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The Living Photograph

My small grandmother is tall there,
straight-back, white broderie anglaise shirt,
pleated skirt, Hat shoes, grey bun,
a kind, old smile round her eyes.
Her big hand holds mine,
white hand in black hand.
Her sharp blue eyes look her own death in the eye.
It was true, after all, that look.
My tall grandmother became small.
Her back round and hunched.
Her soup forgot to boil.
She went to the awful place grandmothers go.
Somewhere unknown, unthinkable.
But there she is still,
In the photo with me at three,
The crinkled smile is still living, breathing.
-Jackie Kay

(01) Where does the word ' there' refer to in the poem?


(02) Which line indicates that the two people belonged to two different races?


(03) Why has the grandmother become small?


(04) How does the persona look upon death? Give evidence from the poem to justify your
Evidence 1:____________________________
Evidence 2:____________________________

(05) From stanza 1, what impression do we get of the poet's grandmother from the following?
(a) straight-back: ___________________

(b) her big hand holds mine : _________________________

(06) From stanza 2, what happened to the grandmother before she died?


(07)The poem is titled 'The Living Photograph'. Suggest two reasons why the poet has chosen
the this
Reason 1:__________________________
Reason 2:__________________________

(08) From stanza 1, which line suggests that the grandmother had a determined look?


(09) Which words in the poem refer most directly to death?


(10) 'But there she is still' What does there refer to?


(11) Grandmothers are greatly loved by their grandchildren. Suggest two reasons why the poet

loved her grandmother.

Reason 1:______________________
Reason 2:______________________

(12) In stanza 1, which words tell us that the narrator was an adopted child?


(13) From stanza 2, which word tells us that the grandmother's body was bent?


(14) Why do you think her soup forgot to boil?


(15) 'My small grandmother is tall there', The narrator admires her grandmother for her
personal qualities. State one personal quality of her grandmother. Support your answer from the
evidence from the poem.
Quality : ______________________

Evidence : ____________________

(16) State two physical attributes of the grandmother in the photograph.

I _______________________________

ii _______________________________
(17) How has the straight back of the grandmother changed in stanza 2?

(18) How old was the persona in the picture?

(19) How does the persona look upon inter-racial relationships? Give a reason to support your
Inter-racial relationship: ______________________________

Reason: ____________________________________________

(20) Which word in the poem denotes the same meaning as the word 'unimaginable'?


(21) Describe the contrast between the 1st stanza and the 2nd stanza.



(22) Give one moral value one can learn from the poem.

(23) In stanza 1, which words mean 'open embroidery on white linen'?

(24)Describe the grandmother's skirt and shoes.

(25)Why do you think the grandmother forgot to boil the soup?


look her own death in the eye

(26)Where do you think the persona was when the grandmother passed away?
Provide a reason for your answer.

(27)What do the 'sharp blue eyes' tell us about the grandmother's race?

(28) According to the persona, where has the grandmother gone?

(29) Do you think the grandmother can be described as brave?


my tall grandmother became small

(30)What has happened to the grandmother's height and how does she look then?


(31) In stanza 3, which word means 'creased'?


(32) When do you think the grandmother can be described as 'tall there ?


(33) Which line tells us that the persona and her grandmother are of different race?

(34) What do you think was the age gap between the persona and her grandmother in the photo?
Provide a reason for your answer.

(35) In stanza 2, which word means 'to have a bent back'?

(36) How old was the persona when the photograph was taken?

(37) What happened to the soup and where do you think it was?


(38) 'she went to the awful place grandmothers go...'

Do you think the persona understand about death? Provide a reason for answer.

(39) In stanza 3, what does the smile tells us about the face?


(40) What is the main theme of the poem?

(41) Which phrase tells us the grandmother's race is different from that of the persona?


'But there she is still'

(42) How do you think the persona feels when she looks at the photograph? Provide a reason
for your answer.



(01) It refers to the photograph.
(02) 'White hand in black hand'
(03) Age has made her round and hunched.
(04) Evidence 1: She looks upon death as an awful, unthinkable place.
Evidence 2: She keeps her alive in her memory by looking at the photograph.

(05) (a) She appears firm/ confident/ strong.

(b) She was a protector / She inspired confidence.

(06) She became older and weaker./ She became absent-minded/ forgetful and hunched
(07) Reason 1: The memory of her grandmother lives on through this photograph.
Reason 2 : The poet's favourite memories of her grandmother are preserved in this
The grandmother is an unforgettable person who is cherished by the persona.

(08) "Her sharp blue eyes look her own death in the eye"
(09) "Somewhere unknown, unthinkable"
(10) It refers to the photograph.
(11) (1) She was of different race/ ethnicity, yet was loved and accepted by her grandmother.
(2) She was kind.
(12) ' white hand in black hand'
(13) 'hunched'
(14) She was old and forgetful/ absent-minded.

(15) (Accept any suitable answer)

Quality Evidence
Kind " a kind old smile"
Protective/caring " her big hands holds mine"
fearless/ courageous " look her own death in the eye"
friendly " the crinkled smile is still living"

(16) kind old smile, sharp blue eyes

(17) It had become round and hunched
(18) She was three years old.
(19) She accepts the fact that people of different races can live harmoniously.
Reason: She accepts and loves her white grandmother.

(20) The word 'unthinkable'.

(21) In the 1st stanza, the grandmother is strong and healthy in the photograph while in the 2nd
stanza, the grandmother is older and ill.
(22) The poem teaches us that we must spend time with our loved ones because when they pass
all that will be left are the memories of the time spent together.
(23) (a) Broderie anglaise
(24) The skirt was pleated and the shoes were flat.
(25) I think she was getting old and forgetful.
(26) Where: By the grandmother's side
Reason: The persona mentions 'her big hands hold mine'

(27) They tell us that she was a white woman.

(28) Her grandmother had passed away and gone to the awful place.
(29) Yes, because she was said to have looked 'her own death in the eye'.
(30) How: She became shorter and small with round hunched back.
Reason: She had become old.

(31) The word is 'crinkled'

(32) She can be so described when she was young before her sixties.
(33) The line is 'white hand in black hand'.
(34) Age gap: 1 think it must be big.
Reason: The persona describes her grandmother's smile as crinkled meaning she had
wrinkles and the persona was only three.
(35) The word is 'hunched'.
(36) Three years old
(37) The soup was not boiled and I think it was on the stove that was not lit.
(38) Understanding: No, I don't think she understand then.
Reason: She mentions the place as awful, unknown and unthinkable when normally heaven
is described as beautiful.

(39) The face is wrinkled.

(40) Love and ties between a grandmother and granddaughter.
(41) The phrase is ' white hand in black hand'
(42) Feeling : She feels happy and loved.
Reason : She mentions that the grandmother's crinkled smile is still living and breathing as
though her grandmother is still standing beside her.