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Middle Passages

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 6 months ago

I will be the first to say that it is quite hard for me to understand poetry. So I tried my best to see the relationship of what each poem was saying and the true topic he was trying to come across. But reading Brathwaite's works made a profound impact versus the typical poems that I read in class. I find it interesting that Brathwaite chooses to go so outside of the box with his writings. I noticed he likes to highlight certain words, make different fonts, and add spaces between lines. Writing about slavery how can you not write in a way that looks different? What makes this normal or unnoticeable? I think he had to write this way in order to make every subject stand out.






I like the vividness of Brathwaite’s poetry. He shows some of the remarkable transgression of structure that is often seen in the poetry that we have read. There is also an undercurrent, as it would seem, to his writings. He mixes the present day as well as the past into a kind of mish-mash of self exploration and cultural identification. There were a number of lines that I liked throughout the poetry. One such line was, “do not seduce the headman’s wife but his cook/what he loves will flart. Look/to it. Your cock might depend on/it.” Not to be vulgar or blunt, but just to show the relationship of necessity to survive as opposed to the pleasures life has to offer. I also like the fact that most of the poems I read had an element of hope, or struggle for something better, in them. Brathwaite talks of scraping to get by in a time when nothing seemed to be getting better. He talks of his lack of paternity and a mother working two jobs to bring home chicken bones. His connection to the slave trade is also apparent with lines such as, “Shakka spear and guinea Bird”. Brathwaite pulls the lasting influence of the trade into his poetry because it is ever lasting on the streets, in the minds and in the hearts of those whose bloodlines felt the shackle and chain. He also touches on whether or not a seat at the table will ever be set for these people. I think that, as we talked about on Friday, this is a question that still needs to be asked.


Evan Gallagher




I really enjoyed Brathwaite’s poetry. I found his incorporate of English, Spanish, and “Spanglish” words to be striking. Instead of using English as the colonizer uses it, as we’ve seen so many other writers do (think of Wheatley’s rigid form and language from last week), Brathwaite changes English to become a language of his own, no longer the language of the colonizer but the language of the colonized. We see how language has been a force of oppression to the poet. “Word Making Man” begins with the lines: “Sir, / not in ‘Sir” / but companero/ as you wd prefer it in hispanola (3). Here we see how language has been used to enforce European structures of power, but from a variety of different forces. English and Spanish, though completely different languages, become one and the same for the poet in that they are both use to oppress native people and language. But the oppressing language gets mixed in with the native language and becomes something different altogether. With Brathwaite, we finally see that the language(s) the slaves brought with them influenced the European languages themselves. And this act in itself is an exercise of power on the part of the colonized. If English (or Spanish) stays pure and intact is helps the colonizer retain and assert their power. But when it begins to mix with the language of the colonized it becomes something altogether different, and slightly less powerful for the colonizer, and more powerful for the colonized.


Samantha Luceri


I like how Brathwaite's poetry plays from all aspects of modern and past Caribbean life. He moves from Christopher Columbus to nature, forestry and landscape, through slavery to Bessie Smith. His poetry has a certain musical quality, a real raw energy that would be easy to put a beat and some instrumentation behind ("& i throat like dem tie. like dem tie. like dem tie a tight tie a. / round it. twist. in my name quick crick . quick crick ."). It's truly frightening to realize how violent the above couple of lines are, but I appreciate that, while sometimes concentrating on death, personal subjection and the implications of slavery, it nevertheless attends to the entirety of the human experience. In fact, I found his poetry on the whole to be rather uplifting.


Bryan D. Peach

I went into this book thinking I wouldn't like it, because I was hoping we'd get into some Romantic poetry at some point... But I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the poetry in this book. The technical detail to which he pays such close attention--the diction and the alliteration, the line breaks--gives Braithwaite's poetry this moving, rollicking, musical sort of sound so often missing from sterile graduate student chapbooks. He has an incredible voice that really sinks into his poetry, and begs them to be read aloud. (Back to the performance: these poems might be best remembered and spoken aloud, accent and all, poorly pronounced Spanglish--we need to read these aloud!) The shorthand of the writing, memo-style, seems to indicate that the motions of the poem are a remembrance of a performed act, or the scrawled notes of an act that is to be performed. (Like how "get eggsw/milk for breakfast" becomes a meal with your family.)


Brandon Peeech


I think what I liked best about Brathwaite’s poetry was his connection to his roots. On the surface, like Sam mentioned, he is acknowledging not only the Spanish roots, but also the English influence brought on by the colonizers. Yet, what I thought was more interesting was his relationship with nature throughout the poem, which seemed to maybe be dipping into the more natural lifestyle of his African roots. Also, this highlighting of natural roots could be another way of him incorporating indigenous cultures that existed before Spanish or English colonization. In this aspect, I very much agree with Sam, and find it really interesting the way that he was able to incorporate all of these different cultures into one poem of which can act as a direct reflection of himself. He too has been pulled in and out an array of different cultures and is searching for the links between them. Therefore, I think his way of combining all of these different influences allows for him to bridge these links. I find his style pleasantly unique, and really intriguing in the way that regardless of the underlying struggle that seemed present throughout, I still felt a powerful glimmer of hope: one that highlights identity for its hybridity.




I really enjoyed reading the Kamau Brathwaite poetry because it is much different than any poetry I have read before and different than anything we have previously read in class.  There were a few things I found interesting while I was reading.  The first was the way Brathwaite shifts his language between poems.  Jrae has a much stronger Carribean accent than the beginning of the book.  The letters also use a different dialect, but have a different sound than Jrae.  I like how Brathwaite captures the language and sound, not just the subject, of slavery.  I also thought it was interesting that Brathwaite uses very collective language.  He hardly ever uses the pronoun I or me.  His language reflects the collective attitude of the people he is portraying. 




I loved it. I loved reading it and seeing how Brathwaite conformed to and confronted literary convention with his poems.  Personally I dont particularliy like picking apart poems and believe that more meaning can be derived from reading them aloud then combing over them carefully but maybe thats lazyness talking.  His most effective tool is the way he flouts the tendency to try and make poems flow; he uses a kind of staccato that causes the reader to stumble over his work.  Honestly I dont have much to say about his work because I feel it speaks for itself and any insight I could give would be far surpassed by simply glancing over Brathwaite's work once more.  So if this is short of one hundred words I will sacrifice the points toward my grade to demonstrate my feeling toward this man. 



Im not quite sure how i feel abotu Brathwaite. his poetry is chaotic. there is structure but it jumps around a lot, going from one standard of writing to another. this makes his writing very confusing at times. if i were to have read one of these poems 10 years ago, i would have laughed and thought nothing of them. words seem to be thrown on to the pages with reasons but without understanding of why they are there, while im interpreting at least. some words make no sense at all, again to me, however some words are taken and shortened or taken down to their bare minimum, resembling some sort of internet speach that im sure was not in use when Brathwaite wrote this. Was he the inventor of internet speach? doubtful, but i do feel that his use of different words from different forms of speach (Dat/dis/yr/i&i/runagate) is very interesting and provides some insite as to the language used by the many people taken during the middle passage.



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