Dec 01 2010

Jamaica Kincaid & Natasha Trethewey

Published by at 6:41 pm under Uncategorized

Trethewey’s opening poem entitled “Theories of Time and Space” is very reminiscent of Jamaica Kincaid’s “A Small Place” because they both address the reader in the second person. Kincaid also opens her book with second person perspective talking to her reader as though they were a tourist, aiding in insightful directions about what to pay attention to upon arrival. There is of course her sarcastic tone towards the tourist and simultaneously towards government officials in her island nation. Trethewey also does this with the first poem in her book, advising the reader what to bring with them on their journey to a place unspecified. A lot of her poems speak from memory, stirring together location and time into one constant, or backdrop. With this in mind, she focuses on the sentimental parts of her memory that evoke emotion. An example of this is in her poem “Genus Narcissus” where she describes bringing home flowers to her mother that will eventually wilt and die realizing that by giving them to her mother she’s saying : “ Die early, to my mother” (22).  With the Narcissus flower, Trethewey combines the elements of time and location, describing a familiar walk home from school as a child and presenting a flower to her mother that invokes thoughts of death in the future. There is guilt presented in this poem through the above mentioned line, and irreconcilableness with her past. Kincaid also bares similar negative or dark emotions through her work as she criticizes throughout her book the failures of her Government and the foreigners in her country.

Another poem that focuses on location for Trethewey is “Pilgrimage”, which focuses on Vicksburg, Mississippi. Like Kincaid, there is a worried tone in her writing as both of them insinuate the unclear and troubled future for these places that they are attached to. Trethewey refers to the historic nature of this city and how death is memorialized there with living coming only to gawk at artifacts of the dead. Similarly, Kincaid focuses on the ruined past of Antigua and the repercussions of slavery and imperialism which still bare it’s affects in the present moment of her writing. Both these authors pose a question to the reader, which can be cited from Trethewy’s poem: “what is to become / of all the living things in this place?” (17-18). Their identities are tied to these locations and geographic places by problems that still reverberate their like racism and past grievances. They focus on their experiences in these places and what problems still remain there and how the past can not be let go of, nor will it let go of them. Trethewey metions this in the last line of “Pilgrimage”: “In my dream,/ the ghost of history lies down beside me,/ rolls over, pins me beneath a heavy arm.” (36-37). History is more of a burden in this line and an oppressive force than just a story of what was or happened. Similarly, Kincaid uses history in this matter, depicting it as a source of what was wrong and is presently wrong with Antigua. Their identities are a forlorn writings about their past and their grievous personal and historical experiences.

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