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Exploring Figurative Language

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on 22 May 2015

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Transcript of Exploring Figurative Language

Caribbean Expression through Figurative Language
Julie Linh Nguyen
Thesis
Caribbean Literature has a wide range of expression aside from the Caribbean imaginary that has been deeply rooted in history, which is evident in the language of poems from different time periods.
Methodology
Classic Post-Martin analysis using intertextuality
Analyze three poems from different time periods
Look at background of poem and author
Analyze figurative language in terms of how it expresses different sentiments
Ancestor on the Auction Block
Background
Author: Vera Bell
Year published: 1948
Bell immigrated to Britain in 1955
1930s and 1940s a time of political and cultural change
Crumbling economy from Depression in 1920s resulted in call for social change
Repetition to denote passage of time
"Across the years your eyes seek mine" (2)
"Across the years your eyes seek mine" (9)
"Across the years your eyes meet mine" (22)
"Across the years / I look" (35-36)
Speaker's eyes must be sought out by the ancestor, but eventually their eyes meet and finally, the speaker actively looks at the ancestor
Analysis
Repetition of word "ashamed"
"I see your humiliation / And turn away / Ashamed" (6-8)
"Ashamed to look / Because of myself ashamed" (13-14)
"Of this only need I be ashamed / Of blindness to the God within me" (28-29)
The speaker goes from being ashamed of the ancestor to being ashamed of herself for not acknowledging the ancestor's importance, shows importance of diction
Analysis Cont'd
Metaphor
"Is this mean creature that I see / Myself?" (11-12)
Speaker compares herself to a creature and realizes that by being ashamed, she is casting aside the importance of everything her ancestor endured
"Shackled by my own ignorance / I stand / A slave" (15-17)
Speaker compares herself to a slave and implies that she is restrained by her ignorance and shame
"Within your loins I see the seed / Of multitudes" (38-39)
Speaker acknowledges the ancestor and is finally appreciative of all they had to go through and all they worked for
Analysis Cont'd
"'Ancestor on the Auction Block'" examines the responsibility of the present to the past, and also engages with the task of reconstruction"
"This poem arrives at the positive awareness of how to move into the future through the acceptance of a unifying and redemptive spirituality which transforms the shame and humiliation of slave history"
"Bell's poem locates the nationalist optimism of this period"
(Alison Donnell 117)

A combination of figurative language in this poem demonstrates the depth of expression associated with pain, shame, and eventually, acceptance and celebration.
One Continent/To Another
Background
Author: Grace Nichols
Year published: 1983
Nichols emigrated to Britain as a young woman
1980s characterized by arrival of new generation of poets
Increase in creole writing because of literary developments in the late 1970s
Increased publication of Caribbean women's writing, which brought about significant new voices
Analysis
Child of the middle passage womb
push
daughter of a vengeful Chi
she came
into the new world
birth aching her pain
from one continent/to another (1-7)
Extended metaphor of Middle Passage slave ship giving birth to new identities and birthing a new found pain
Jagged structure of the stanza reflects the jagged nature of the ship as well as the shift in the speaker's life
and after fifty years
she hasn't forgotten
hasn't forgotten (10-12)
Reference to the passage of time
Repetition emphasizes that this memory has been on her mind for the past fifty years
And she went forth with others of her kind
to scythe the earth knowing that bondage
would not fall like poultice from the
children's forehead (25-28)
Compares slavery to poultice and says that it would not end easily the way poultice falls off easily
Awareness and preparation for the hard life ahead
Analysis Cont'd
From the darkness within her
from the dimness of previous
incarnations
the Congo surfaced
so did Sierra Leone and the
Gold Coast which she used to tread
(32-37)
Reminiscent of the past
"darkness" and "dimness" - diction for how buried her emotions are
Allusions to places in Africa show the pain of having to leave it and the transition of space
"Previous incarnations" shows the transition of time
she had imagined this new world to be -
bereft of fecundity

No she wasn't prepared
for the sea that lashed
fire that seared
solid earth that delivered
her up
(44-50)
Makes the brutal poetic by transitioning from seeing a fruitless land to noticing the vivacity of nature around her
Turns the experience of the enslaved African American female into something positive
Uses personification to make nature seem alive
Now she stoops
in green canefields
piecing the life she would lead (58-60)
Recalls Sugar Cane Alley and the life led there
Speaker looks toward the future, hoping for a better life she might possibly lead
Analysis Cont'd
"For Nichols, place is more than the natural and visible world. It is a complex interweaving of history, community, authority, and subjectivity" (Gill 179)
Explains that her poem is not just going from one continent to another, it's about moving from one history to creating a new one, to leaving a community and building new camaraderie
Nichols mentions Caribbean nature, but shows a side of it that does it more justice than the mere celebration the Caribbean imaginary tries to achieve

