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How does the use of non-standard English in poetry contribute to the construction of its reader's responses?

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Introduction

How does the use of non-standard English in poetry contribute to the construction of its reader's responses? ??? ??? The use of non-standard English in poetry can be used for several effects. I shall be looking at it in conjunction with performance poetry to see how it contributes to the construction of its reader's responses. In particular, I will be looking at Afro-Caribbean-born poets and their work namely John Agard's 'Listen Mr Oxford Don', Grace Nichol's 'Thoughts drifting through the fat black woman's head while having a full bubble bath' and Jean Binta Breeze's 'Arising: for the youth of Azania'. All these poets use non-standard English in their poetry and also incorporate performance into their readings and therefore add a new dimension into the construction. Firstly, I shall talk a little of the traditions of African oral literature. It was transported from the early 17th through to the 19th century from Africa to America and the Caribbean in the form of 'story telling, proverbs, rituals and poems' via the African slaves. Their history is underlined by the loss of their native cultures and languages whereby they then were forced to adopt the English language by their slavers. 'Hence, English was, and continues to be, the language of education, law, government and economics' (Nestor, 2003). ...read more.

Middle

The aforementioned poem is by Jean 'Binta' Breeze, who was born and studied in Jamaica. Known as a dub poet, she began to write poetry in the 1970s, performing and recording first in Kingston then in London. 'ARISING: for the youth of Azania', which is from her collection Riddym Raving and other Poems (1998), is a poem which has to be performed, like many of her other poems, it has a rhythm and beat to it, even when performed without drums. The listener of the poem is instantly aware of the change in language style, although it is essentially 'English', it is actually not. It takes a little moment to those who are not used to listening, to get used to the words and pick it up. The poem is, like Breeze's other work, different from conventional poetry, it is self conscious is about poetry as much as it is about the Caribbean or the black British experience. The structure of the stanzas is like in song form rather than usual poetry, you can almost hear, when performed, where the verses and chorus goes. The speaker of the poem is a child who 'speaks' in the colloquial tongue of their desire to get an education, and the fact they were discouraged by their teacher ('But teacha buss mi finga wid a ruler/Ev'ry time I ask she 'bout a scholarship') ...read more.

Conclusion

Carlton E. Wilson writes about in his essay, "Racism and Private Assistance: The Support of West Indian and African Missions in Liverpool, England, During the Interwar Years," What is produced from this dub poetry is the creation of this sense of space. Britain is a nation made up of 'regions' and these regions all have their voices which are not accepted as the standard. The surge of vernacular verse over the last view decades means this space is now recognised and accepted; Romana Huk says of this; Recovering some sense of the ways in which places map our selves rather than vice versa...one so critically fashioned by metonymic language and spatial metaphors that poetry's figurative medium becomes, arguably, one of the best for exploring its design Tom Paulin, in The Faber Book of Vernacular Verse (1990), says of the Rastafarian voice in 'Africa me wan fe go/Africa me wan fe go'; ...rejects the official order and seeks an alternative and juster society. It's a communal speech which articulates the violent displacement of slavery and colonialism, the experience of losing language and homeland and having another language - or bits of other languages -imposed on you... (Paulin, 1990: xviii) I think that the comment can be said of all the poems I have introduced as it is the precise reason which prompted much Caribbean poetry in the first place. ...read more.

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