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Telephone Conversation

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Hannah Nilsson

on 3 June 2014

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Transcript of Telephone Conversation

Stanza #4
“THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?” “Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but, madam, you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Are a peroxide blond. Friction, caused–
Foolishly, madam–by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black–One moment, madam!”–sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears–”Madam,” I pleaded, “wouldn’t you rather
See for yourself?”
Characteristics of poem
Poem holds evident signs of racism
Focuses more on the man's skin color than the price of the property

Deals with the racism in a comical and sarcastic manner
Uses ironic examples to show how absurd it is to judge a mans intellect or character based on his skin color
The poem reflects on the chaotic, dangerous, and uncontrollable life of The Modern Age, and with knowledge of the unjust and racist 1950's - where people were not judged for their character, but by the color of their skin - the reader would not be at fault for sympathizing with the narrator.
Stanza #2
“HOW DARK?” . . . I had not misheard . . . “ARE YOU LIGHT
OR VERY DARK?” Button B, Button A. Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis–
About the Author
Nigerian writer (1934-present)
Wrote plays and poetry in London for theater and radio
Showed the problems of racism, injustice, tyranny, and corruption in the 1950's throughout his plays and poems
Experienced brutal despotism first hand when imprisoned for meeting with secessionist leaders
Relates to personal experiences in his poems and plays
Won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986
Telephone Conversation
Stanza # 1
The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self-confession. “Madam,” I warned,
“I hate a wasted journey—I am African.”
Silence. Silenced transmission of
Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,
Lipstick coated, long gold rolled
Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was foully.
Stanza #3
ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?” Revelation came.
“You mean–like plain or milk chocolate?”
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted,
I chose. “West African sepia”–and as afterthought,
“Down in my passport.” Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece. “WHAT’S THAT?” conceding
“DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS.” “Like brunette.”
Author might be speaking from personal experience

Had the people been speaking face to face, the conversation would never have taken place
Telephone is used to make the racism clear
Shows how absurd prejudices are
Although written in more racist times, this poem still remains a universal message
Wole Soyinka
An African man is searching for a place to live
He's ready to accept the offer, but feels he needs to let the lady know that he's African
She becomes silent, he thinks its from politeness
Judging by the description, she's rich and upper-class
She asks him to describe how dark he is
He is sickened
Feels as if he has just been reduced to the status of a machine
Can smell the stench coming from her words
Surprisingly, he's the one feeling ashamed over the silence
Continues to ask what color he is
Wonders if she wants him to compare himself to chocolate
States he's "West African sepia" like in his passport
Although she tries to hide it, the lady is confused
Jokingly describes his appearance
Realizes he went too far when she tries to hang up
Tries to plead her into seeing for herself instead
Raw emotions of anger, disgust, shame, and humility
By Hannah & Leah
Full transcript