What connotations do the following words have for you?• Water• Moon• Sunrise How about the following adjectives? – rise; warm; streaming – deep; bold; fathoming• – pull; grained; mantling• Is it possible to match the nouns with the adjectives?
Personal associations• Think of a meal and a living thing (e.g. plant, tree) which have particularly powerful ‘homely’ associations for you.• For me:• Barbequed lamb and greek salad• The kowhai tree outside my parent’s home
For me:Barbequed lamb chops Kowhai tree with a tui
Grace Nichols• Grace Nichols is a Guyanese poet. She was born in Georgetown (a small coastal village), Guyana, in 1950. After working in Guyana as a teacher and journalist, she immigrated to the UK in 1977.• Much of her poetry is characterised by Caribbean rhythms and culture, and influenced by Guyanese and Amerindian folklore.• Her religion is Christianity after she was influenced by the UKs many religions and multi-cultural society. Her partner is Guyanese poet John Agard.• She has a strong interest in Guyanese folk tales, Amerindian myths and the South American Aztec and Inca civilisations. Her poems often express a Caribbean philosophy, sometimes directly contrasting with the spirit of the UK.• After beginning her relationship with Agard, she and her daughter Lesley accompanied him on his move to England; the couple would go on to have a daughter of their own, Kalera. Away from the Caribbean, Nichols began to write poetry more frequently• http://anthology.aqa.org.uk/index.asp?CurrMenu=12&T=16#16• http://www.contemporarywriters.com
Praise Songs• The praise song is ‘one of the most widely used poetic forms in Africa; a series of laudatory epithets applied to gods, men, animals, plants, and towns that capture the essence of the object being praised. Professional bards, who may be both praise singers to a chief and court historians of their tribe, chant praise songs…’.• Homework:Look up laudatory, essence, bard and epithet and explain them.The praise song is not part of Western cultures, though the ‘eulogy’ is asimilar form.Research the terms eulogy and obituary, and some examplesand, again, discuss similarities and differences. (Eulogies are usually prosand written about a person who has just died. They are almost alwayspositive. Interestingly, African praise songs can include negative things aswell as positive; indeed, they are intended to be descriptive rather thansimply laudatory).
Background - Praise SongsExample of chant praise song for the great Zulu chieftain Shaka: He is Shaka the unshakeable, Thunderer-while-sitting, son of Menzi. He is the bird that preys on other birds, The battle-axe that excels over other battle-axes. He is the long-strided pursuer, son of Ndaba, Who pursued the sun and the moon. He is the great hubbub like the rocks of Nkandla Where elephants take shelter When the heavens frown… Although he is expected to know all of the traditional phrases handed down by word of mouth in his tribe, the bard is also free to make additions to existing poems. Thus the praise songs of Shango, the Yoruba god of thunder and lightning, might contain a modern comparison of the god to the power and noise of a railway.Among some Bantu-speaking peoples, the praise song is an important form of oral literature. The Sotho of Lesotho required all boys undergoing initiation to compose praises for themselves that set forth the ideals of action or manhood. Sotho bards also composed traditional praises of chiefs and warriors, and even a very young man was allowed to create praises of himself if he had performed feats of great courage.
