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

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Kome Emuh


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.

Throughout the poem, you notice 2 lined stanzas emphasising the rhythmic flow of the poem relating to the rhythmic flow of the dance. Several lines in this poem replicate the actions that take place; “down down down” and “up up up”, which demonstrates the downward movement of being suppressed and coming out of the ship, but it also suggests the image of the slaves dancing the limbo and their daily routine on the ships.

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On the other hand, ‘Island Man’ is a short poem which reflects the difference between a dream and reality. The structure on the page is disconcerted and the stanzas towards the end of the poem become shorter as the island man comes out of his dream of the Caribbean, and “heaves” himself into reality, which is London.

Although there are some words in the poem which are physically isolated from the rest of the poem such as “groggily groggily” and “to surge of wheels” which emphasises the distance between the two countries; Caribbean and England and the difficulty in ...

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