Postcolonial Poetry in English

By Rajeev S. Patke | Go to book overview

2
Back to the future

Articulating the past historically does not mean recognizing it
'the way it really was'. It means appropriating a memory as it
flashes up in a moment of danger.

Walter Benjamin, 'On the Concept of History'


Overview

This chapter introduces the central issues that have preoccupied postcolonial poets in English across the twentieth century— language, history, locality, and displacement—through a reading of three volumes published during the period 1989–2002. Recent poetry is used as a vantage point from which to begin mapping the contours of the large and variegated territory of poetic concerns addressed in Parts II and III. Each volume undertakes a radical revision of the poet's relation to her own historicity in poems of striking force, precision, and originality. Such writing demonstrates the responsibility undertaken by poets towards the practice of a vocation that is energized rather than disabled by the traumas of a colonial past.


2.1 English as a 'foreign anguish': Nourbese Philip

I did not go to Africa looking for my 'roots'. These are very
deeply embedded in the black earth of the West Indies. But my
much maligned ancestors came from Africa. I wanted to stand
where they might have stood. I did.

Claire Harris, Fables from the Women's Quarter

Marlene Nourbese Philip (b. 1947) writes poems, plays, and fiction. She was born in Tobago, and lives in Canada, where she studied and

-29-

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Postcolonial Poetry in English
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Oxford Studies in Postcolonial Literatures i
  • Oxford Studies in Postcolonial Literatures ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Contents xi
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • 1: Poetry and Postcoloniality 3
  • 2: Back to the Future 29
  • Part II - The Development of Local Traditions 53
  • 3: South Asia and Southeast Asia 55
  • 4: The Caribbean 80
  • 5: Black Africa 105
  • 6: The Settler Countries 130
  • Part III - Case Studies: Voice and Technique 157
  • 7: Minoritarian Sensibilities 159
  • 8: Techniquesofself-Representation 180
  • 9: Recurrent Motifs: Voyage and Translation 207
  • 10: After the 'Post-' 237
  • References 240
  • Index 259
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