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Becoming a Cultural Tourist: Explorations in Caribbean Poetry

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Starting with the writer’s own experience as a reader, this article discusses poetry by Eric Roach, Derek Walcott, Linton Kwesi Johnson, John Agard, Edward Baugh, Michael Smith and Velma Pollard. It explores the sense of place felt by writer and reader, going on to analyse the poets’ use of Nation Language, poetic metre and intertextuality in order to create distinctive and authoritative poetic voices. The relationship with the oral tradition and performance is also considered, as is the effect these voices have on a non-Caribbean reader encountering the poems for the first time. The article goes on to present the responses of a class of Year 8 students (12–13-year-olds) who were also reading the poems for the first time, evaluating the extent to which they had moved beyond a tourist’s engagement with the poetry through their study of language, context and performance. Lastly, the article argues for an approach to poetry teaching that recognises the fundamental importance of performance and voice in appreciating Caribbean poetry and considers whether this is possible within the new National Curriculum.
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Keywords: Calypso; Caribbean; Standard English; culture; hybridity; metre; oral tradition; performance; poetic language; poetry; speaking and listening; voice

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Alexandra Park School, London, UK

Publication date: January 2, 2015

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