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Caribbean Poetry - ENGL 733, Dr. Monifa Love

Towards an Understanding of Anglophone Caribbean Poetry

Why This LibGuide?

Founded in 1865, Bowie State University has a long history of exploring the territory of freedom. The Department of English and Modern Languages (soon to become the Department of Language, Literature, and Cultural Studies), seeks to deepen that exploration and to help students become global investigators of what it means to be a free and fruitful human being on this earth. During the Spring 2018 semester, graduate students in our Seminar in Caribbean Literature engaged in this work through our study of Caribbean poetry.

Image of Caribbean islands from spaceWe began with “Sea Passages: cultural flows in Caribbean poetry" (2016).  In this article, Neumann and Rupp declare, “It is time and again the sea, as site of Middle Passage and as a marker of island experiences, of displacement and belonging, which gives shape to an inherently polyvalent poetics of location.” The authors use the "fluid metaphors and symbolic forms" of the sea to describe the ways Caribbean poetry addresses transit and exchange, rituals and traditions, departures and returns, the changing same, and the meanings of home. 

Seminar students mapped the complicated expanse of Caribbean poetry, and their map (featured below) resembles the chain of islands itself.  Although all the students were strong readers of poetry, they found themselves unsure of what to make of some of the poems we encountered. and they imagined that others whose background did not include Caribbean culture might find the interpretation of Caribbean poetry challenging as well. 

In our discussions, students frequently spoke about the many meanings and traditions that seemed to circulate within the poems, and they expressed the desire to "do justice" to the work--to treat the work with respect, a sense of consanguinity, and due diligence. This LibGuide is an outgrowth of this desire. Each student found her place in our exploration, and this LibGuide represents their individual and collective efforts to help others learn about, teach, and appreciate Caribbean poetry. The map referenced above and below helped them to establish the following itinerary of "ports of call."

In "How Do I Study Caribbean Poetry," you will find student-centered directions for how to enter into poetry that seems both familiar and uncommon. In "Teacher to Teacher, you will find advice for teachers on how to enlarge student territory to include Caribbean poetry, history, and culture. "Signifyin' through Song" is a bridge between the Caribbean and Hip Hop, so learners of all kinds can hear what's just below the surface of their favorite songs. "A Seat at the Table" is both a nod to Solange's call for inclusion and a metaphor for the feast of Caribbean poetry. This section of the guide offers an overview of the voices, concerns, contributions, and challenges of poets who identify as female. Finally,"A View from the Porch" aims to help readers appreciate how Caribbean poetry reveals how people live, love, celebrate their traditions, and manage their historical and contemporary struggles every day. 

This guide seeks to be more than a collection of digital links; it seeks to create connections between human beings who find themselves navigating the islands of language,memory, history, self-expression, the entanglements of home and country, and the ocean that binds us all. 

​Seminar students created a multi-colored word-map of the complicated expanse of Caribbean poetry that resembles the chain of islands itself. Some of the words/phrases that make up the map include:
Warriors of the imaginary ---- Trigger words/memories (e.g. sugar) --- Resistance (effectiveness) & liberation/language --- Gendered education, women/girls --- Gentrification --- Conflicts/connections between islands --- Signifying --- Language (power?) --- Tourism --- Beauty --- Inclulsive/exclusive ---
Hand-written word-map