For this essay, I will be looking at the poem “Nothing’s Changed”, by Tatamkhulu Afrika, and the poem “Island Man”, by Grace Nichols. Each poem, instead of directly linking with the chosen title, deals with the connection of people to places where they used to live. For example “Island Man” shows the deep connection between this man and the island where he was born. And also in “Nothing’s Changed” it tells us of the poet returning to District Six, in South Africa, and his feelings towards the area.
To begin with, “Island Man” is about an unnamed man (even though I have found out that it was written for her husband- John Agard), who has travelled to London for work, but still yearns for the Caribbean. It seems that he has been dreaming of his island and for a few minutes on waking it is if he his back there. From the start of this poem, you can see that he still has a strong connection with his original home and culture from the title “Island Man”- at least in his dreams anyway. The actually start of the poem begins with the word “Morning”. It is a simple statement but by placing it on its own it draws attention to itself. The shortness of the first could also suggest that he’s jolted awake.
In line 5 it says “the steady breaking and wombing”. One technique the poet employs to suggest that the Caribbean lives “in him” is to use words that blend with another. An example is when the poet refers to the waves. She makes up the word “wombing” (line 5) where we might expect her to use “booming”, which suggests that their rhythm and sound is like heartbeat a child hears in the womb. Perhaps the poet is using the word “wombing” to suggest the comfort and security that this man gets from his place of birth.
Another way which the poet shows the connection between the person and place is by description. Grace Nichols describes this man’s home as an “emerald island”. She presents it as idyllic- almost like a picture. For example, the sun rising on a scene of “blue surf”, rhythmic booming of waves etc. In contrast, London is presented as “dull” and full of the noise of traffic. By creating such a contrast the reader can sympathize with the person and be able to understand his connection to his island- he has given up a paradise for the monotonous and dreary life that comes with London.
However, unlike in “Nothing’s Changed” where the poet only shows his resentment to the area, “Island Man” uses transferred epithet e.g. … “surfacing defiantly”. This is an English idiom which shows that he is very much part of the English culture even if he doesn’t believe he is. Finally, Grace Nichols uses presentational techniques in her poem to further emphasise this man’s connection to his island. The use of no punctuation, apart from capital letters, firstly suggests enjambment and could suggest that this is not a one off event. This dream may have been going on for many years.
The poet shows that this man has a large connection with his place of birth but no real connection to where he lives. London is presented as a place that he is in, whilst the Caribbean is seen as his home- how could London ever compete with that.
The second poem that I will be exploring is “Nothing’s Changed”. In this poem, the poet examines the effect of the new multi racial government in an area of South Africa, known as District Six. Unlike, in “Island Man” the poet of this poem has no fondness of this area where he grew up; his connection to this area was because of the apartheid.
From the beginning, the poet uses the technique of onomatopoeia for words like “click” and “crunch” to create a harsh, bitter mood. Afrika also use alliteration e.g. “cuffs, cans” that are one syllable words which make the tone snappy and hard- hitting. Therefore, the reader can tell already that his feelings to the area are poor.
Much of the poet’s past lives here. He doesn’t need a sign or visual clue; he knows it is District Six. The repeated use of the word “and” has the cumulative effect of his growing anger. Unlike, “Island Man” I am able to see that as you go through the poem his attitude towards the place where he grew up gets progressively worse. “Island Man” uses calmer, more peaceful language in comparison to “Nothing’s Changed”.
The main section of the poem is about the new restaurant which is completely out of place; it is “Brash” and “it squats”. As I mentioned before his connection with this place was because he lived there and he was against the apartheid. The “whites only inn” has brought about a non official segregation through money. As Afrika fought so hard to end the apartheid, it seems that the title is correct because nothing has changed. He was connected to this area because of the apartheid but now, this type of segregation, he is unable to fight against.
Throughout this poem the type of language used like “small, mean” makes the man feel rejected from the area. Similarly, with the comparisons of the inn and working man cafï¿½, it makes the man feel rejected because of the segregation. In “Island Man” the language, when describing the island is inviting and pleasing. As the reader can see his connection to this place is not because he likes it; he is connected by the inequality and the hatred of what people have done to the area.
In conclusion, both poets have different techniques to express people’s connections to places, depending on how they feel towards an area- whether it is hatred or just missing it. Both of the poems I looked at were different in how the poet was connected to a place but used some techniques to express either longing or hatred.