Postcolonial Poetry in English

By Rajeev S. Patke | Go to book overview

9
Recurrent motifs: voyage and
translation

Overview

Colonialism bred three kinds of willing voyager—adventurer, explorer, colonist; one type of partially willing voyager—the indentured labourer; and one type of unwilling voyager—the slave. Postcolonial history adds two more types to this motley: the migrant, and the exile; in them, as in the indentured labourer, the distinction between willing and involuntary displacement is blurred. Postcolonial writing proliferates with symbolic voyages that are meant to ameliorate the displacement caused bydiaspora. One kind of poet tackles the voyage in a collective spirit, as an individual rooted in imagined community, as when Walcott and Brathwaite appear to head away from home, only for their poetry to discover ways of revising their view of the birthplace. The second type of traveller suffers a more literal relocation through migration or self-exile, as illustrated by A. K. Ramanujan, Agha Shahid Ali, and Ee Tiang Hong. Their work shuttles between an emotional anchorage in a home left behind, and the attempt to grow new roots in a place that the poet strives to accept as home.


9.1 The voyage home: Walcott and Brathwaite

The heart of standing is you cannot fly.

William Empson, 'Aubade'

The metaphor of a voyage exercises a compulsive fascination for all poets who struggle to develop personal or communal identities from historical displacement. This applies with particular force to the

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