Background - Praise SongsThese praise songs were recited as follows: the reciter stood in an open space, visible to all assembled. He then began reciting in a high voice, punctuating his victories in war by stabbing the ground with his spear, until he had set forth not only his lineage and the battles in which he had fought but his entire life history. Sotho praises are telegraphic, leaving much to the listener’s imagination; their language is poetic, and the sequence of events not necessarily logical. Metaphor is a key device for suggesting worth (a reciter might call himself a ferocious animal), and poetic license is granted for coining new words.To the subjects used by the Sotho, the Tswana of Botswana add women, tribal groups, domestic (especially cattle) and wild animals, trees, crops, various features of the landscape, and divining bones. Their praise songs consist of a succession of loose stanzas with an irregular number of lines and a balanced metrical form. Experiences such as going abroad to work for Europeans have become a subject of recent praise poems, and recitation has been extended from tribal meetings and ritual occasions such as weddings to the beer hall and labour camp.In western Africa, also, praise songs have been adapted to the times, and a modern praise singer often serves as an entertainer hired to flatter the rich and socially prominent or to act as a master of ceremonies for paramount chiefs at state functions—e.g., among the Hausa and Manding peoples. Thus praise-song poems, though still embodying and preserving a tribe’s history, have also been adapted to an increasingly urbanized and Westernized African society.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOGqO2_uSzQ
Praise Song for my Mother You were water to me deep and bold and fathoming You were moon’s eye to me pull and grained and mantling You were sunrise to me rise and warm and streaming You were the fishes red gill to me the flame trees spread to me the crab’s leg/the fried plantain smell replenishing replenishing Go to your wide futures, you said Grace Nichols
http://anthology.aqa.org.uk/attachments/15.mp3 Reading Performing a praise songhttp://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9151762251923117883#
The SIFT method to analyse and revise poems. pecify the subject matter and sense of the poem through a brief summary nform us of the intention of the poet and his/her main ideas overall ocus on the form ( structure/punctuation) and the feelings conveyed ( poet’s attitude/tone used) and how this highlights the main ideas ell us about the techniques, imagery and poetic language that show the ways ideas are presented
AnalysisIn pairs, analyse the poem. Make intelligentcomments and use plenty of examples:• Form and Structure – stanzas, repetition, line length, layout + shape.• Language – connotations of words, word choices, senses, adjectives etc.• Imagery – explain the metaphors used• Rhyme, Repetition and Rhythm• Tone and Meaning• Your Own Opinion of the poem
Analysis• The tradition of the praise song comes from West Africa and from there to the Caribbean, so the term in the title of this poem sets a cultural background. The patterning of the short stanzas on the page, through shape and repetition, also establishes the poem’s identity as a song.• It is also significant that the metaphors which Nichols uses to describe the importance of her mother are all drawn from the physical world – the things that surrounded her in her childhood: ‘water’, ‘moon’, ‘sunrise’, ‘fishes’, flame tree’, ‘crab’ and ‘plantain’. These references also represent the cycle of the days, shade and sustenance, all of which are contained within the poem’s conception of motherhood. Note the continuity suggested by the present participle form of the verbs at the end of each stanza, particularly the repeated ‘replenishing’.• The memories of the surroundings of childhood are an important contrast with the move to ‘wide futures’ at the end of the poem. Consider the effect of this last line forming a stanza on its own.
Your turn….• Take the praise song structure that Nichols has used and create your own praise song for a member of your family (they can be dead or alive).• Compare them to things which are important to you and which have deep connotations.• Your poem should be the same length and layout as Nichols, but with different language and images.
So what?• Why do you think Nichols chose this traditional African form of poem to memorialise her mother?• How might you view a feminist reading of this poem?• Nichols has two daughters of her own. In what way might her relationship with her own daughters have inspired this poem?• Why do you think she wrote this poem? What does it make you consider about your own family relationships and /or the role of your mother or father in your life?
Compare with• Childhood Frances Cornford• My Parents Stephen Spender• For Heidi With Blue Hair Fleur Adcock• Follower Seamus Heaney• Elegy for My Father’s Father James K. Baxter• Country School Allen Curnow• A Dream William Allingham
Your responses• Nichols chose this form to reflect her own traditional culture, signify and emphasise her heritage and ancestry• References to women such as the moon (classical mythology), also life and growth “spread of the flame tree”, birth “sunrise”. Women are essential in this – central or pivotal.• Realises and understands the importance of her mother’s role in her life, as she is fulfilling this role with her own daugther’s. Positive role model for her. For her own daughter’s to understand and appreciate their mother too!• Her mother was as essential to her in her life as the moon/sun/water are to living.• Readers may be able to appreciate the pivotal role of their own family members in their lives too.• This poem personifies ‘Mother Nature’ by comparing the mother to elements in nature – raises this idea to a spiritual level (idea of giving birth and being a mother).