The expression in this poem explores issues of identity, immigration, pain, as well as the past, present, and future, which is seen through multiple language devices, including metaphor, repetition, simile, allusion, and imagery.
dis poem
Background
Author: Mutabaruka
Year published: 1992
Mutabaruka grew up in the slums of Jamaica
First published in a magazine
Also a songwriter who performs his pieces, making them flow like lyrics
1990s were concerned with Caribbean literature being altered by the influences of Western academia
"Caribbean literature is now, more than ever, being written and published for outside consumption" (Donnell 439)

Analysis
dis poem
shall speak of the wretched sea
that washed ships to these shores
of mothers cryin for their
young swallowed up by the sea
(1-5)
"Emphasizes the poem's responsibility to respond to colonial history" (Williams)
Refers to slave trade that other poets have talked about
Personifies the sea to emphasize its destructive influence and to call on a pain felt by personal grudge by the mothers
Reminder of "Children of the Sea" by Danticat
dis poem shall call names names
like lumumba kenyatta nkrumah
hannibal akenaton malcolm garvey
haile selassie
dis poem is vex about apartheid racism fascism
the ku klux klan riots in brixton atlanta
jim jones
(9-15)
Alludes to black radical activists, politicians, campaigners, it's a reference to all these people have done and a call to action to continue their work
Allusions to events like the KKK riot demonstrates the anger felt
"vex" calls on more anger
Structure is spontaneous and resembles a stream of consciousness
dis poem is knives bombs guns blood fire
blazin for freedom
(22-23)
Metaphor compares the poem to weapons, making a statement that this poem is a fight for the speaker's people
Expression of anger evident in the violent nature of the line through diction
Analysis Cont'd
Past, Present, Future
"dis poem shall speak of time / time unlimited time undefined" (7-8)
"dis poem shall survive u me it shall linger in history / in your mind / in time forever / dis poem is only time will tell" (36-39)
"dis poem is just part of the story his-story her-story our-story / the story still untold" (42-43)
"dis poem is to be continued in your mind / in your mind in your mind your mind" (63-64)
Passage of time is unclear, but the ambiguity of how much time has passed and how much time is left is purposeful in making the poem sound endless, paralleling the endless issues faces.
"Story untold" and unknown future are a call to action to do something about this

Second person
"dis poem is messin up your brains / makin u want to stop listenin to dis poem / but u shall not stop listenin to dis poem" (57-59)
Use of second person depends on the reader to take action
Expresses the desperation for something to be done, wanting the poem to resonate with others
Stresses the importance of this poem's message
Analysis Cont'd
"The immediacy and intimacy that the poem establishes is evident from the way it performs as speaking and calling to its audience" (Williams)
"Mutabaruka's poem is a call to arms...as well as a call for unification of African nations becoming a drum uniting the languages of ashanti, mau mau, ibo, yoruba" (Williams)
The figurative language in "dis poem" as well as the creole language used express Mutabaruka's desire to fight against issues plaguing his people and unite against the unjustices.
Intertextuality
"Ancestor on the Auction Block" is about the slave trade affecting the speaker, a descendant of slaves
"One Continent/To Another" is about the slave trade affecting the speaker, a slave traded to a new land
"dis poem" is about all the issues that have affected black people, affecting future generations
Most significant poem because it takes the issues of the past two poems and attempts to make it resonate in the present and future
Other two poems express sentiments about slavery, but "dis poem" can assess the histories of the two since it is the most present
Looking at all three poems together allows one to assess the range of expression in Caribbean Literature including shame, guilt, pain, loss, anger, and hope
Confirms that the Caribbean is much more than the limiting imaginary people associate it with
Conclusion
It's clear that each author had endured hard ships and the weight of the words and the language in the poem demonstrated that differently for each
Intertextual analysis enables the reader to also understand the text better because there are useful references that can enhance the meaning of something else
Great representations of the time period in which the poems were written, relates to the social issues Donnell talks about
Analyzing all three poems in context of one another demonstrates the range and strength of Caribbean Literature through each writer's artistry
Bibliography
Donnell, Alison and Sarah Lawson Welsh, eds. The Routledge Reader in Caribbean Literature. New York: Routledge, 1996. Print.
Gill, Jo.
Women's Poetry.
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. Print.
Ramchand, Kenneth. "Parades, Parades: Modern West Indian Poetry."
The Sewanee Review
87.1 (1979): 96-118. Print.
Williams, Nerys.
Contemporary Poetry
. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011. Print.
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