If by Jared Angira, The Full Poem and Analysis

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The Poem

A squirrel crosses my way

while on a trip then luck is mine

but when it's a cheetah

or wild cat that crosses there I turn and back



I knock my right foot on stone

while on a trip 1 melt in joy

since I shall be overfed but when it's the left

I turn and go back.


I slip in my shirt

the inside coming out

I jump in merriment

for I shall be overfed.



the first being

I meet in the feeble dawn

is an old woman

I turn to my blanket

it's all ill luck.




I dream my relative dead

I wake in joy

knowing he's overfed

in midst of sweet slumbers for growing an inch.

the previous night and if I dream I am dead

I rejoice

and if I dream

of my ideal girl

then I lose hope

the answer is no.



I wake up in the morning

And find my teeth shaking

And loose

they went eating excreta

while soul courted in fairyland.


A hen crows

it must be killed bad omen

dog bowl howls

Instead of barking

the village owner

Is at death's door

and if I walk on my head

then I am dead.

 General Introduction 

"I(caps)f" by Jared Angira is a poem that explores superstitions and beliefs surrounding luck and fate. The speaker describes various situations and their corresponding interpretations, such as encountering different animals or experiencing certain events like slipping on a stone or dreaming of specific scenarios. The poem highlights the whimsical nature of superstitions and the often irrational ways in which they influence human behavior and perception of events.

Title of the Poem 

The title "If" suggests a conditionality or a hypothetical scenario, indicating that the poem will explore various situations and their potential outcomes based on certain conditions or beliefs. It sets the stage for the speaker to present a series of if-then scenarios, each depicting a different interpretation or response to everyday occurrences influenced by superstition and belief in luck. Additionally, the title invites readers to contemplate the uncertain and speculative nature of human perception and interpretation.

Stanza by Stanza Analysis 

The poem is a collection of superstitious beliefs and practices of an individual. Each stanza presents a different scenario where the person encounters a particular situation, and the outcome depends on specific signs or symbols that are considered lucky or unlucky.

The first stanza talks about encountering animals while on a trip. The person considers it good luck to see a squirrel but bad luck to see a cheetah or wild cat. The second stanza talks about knocking the right or left foot on a stone while on a trip. The person believes that knocking the right foot brings joy, while knocking the left foot is a bad omen.

The third stanza talks about slipping in a shirt and the inside coming out. The person believes that this is a sign of being overfed, which brings joy. The fourth stanza talks about meeting an old woman in the feeble dawn. The person believes that this is a bad omen and turns back.

The fifth stanza talks about dreaming about a relative's death. The person is happy because they believe that the relative is overfed and has grown an inch. However, dreaming about one's own death brings joy, and dreaming about an ideal girl means losing hope.

The final stanza talks about different omens, such as a crowing hen, a howling dog bowl, and walking on one's head. The person believes that these are all signs of bad luck or impending death.

Overall, the poem presents a superstitious worldview where events and outcomes are determined by signs and symbols. The language used is straightforward, and the poem has a conversational tone, making it easy to understand the beliefs and practices of the person presented in the poem.

Summary of Themes

The themes in this poem are superstition, luck, and belief in signs and symbols. The speaker of the poem believes that certain events, encounters, and dreams can bring good or bad luck, and that signs and symbols can predict future outcomes. The poem explores how the speaker's beliefs shape their thoughts and actions, and how they respond to different situations based on their superstitious beliefs. The poem also touches on the themes of mortality and the afterlife, as the speaker mentions dreaming about death and believing that deceased loved ones are "overfed" and growing in the afterlife.

The poem is filled with examples of the speaker's superstitions and how they impact their actions and thoughts. For instance, the speaker believes that seeing a squirrel on a trip brings good luck, but encountering a cheetah or wild cat is a bad omen, and they will turn back. Similarly, knocking their right foot on a stone is considered good luck, but if it's the left foot, they will go back. These beliefs suggest that the speaker feels they can control their destiny by interpreting the signs and symbols that they encounter.

In addition to signs and symbols, dreams also play a significant role in the speaker's superstitious beliefs. For example, dreaming about a deceased relative brings joy to the speaker because they believe that the relative is well-fed and growing in the afterlife. However, dreaming of one's own death brings joy, suggesting that the speaker is not afraid of death or perhaps believes in an afterlife. The speaker also mentions that dreaming of their ideal girl means losing hope, which may suggest that the speaker is superstitious about finding love or relationships.

Detailed Themes (Thematic Preoccupation)

1. Superstition and Belief: The poem delves deeply into the realm of superstition and belief systems, highlighting how individuals interpret events based on superstitious notions rather than rationality. Each stanza presents a scenario where the speaker's reaction is determined by their superstitions, showcasing the power of belief in shaping human behavior and decision-making.

