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How do Grace Nichols and EH Brathwaite explore the ideas of culture and cultural backgrounds in their poems?

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Introduction

How do Grace Nichols and EH Brathwaite explore the ideas of culture and cultural backgrounds in their poems? In the poem 'Limbo', Brathwaite explores the tradition of the dance limbo which reminisces the cultural heritage of his ancestors and the horrific aspect of history during the time of slavery. Limbo can be used to mean the tradition slave dance but can also show the state in which the slaves are living in referring a place of emptiness between heaven and hell. This relates to the poem 'Island Man', as Nichols also reminisces on her cultural background and being torn away from her culture. Island Man implies the conversion of a Caribbean man being half asleep and half awake, reinforcing the state of mind the Caribbean man is in, which is between the reality of London and his cultural roots. These poems evaluate the transition between places in addition to being separated from cultural roots. Limbo is a long structured poem reflecting the length of the journey that the slaves had to take across the sea, but it also represents the movement of the dance. Each stanza represents a time through the journey, for example; "long dark deck and the water surrounding me" which symbolises that the ship is now at sea and "sun coming up", which implies that the slaves have come out of the ship. ...read more.

Middle

The structure of the poem 'Limbo' is very much spaced out on the page and there is only one capital letter in the whole poem, correlating to the poem "Island Man", which only has several capital letters, which denotes the formality of the English language and allows emotions and expressions to run more freely. Both poems use linguist sounds such as onomatopoeia, sibilance, rhyme, alliteration to heighten the sense of cultural heritage. In 'Limbo', alliteration and rhyme is used to remind the reader of the suffering of the slaves, "dark deck", "raising me/ saving me" and as the word dark is repeated throughout the poem it associates fear with the slaves and the darkness on the ship. In addition, Brathwaite engages the reader by using the 1st person which shares the expressions and feelings with the reader and gives an insight into the lives of the slaves, arousing a sense of sympathy. The onomatopoeic sounds; "stick hit sound" evokes the sound of chains being hammered in chaining the slaves to the ship; which are very forceful and powerful monosyllabic words. The rhythm right through this poem is reinforced by the refrain "limbo/ limbo like me" which establishes the rhythm from the very beginning. ...read more.

Conclusion

to the sound of blue surf." The conclusions to both poems are rather direct and discouraging. Brathwaite uses techniques to imply a sense of communication and hope for the slaves towards the end of the poem and raises the naive aspirations of the slaves is devastating as they are only to discover that they are taking a backward step into the hell of slavery. "...sun coming up/ and the drummers are praising me/ out of the dark/ and the dumb gods are raising me/ up up up..." Then the reader begins to understand that the pattern and rhythmic flow has gone and are replaced with short painful words such as "hot/ slow/ step." Also the first full stop at the end of the poem concludes the life of the slaves which is the end to freedom and the arrival into slavery, relating to a living hell. "...on the burning ground." The conclusion to Island Man is similar in the way that it ends with a powerful last line; "Another London day", which is physically isolated reminding the reader of how exiled this man feels from his culture. Both poems are successful in the way in which they arouse the reader's emotional senses and covey a sense of pain and isolation from their cultural background. Kome Emuh 11H ...read more.

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