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English: Poetry Commentary - 'Haven't I Danced the Big Dance?' By Jack Mapanje

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Manon Mollard MP5a 16.04.05 English: Poetry Commentary 'Haven't I Danced the Big Dance? By Jack Mapanje The poem 'Haven't I danced the big dance?' by Jack Mapanje concerns the traditional rain dance of a proud tribesman. The modern representation of his dance that he sees today provokes this nostalgic and emotional response. The speaker, a formal tribal rain dancer, is thinking back to the time when he used to dance this traditional dance, and looking at the new generation, dancing only for show, with sadness. The poem is divided into three stanzas, the two first ones being dedicated to the past, when he was a dancer, and the last one to the present. The first stanza talks about the way he used to dance this traditional rain dance, in a circle around the drums, with amulets, anklets and snakes. The second stanza is insisting on the energy he put into this dance, on how good he was. The third stanza brings us to the present time, now that his daughters are doing the dance, more as an attraction for tourists than as a real tradition, and the speaker is not able to show them the real meaning of the dance. ...read more.


And at the same time, he only uses questions, and repeats the phrase 'Haven't I?' at the end of the stanza, which shows that he is sad this time seems to be so far away and that it is not like that anymore. In the second stanza, the speaker keeps talking about the time he used to be a dancer. In this stanza, the speaker insists on how good he was, and we can feel some pride in his words. 'How my neck peaked Above all dancers How my voice throbbed Like the father-drum' Even if I think this is a way to express his nostalgia, I also think he feels somewhat sad this old good time is over. As he sued to be a good dancer, he is looking for satisfaction. Again, he finishes the stanza by 'Haven't I?'. In the last stanza, he is very sad that the tradition had changed; he is disappointed the rain dance does not have the traditional value it once had. He is embarrassed his daughters now use 'babble-idea-men-masks. ...read more.


The look for comfort is essentially expressed at the end, where we have four questions in four lines, especially with the rhetorical question 'Haven't I?'. Indeed, his questions get shorter and shorter in the end, just as if he expected us to answer 'Yes, you have'. He insists with this idea throughout the whole poem, with the 'Haven't I?' question at the end of each stanza. Another important repetition is the one of the word 'dance', written ten times in total. This simply shows his attachment to that rain dance, how important it is, or at least used to be, in his culture. I think the speaker has clearly shown his regrets of the old times and frustration and disappointment now that he sees the modern representations of it. I also think it is very interesting to use only eight questions to write the poem to try to transcribe the rhythm of the dance into the poem itself. The numerous verbs of action make the poem very active and moving: when he describes the dance, it almost feels like we are there, watching them dancing. ...read more.

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