What does the language of Grace Nichols’ have to tell us about her culture
What does the language of Grace Nichols’ have to tell us about her culture

What does the language of Grace Nichols’ have to tell us about her culture

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  • Pages: 7 (3207 words)
  • Published: October 7, 2017
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Grace Nichols’ poetry revolves around her culture and the foundations from before she moved to England. She was born in Guyana, then moved to a place where her lifestyle was dramatically changed. Here she could not share her culture. This may have caused a stronger standpoint on her feelings as she has had a chance to reflect on what her background is and what her roots are about. Culture is something that you share with your community, young and old, whether it is something that has only lasted within your generation or throughout hundreds of years.

It is something that is cherished and protected, but is also shared throughout other cultures. Nichols has used her idea of culture as a way to express her feelings about her history, which has caused her to create her own personal, strong opinions. Nichols uses poetry to express her own culture because it is something that everybody would be able to understand in his or her own way. It lets the reader become involved with the poem and allows them to have their own opinion and thoughts on each and every part. The language of a poem can tell us a great deal of what the readers own opinions are and what he/she feels.

In this case it is Nichols’ culture. Throughout her poems she chooses to use her poems language as a mixture of English and Creole. This allows Nichols to get her messages across in her own personal way, but at the same time letting the reader witness what Nichols is really trying to say. Creole gi

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ves rhythm and a deeper meaning to her poems by referring her language back to her culture. Throughout Nichols’ poems, nature is used extensively as a basis of her culture. She does this as a way of describing what her culture represented and how nature played such a large part.

Throughout almost every one of her poems she refers to it in someway, and uses it to describe what her ancestors went through, and what they stood for. The poems Sugarcane, This Kingdom and In my Name, all represent different ways of representing nature in her culture. The poems use nature as a way of getting across the fact that it was not only used to protect their culture against the overseers, but also used as a weapon against them. Grace Nichols’ Sugarcane represents a major part of Caribbean history and culture, the sugarcane plant.

This is the reason that the slaves are suffering, as the overseers use them and the plants to bring in income for themselves. The first line of the poem can be thought of as the most important, which is also significant to Nichols’ culture: ‘”There is something about sugar cane”‘ Nichols uses these words in a format as if she is talking to the reader. These two lines are written in a way as if it were a start of a conversation, by informing the reader, about sugarcane. This creates a compelling nature to the first lines of her poem and makes the reader wish to continue reading.

The use of sugar cane as a mileston

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in her culture is also shown later in the poem: ‘”just before the hurricane strike smashing him to pieces”‘ (lines 25-28) The use of the onomatopoeic word ‘strike’ causes aggression and placed on its own brings more effect. This causes the reader to be compelled by the poem as if he himself were witnessing the hurricane. This creates an idea of what the slaves were going through and the kind of destruction and hurt they experienced. Here Nichols is relating to part of her culture, nature. This can be perceived as the sugarcane being harvested, chopped down harshly.

Alliteration is also shown in the words “strike” and “smashing”. This causes a violent sound, as the slave being destroyed by the overseer, with the hurricane being a metaphor for the overseer. The use of the word ‘smashing’ could be seen as the slaves being classed as inhumane, as humans do not smash. It can also be seen as the slaves being perceived as being a fragile object, being destroyed easily. The sugarcane is also shown as a cause of the slaves demise, pain and suffering in the fourth section of Sugarcane: ‘”the crimes committed”‘

This can be seen as the sugarcane being the main problem for the slaves as it has caused death and suffering for them, and the sugarcane committing a crime for being there for the slaves to die over. Therefore the sugarcane existing in their lives is causing them pain. The pain would be non-existent if the sugarcane was not present. The use of Creole in Sugarcane can also tell us about Nichols’ culture. She has used Creole to keep her culture alive in her poems and creates a real sense of what her culture is. This is shown throughout Sugarcane: ‘”he shiver”‘ (line 18)

It is also used to give the poem a rhythm; rhythm being another main interest, and part of their culture. Personification is used throughout the poem to give the sugarcane a human quality. This allows the reader to see how the slaves were treated as if they were to be compared to the plant: ‘”his skin thick only to protect the juice inside himself”‘ (lines 9-12) Both the slave and the plant itself can be the focus of this stanza. Firstly the sugarcane has juices, and a hard shell to protect itself from predators, but can also be seen as the slave is really soft and kind inside.

But the slave also has to be perceived by the overseers as tough and hard so they are not taken advantage of. Throughout Sugarcane Nichols uses the poem to tell about the slaves situations in Guyana. The word ‘art’ is used to as something that cannot be learnt straight away and not something that you can just have, but you have to live through it. It is used in the poem to show that what happened in Guyana has to be realised over time and not straight away. Nichols is trying to teach us about the slaves ‘growing up’: ‘”Growing up is and art”‘

Then again, the slaves having absolutely no freedom, choice and power but also the slaves having

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