettle in that fierce parade
Stood upright any more. And then I lit
A funeral pyre to burn the fallen dead,

Actually, "Nettles" might accurately be said to flow through four moods (or emotional states) as the persona recounts his narrative: (1) ironic, "It was no place for rest"; (2) alarmed comfort, "We soothed him till his pain was not so raw"; (3) angry vengeance, "went outside and slashed in fury"; and (4) saddened resignation, "My son would often feel sharp wounds again."

One could make a case for either angry vengeance or saddened resignation being the dominant mood of the poem. On the one hand, the persona's motivation in writing seems to be to try expunge the anger and vengeance, while, on the other hand, the poem does end on the mood of his bitter lesson learned: he is essentially helpless to protect his son against the world.

"Praise Song" reveals its mood in the opening lines, builds dramatically the intensity of that mood, then confirms it quietly in the last line. In this regard, the poem resembles a song that begins at mezzo-piano (moderate), crescendos to forte (loud), then decrescendos quickly to piano (soft). In fact, the traditional African praise song was meant to be sung and was often not written down. (BBC)

After considering mood, you will want to consider some other elements like tone (the feeling of the persona to the subject, which may be very different from the emotional quality generated by the poem); theme; rhyme scheme; and metrics. Then you will want to consider poetic techniques the poets use in each poem, like figures of speech or metaphor or symbolism or personification, to name a few. We'll use personification as an example.

In "Nettles," the poet personifies the nettle bush when the persona goes out to attack it for hurting his beloved son. One instance is where he uses an implicit metaphor to personify the nettles as soldiers on parade: "not a nettle in that fierce parade / Stood upright ...." In "Praise Song," the poet uses no personification but rather uses metaphor when the persona sings the praises of the mother. She compares the mother to water, the moon, the sunrise and life "replenishing" foods: fish, crab's legs, and plantain. You can continue on looking for more elements to complete your comparison.

[GCSE Bitesize. English Literature. Grace Nichols: "Praise Song for My Mother." BBC.]

amanda220397 | Student
well your essay can be compared on different things:
  • in both pome,s the parents both want to protect the child
  • the theme of the poem is about protection
  • praise song is written by daughter but nettles is  said by the father
  • they are both familial relaitonships
  • they both love each other

hope it helps... this is a very short summary. i did this que for my GCSE. :D