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Michael Fraser

Michael Fraser

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Michael Fraser

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  1. Michael Fraser “Underground”

  2. Underground They came like caged birds railed out in bottoms of sunken wood crates, their nostrils pickled in sour stench coats, summer’s humid claws baked them weak as crickets squeaked wings under slow moving stars even near the border, they were always one cough away from familiar clinking chain bracelet, the scalding half-tone whip boiling bumps onto their backs like a firebrand fresh from blue hot fire and when they crossed over into Ontario, the photograph showed it all, Africans knee deep In a vomit of snow A Halloween of lies While they listened To the frozen icicle notes Crash one by one In the ice storm’s wake, The strangled crunch of boots waiting for the full husk of winter to burst open

  3. The Poet • Michael Fraser • Born in Grenada, an island North West of Trinidad and Tobago • Came to Canada when he was 5 • Has 2 children • Has been writing since the age of 15 • Main focus of poetry: • Passing of time • Relationships • Time • Personalities, historical personalities • Social issues, slavery • Civil Rights Movement • Beauty in all things • His favorite food is Roti and Black cake  

  4. Poem - Context • The poem is called “Underground” • Context: the poem was derived from Fraser’s explorations of a photograph • Black settlers coming to Canada • “Underground” refers to a the Underground Rail- road • They did not receive what the land had promised them • They had to contend with harsh winters, dig in the mud to make hut houses

  5. Poem Analysis Notes Please note that these ideas are my own ideas, your ideas are completely valid as long as you are able to provide me with textual evidence. Also you may notice other literary devices and imagery, please feel free to share these with the class as we continue our discussions. Title – Reference to the Underground Railroad Form – Open form poem Punctuation – No periods, only comma’s (caesura) Please note: I will be referring to each physical line on the page as Line 1, line 2 etc. Line 1 “They” plural, more than 1, indicating no separate identity Simile – “They came like caged birds” – comparison to birds, arriving in flocks “caged” – trapped, forced Reference to slavery, captured against their own free will Line 3 “Sunken wood crates” – Olfactory imagery When something comes in wood crates, it often smells moldy. They are packaged, shipped

  6. Poem Analysis Notes Line 4 “pickled in sour stench coats” Metaphor (no like or as) Alliteration, stress on the ‘s’ indicating emphasis Line 6 Personification – “summers humid claws” Giving life to summer “claws” suggest pain, sharp, hurting Line 7 Summer is making them weak “baked”, cooking. Reference to heat

  7. Poem Analysis Notes Line 8 Simile – comparing humans to crickets a type of insect Line 9 “slow moving stars”, slow movements. Line 10 “border” – reference to slavery, crossing over to a foreign land Line 13 “clinking chain bracelet” – Alliteration, auditory imagery

  8. Poem Analysis Notes Line 14 “scalding half-tone whip” – controlled by the slave master Line 15 “boiling bumps” – Alliteration Line 15 “fire band fresh” – heat, hot and fresh scars Line 17 “blue hot fire” – Oxymoron, contradictory term (e.g. bittersweet) Line 19 “Ontario” – reader told where they are going

  9. Poem Analysis Notes Line 20 “photograph” - poet at the looking at the photograph Line 21 “Africans” – know which country the people are from but still plural. No individual identity Line 22 “vomit of snow” – Olfactory imagery, tied to stanza 1 Line 23 – “Halloween of lies” – Dress up, make believe, idea of pretense, pretending to be something you are not

  10. Poem Analysis Notes Line 24-27 Now they have to contend with the harsh winter, this stanza presents contrasting imagery to the heat imagery in the previous stanza. Now it feels harsh, clod, brutal Line 24 “listened” stillness, preparation Line 27 “wake” – the cold is making them alert Line 28 “strangled” – death

  11. Poem Analysis Notes Line 29 “husk” – women in Africa take of the inner layers of corn leaving only the cobs which are grinded for food to eat. In Canada husk is reference to “husky bears, fur. This word is ambiguous, had a double meaning. Line 30 “burst open” – As the doors open the winter will burst upon them

  12. Imagery Olfactory Imagery – Appeals to smell “pickled in sour stench coats” (Fraser 4) Auditory Imagery – Appeals to hearing “clinking chain bracelet” (Fraser 13)