Contemporary Caribbean Women's Poetry: Making Style

By Denise Decaires Narain | Go to book overview

3

Speaking and performing the Creole word

The work of Valerie Bloom, Jean 'Binta' Breeze, Merle Collins and Amryl Johnson

One culture's 'knowledge' is another's 'noise'. The metonymy of blood and bone embodies the text, the marrow of literary tradition assuming a particularized cultural character. The artist as griot transmits a body of knowledge that is the accreted wisdom of generations. […] Assumed by the in-group, this figure of speech denotes a genealogy of ideas, a blood-line of beliefs and practices that are transmitted in the body, in oral discourse. 1

Paradoxically, Plato could formulate his phonocentrism, his preference for orality over writing, clearly and effectively only because he could write. Plato's phonocentrism is textually contrived and textually defended. 2

Gender is not a fact, the various acts of gender create the idea of gender, and without these acts, there would be no gender at all. Gender is, thus, a construction that regularly conceals its genesis. […] The abiding gendered self will then be shown to be structured by repeated acts that seek to approximate the ideal of a substantial ground of identity, but which, in their occasional discontinuity, reveal the temporal and contingent groundlessness of this 'ground'. 3

Bodily presence and awareness in one sense or another is one of the features which is central to postcolonial rejections of the Eurocentric and logocentric emphasis on 'absence', a rejection which positions the Derridean dominance of the 'written' sign within a larger discursive economy of voice and movement. In its turn this alter/native discursive and inscriptive economy which stresses the oral and the performative is predicated upon an idea of an exchange in which those engaged are physically present to one another. 4

This chapter continues the discussion of Creole-use, taking it into the 1980s and beyond to ask questions about the degree to which contemporary Caribbean women poets have followed the trajectory established by Louise Bennett, to explore the poetic uses to which Creole is put in the work of a selection of poets and to interrogate further the gendered implications of such use. The epigraphs above indicate the broad discursive parameters within which the discussion is framed as I foregound some of the contradictions, ambivalences and complications which proliferate under the sign of 'orality'. Before discussing the work of

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Contemporary Caribbean Women's Poetry: Making Style
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Literary Mothers? 1
  • 2 - The Lure of the Folk 51
  • 3 - Speaking and Performing the Creole Word 89
  • 4 - More Body Talk: Righting or Writing the Body? 148
  • 5 - Playing the Field 213
  • Bibliography 249
  • Index 257
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