Poems from different cultures and traditions
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Poems From Different Cultures And Traditions LIMBO Kamau Brathwaite. The poet was born in Barbados. Brathwaite lived and worked in Ghana, Africa, from 1955 to 1962. He became active in discovering his cultural roots. Ghana. Brathwaite’s ancestors were transported from

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Brathwaite lived and worked in Ghana,

Africa, from 1955 to 1962. He

became active in discovering his cultural

roots.



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Brathwaite’s ancestors were transported from

Africa to the West Indies during the Slave

Trade.



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The conditions on board the transport ships were, most usually, appalling.

This drawing was produced to support the campaign to end slavery but

it still provides an insight into how much the slaves suffered.


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It is believed that in order to have some form of usually, appalling.

exercise, slaves performed the Limbo: a dance whereby

individuals moved under a stick that was originally the

shackles slaves were tied to.


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The dance became part of the West Indian culture. usually, appalling.

Today, it is a tourist event.


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Going down and under the limbo stick is likened to the slaves going down into the hold of the ship, which carries them into slavery. In Roman Catholic tradition, limbo is a place to which the souls of people go, if they are not good enough for heaven or bad enough for hell, between which limbo lies; it has come to mean any unpleasant place, or a state (of mind or body) from which it is difficult to escape.

The story of slavery told in the poem is very easy to follow, yet full of vivid detail and lively action.


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Limbo slaves going down into the hold of the ship, which carries them into slavery. In Roman Catholic tradition, limbo is a place to which the souls of people go, if they are not good enough for heaven or bad enough for hell, between which limbo lies; it has come to mean any unpleasant place, or a state (of mind or body) from which it is difficult to escape.

  • Two narratives are going on in the poem:

  • The actions of the dance

  • The history of the people re-enacted

  • History suggest the dance was created as exercise on the cramped slave ships


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Various interpretations of the title slaves going down into the hold of the ship, which carries them into slavery. In Roman Catholic tradition, limbo is a place to which the souls of people go, if they are not good enough for heaven or bad enough for hell, between which limbo lies; it has come to mean any unpleasant place, or a state (of mind or body) from which it is difficult to escape.

Many words linked with violence and beating

Likens the limbo stick to going in to the hold of the ship which takes them to slavery

Limbo Edward Kamau Brathwaite

And limbo stick is the silence in front of me

limbo

limbo

limbo like me

limbo

limbo like me

long dark night is the silence in front of

me

limbo

limbo like me

stick hit sound

and the ship like it ready

stick hit sound

and the dark still ready

limbo

limbo like me

Chorus provides shape and a refrain, looking like oars of a ship and the Limbo dance itself

Articles(i.e. ‘a’ and ‘the’ ) are omitted to mimic the drummer’s beat

Poems has strong beat which suggests the drum


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Repetition slaves going down into the hold of the ship, which carries them into slavery. In Roman Catholic tradition, limbo is a place to which the souls of people go, if they are not good enough for heaven or bad enough for hell, between which limbo lies; it has come to mean any unpleasant place, or a state (of mind or body) from which it is difficult to escape. of adjectives and feelings of imprisonment

Limbo is a place which is neither heaven or hell, it is a place for people who have never been given the chance to find god, i.e the unbaptised

long dark deck and the water

surrounding me

long dark deck and the silence

is over me

limbo

limbo like me

stick is the whip

and the dark is slavery

limbo

limbo like me

drum stick knock

and the darkness is over me

Assonance to draw attention, increase feeling of foreboding, echoing drum beat

Many references to heat, dark, water and other ‘hellish’ features


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First person slaves going down into the hold of the ship, which carries them into slavery. In Roman Catholic tradition, limbo is a place to which the souls of people go, if they are not good enough for heaven or bad enough for hell, between which limbo lies; it has come to mean any unpleasant place, or a state (of mind or body) from which it is difficult to escape.

Singular used to personalise the experience for the reader

knees spread wide

and the water is hiding

limbo

limbo like me

knees spread wide

and the dark ground is under me

down

down

down

and the drummer is calling me

limbo

limbo like me

Suggests a very vulnerable submissive position

Use of single-word lines to emphasise movement and rhythm


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sun coming up slaves going down into the hold of the ship, which carries them into slavery. In Roman Catholic tradition, limbo is a place to which the souls of people go, if they are not good enough for heaven or bad enough for hell, between which limbo lies; it has come to mean any unpleasant place, or a state (of mind or body) from which it is difficult to escape.

and the drummers are praising me

out of the dark

and the dumb gods are raising me

up

up

up

and the music is saving me

hot

slow

step

on the burning ground.

Who are these ‘gods’ and why are they dumb?

Poem’s pace slows where poet suggests some sort of ‘salvation’

Final full stop is the only punctuation in the poem

The rhythm ends here, completing the narrative


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