2. Fate and Destiny: Through the various if-then scenarios, the poem explores the idea of fate and destiny. The speaker believes that certain occurrences are omens or signs of what is to come, implying a predetermined path for individuals based on these signs. This theme reflects on the human tendency to seek meaning and order in the chaos of life.

3. Irony and Contradiction: There is a strong element of irony and contradiction woven throughout the poem. The speaker's interpretations of events often seem arbitrary and contradictory, highlighting the irrationality of superstitions. This theme underscores the absurdity of relying on superstitions to navigate life's uncertainties.

4. Human Perception and Psychology: "If" offers insight into the human psyche and the intricacies of perception. The poem demonstrates how individuals construct meaning from their experiences, even if such interpretations defy logic. It reflects on the complexity of human thought processes and the ways in which beliefs shape our understanding of the world.

5. Cultural Context and Tradition: The poem may also touch upon cultural context and tradition, as superstitions are often deeply rooted in cultural beliefs and practices. By showcasing the speaker's adherence to various superstitions, the poem sheds light on the role of culture in shaping individual beliefs and behaviors.

Overall, "If" by Jared Angira serves as a commentary on the human condition, exploring themes of superstition, fate, perception, and cultural influence.


The structure of "If" by Jared Angira is relatively simple but effective in conveying the themes and ideas presented in the poem. Here's an analysis of its structure:

1. Stanzas: The poem consists of several stanzas, each containing a separate scenario or condition followed by the speaker's response or interpretation. These stanzas are not uniform in length, with some being longer or shorter depending on the complexity of the scenario being described.

2. Repetition: Throughout the poem, there is a recurring pattern of "if...then" statements, where the speaker presents a condition or scenario (the "if" part) followed by the resulting action or interpretation (the "then" part). This repetition reinforces the theme of superstition and the speaker's reliance on conditional beliefs.

3. Enjambment: Angira utilizes enjambment, where lines of poetry continue onto the next line without a pause, creating a sense of fluidity and continuity in the poem. This technique allows the poem to flow seamlessly from one scenario to the next, emphasizing the interconnectedness of the speaker's thoughts and experiences.

4. Narrative Style: The poem adopts a narrative style, with the speaker recounting various situations and their corresponding reactions. This narrative structure enables the speaker to vividly depict their superstitious beliefs and the impact these beliefs have on their behavior and perceptions.

5. Conciseness: Despite the complexity of the themes explored, the poem maintains a concise and straightforward structure, with each stanza presenting a clear and distinct scenario. This concise structure enhances the readability and impact of the poem, allowing readers to easily grasp the speaker's superstitions and their implications.

Overall, the structure of "If" is characterized by its simplicity, repetition, and narrative style, all of which contribute to the poem's effectiveness in conveying the speaker's superstitious beliefs and the themes of fate, perception, and cultural influence.

Literary Devices 

" If" by Jared Angira employs several literary devices to convey its themes and enhance its impact. Here are some of the prominent ones:

1. Imagery: The poem uses vivid imagery to depict the scenarios described by the speaker, such as encountering a squirrel or slipping on a stone. This imagery helps to create a vivid picture in the reader's mind and adds depth to the speaker's experiences.

2. Symbolism: Various elements in the poem serve as symbols representing broader concepts or ideas. For example, the animals encountered by the speaker may symbolize different aspects of fate or luck, while the actions taken by the speaker in response to these encounters symbolize their superstitious beliefs.

3. Repetition: The repetition of the phrase "if...then" throughout the poem creates a rhythmic pattern and emphasizes the conditional nature of the speaker's beliefs. This repetition also reinforces the thematic focus on superstition and fate.

4. Irony: There is a strong element of irony in the poem, as the speaker's reactions to different scenarios often seem irrational or contradictory. This irony underscores the absurdity of superstitions and highlights the disconnect between the speaker's beliefs and reality.

5. Personification: The poem occasionally personifies objects or animals, such as the reference to a hen crowing or a dog bowl howling. This personification adds a sense of whimsy to the poem and contributes to its overall surreal atmosphere.

6. Allusion: While the poem does not contain explicit references to other works or texts, it may allude to broader cultural or literary traditions surrounding superstition and belief. These subtle allusions help to contextualize the speaker's beliefs within a broader cultural framework.

7. Ambiguity: The poem leaves certain elements open to interpretation, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about the speaker's beliefs and the significance of the scenarios described. This ambiguity adds depth to the poem and invites readers to engage with its themes on a deeper level.

Overall, the skilled use of literary devices in "If" enhances its thematic complexity and contributes to its effectiveness as a work of poetry.

