Contemporary Caribbean Women's Poetry: Making Style

By Denise Decaires Narain | Go to book overview

4

More body talk: righting or writing the body?

The work of Lorna Goodison, Mahadai Das, Grace Nichols and Marlene Nourbese Philip

When the African came to the New World she brought with her nothing but her body and all the memory and history which body could contain. 1

Whenever the power of the nation is evoked […] we are more likely than not to find it couched as a love of country: an eroticized nationalism. […] Indeed, certain sexual identities and practices are less represented and representable in nationalism. 2

We need languages that regenerate us, warm us, give birth to us. […] In order to reconnect the book with the body and with pleasure, we must disintellectualize writing. 3

In this sort of house lived people whose skin glistened with exhaustion and whose faces were sad even when they had a reason to be happy, people for whom history had been a big, dark room, which made them hate silence. 4

The epigraphs above indicate some of the critical contexts relevant to my discussion of representations of women's bodies in the work of four Caribbean women poets. The previous chapter focused on women poets whose use of Creole involved a diverse range of choices with regard to the embodiment of poetic identity. This choice of Creole signalled a preference for working within the performative and oral modes, though I argued that these modes were being refashioned, in response to limitations which relate both to gender and to the poets' shifting geo-cultural locations. Although the poets discussed in this chapter make use of Creole in their work, they do so much less extensively and in ways which do not necessarily foreground the performative and oral modes. If, as I have argued above, the body image for women involved in performative Creole poetry requires a 'pruning' of their explicitly 'sexual selves' and that diasporic relocations often result in more internalized performative voices, then in this chapter I want to explore the ways in which the woman's body and sexuality are handled - or avoided - on the page, as opposed to the stage. Does the printed word afford a greater range of possibilities for writing about women's bodies? Indeed, is there any evidence of writing the body, French feminist style? Is the woman's body righted, written or written out of the text?

-148-

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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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