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"My Mother's Sea Chanty"

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Makayla Gilliam-Price

on 18 December 2014

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Transcript of "My Mother's Sea Chanty"

What is afrofuturism?
revolutionary literary movement
started with criticisms of normative science fiction
black writers and artists see the importance of giving the oppressed access to the future
Modern day afrofuturism
functions as a criticism of society and an affirmation of oppressed people
manifests itself in postcolonial literature, music, and art
Goodison's use of afrofuturistic allusions show the practical side of "dreaming" and "praying," and proves that love has the power to resist and to heal.
First Stanza
"I dream that I am wa
my mother's body in the night
and that
and that
till breath
First Stanza
Calming imagery strengthens the tone and illustrates a scene of meditation and transcendence.
"My Mother's Sea Chanty"
An Afrofuturistic reading
Thesis: Although she does not identify as an afrofuturist,
Lorna Goodison's use of assonance, imagery, juxtaposition, and, symbolism in "My Mother's Sea Chanty" alludes to the afrofuturistic theme: acts of self affirmation can resist forms of oppression
- “Water is the first thing in my imagination... All beginning in water, all ending in water. Turquoise, aquamarine, deep green, deep blue, ink blue, navy, blue-black ...water. . . . Water is the first thing in my memory. The sea sounded like a thousand secrets, all whispered at the same time.
In the daytime it was indistinguishable to me from air. . . . The same substance that carried voices or smells, music or emotion.

—Dionne Brand, A Map to the Door of No Return

- “Oceans and seas are important sites for differently situated people. Indignous Peoples, fisherpeople, seafarers, sailors, tourists, workers, and athletes.
Oceans and seas are sites of inequality and exploitation—resource extraction, pollution, militarization, atomic testing, and genocide. At the same time, oceans and seas are sites of beauty and pleasure—solitude, sensuality, desire, and resistance.
Oceanic and maritime realms are also spaces of transnational and diasporic communities, heterogeneous trajectories of globalizations, and other racial, gender, class, and sexual formations.1”
- Kale Fajardo, “Filipino Cross Currents: Histories of Filipino Seafaring—Asia and the Americas”

- “[Mati.] This is the word Creole women use for their female lovers: figuratively mi mati is "my girl," but literally it means mate, as in shipmate—she who survived... with me... During the Middle Passage, as colonial chronicles, oral tradition, and anthropological studies tell us, captive African women created... bonds with other women ... In so doing,
they resisted the commodification of their bought and sold bodies by feeling and feeling for their co-occupants on these ships.

- Omise'eke Natasha Tinsley, Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic: Queer Imaginings of the Middle Passage

Assonance of "s" creates a liquid sound which entrenches the image of the ocean and creates a serene tone.
First Stanza
Goodison juxtaposes those calming images and tones with "the night sea" which has been used in afrofuturism as a symbol of expoitation.
Fourth Stanza
This stanza not only depicts a shift in the speaker's mother but in the ocean as well. Thus showing that love transforms not only the oppressed but the oppressor as well.
Third Stanza
The use of images of the speaker's mother as an autonomous woman of the sea prove the liberating impact that sharing intimacy has.
Second Stanza
The use of ambergris as a symbol of value affirms the speaker's mother's new identity.
Second Stanza
"I dream that I am
my mother's body
in the night sea
and that she
sings slow
and that she
still breathes.
"I dream that I am washing
my mother's body in the
night sea
and that she sings slow
and that she still breathes."
"I see my sweet mother
a plump mermaid
in my dreams
and I wash her white hair
with ambergris and foaming seaweed."
Goodison's use of fanatical imagery alludes to afrofuturistic identities
"I see my sweet mother
a plump mermaid in my dreams
and I wash her white hair
and foaming seaweed."
I watch my mother under water
gather the loose pearls
she finds,
scrub them free from nacre
string them on a lost fishing line
I hear my dark mother
speaking sea- speak
with pilot fish,
showing them how to direct barks
bear away our grief and anguish.
Fifth Stanza
The depictions of liberation in this stanza show the true goal of the speaker and her mother's shared intimacy, which alludes to the goal of afrofuturism: true freedom.
I pray my mother
breaks free
from the fish pots and marine chores
of her residence beneath the sea,
and that she rides a wild white horse.
Admiration and Affirmation
Throughout the poem, specifically the first two words of each stanza, use parallel structure to entrench this idea of admiration which translates into the speakers affirmation of her mother's aquatic identity.
"I dream"
"I see"
" I watch"
"I hear"
"I pray"
Full transcript