Language and Diction 

In "If" by Jared Angira, the language and diction play a crucial role in conveying the speaker's superstitious beliefs and the surreal atmosphere of the poem. Here are some aspects of language and diction observed in the poem:

1. Simple Language: The language used in the poem is relatively simple and accessible, with straightforward descriptions of the scenarios encountered by the speaker. This simplicity allows the poem to be easily understood while still conveying the depth of the speaker's beliefs.

2. Conversational Tone: The poem adopts a conversational tone, as if the speaker is directly addressing the reader and recounting their experiences. This conversational style adds to the immediacy of the poem and creates a sense of intimacy between the speaker and the audience.

3. Symbolic Language: While the language may be simple, it is rich in symbolism, with various elements in the poem representing broader concepts or ideas. For example, the encounters with animals and the actions taken by the speaker serve as symbols of fate, luck, and superstition.

4. Sensory Language: The poem employs sensory language to evoke imagery and create a vivid depiction of the scenarios described. Readers can almost feel the stone underfoot, hear the crowing of the hen, and sense the speaker's reactions to each encounter.

5. Repetitive Language: As mentioned earlier, the poem utilizes repetition to emphasize the conditional nature of the speaker's beliefs. The repeated use of the phrase "if...then" creates a rhythmic pattern and reinforces the thematic focus on superstition and fate.

6. Figurative Language: While not abundant, there are instances of figurative language in the poem, such as personification and metaphor. These figurative elements add depth to the poem and contribute to its surreal atmosphere.

Overall, the language and diction in "If" are carefully chosen to effectively convey the speaker's superstitious beliefs and create a sense of mystery and intrigue for the reader.

Tone and Mood

The tone and mood in "If" by Jared Angira are multifaceted, reflecting the speaker's superstitious beliefs and the surreal atmosphere created by the scenarios presented in the poem. Here's a breakdown of the tone and mood:

1. Superstitious Tone: The overall tone of the poem is superstitious and whimsical, as the speaker interprets everyday occurrences through the lens of superstition. This tone is evident in the speaker's reactions to various scenarios, which are dictated by their belief in luck and fate.

2. Uncertainty: There is an underlying sense of uncertainty throughout the poem, as the speaker navigates a world where seemingly random events hold deep significance. This uncertainty contributes to the surreal mood of the poem and reflects the unpredictable nature of superstitions.

3. Irony: The tone of irony is also present in the poem, as the speaker's reactions to different scenarios often seem irrational or contradictory. This irony underscores the absurdity of superstitions and adds a layer of complexity to the poem's tone.

4. Whimsy: Despite the underlying uncertainty and irony, there is a sense of whimsy in the poem, particularly in the way the speaker recounts their experiences. This whimsical tone adds to the surreal atmosphere of the poem and invites readers to engage with its themes on a deeper level.

5. Mystery: The poem's tone and mood also evoke a sense of mystery, as readers are drawn into the speaker's world of superstition and symbolism. Each scenario presented in the poem carries a sense of intrigue, leaving readers to ponder the deeper meaning behind the speaker's beliefs.

Overall, the tone and mood in "If" are characterized by a combination of superstition, uncertainty, irony, whimsy, and mystery, creating a rich and evocative atmosphere that immerses readers in the speaker's surreal experiences.


"If" by Jared Angira was first published in the 1960s and is considered one of the most prominent works of East African literature. Angira was a Kenyan poet, playwright, and academic known for his contributions to Swahili literature and his exploration of social and political issues in his work.

The poem reflects the cultural context of East Africa during Angira's time, where superstition and belief in fate played significant roles in everyday life. Superstitions were and still are prevalent in many African societies, influencing people's behaviors, decisions, and interpretations of events.

During the 1960s, East Africa was undergoing significant social and political changes, with many countries gaining independence from colonial rule. Angira's poetry often engaged with themes of identity, tradition, and modernity, reflecting the complexities of post-colonial African societies.

In "If," Angira uses the motif of superstition to explore broader themes of fate, perception, and human psychology. The poem reflects the tension between tradition and modernity, as the speaker grapples with ancient beliefs in the face of a changing world.

Overall, the context of "If" encompasses both the cultural traditions of East Africa and the broader socio-political landscape of the region during Angira's time, providing insight into the complexities of African identity and experience.


In conclusion, "If" by Jared Angira is a thought-provoking poem that explores themes of superstition, fate, and human perception within the context of East African society. Through vivid imagery, repetition, and symbolic language, Angira crafts a narrative that immerses readers in the speaker's world of superstition and uncertainty. The poem's whimsical tone and surreal atmosphere invite readers to contemplate the deeper meanings behind the speaker's beliefs and the broader cultural context in which they exist. "If" serves as a testament to Angira's skill as a poet and his ability to capture the complexities of African identity and experience in his work.



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  1. Wow thanks a lot . The analysis is really straight forward.

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