Grace Nichols Poetry
How Armitage and Nichols Create Meaning Through the Language of ‘The Manhunt’ and ‘A Praise Song for My Mother’
In ‘The Manhunt’ and in ‘A Praise Song for My Mother,’ two contrasting images of love are portrayed. The Manhunt tells a story of the lover of a former-soldier and her attempt to uncover his physical and mental injuries he holds so readily, and throughout the form of praise song, Nichols’s immense love for her mother and her heritage is displayed using a concoction of rhyming patterns and a collage of vivid imagery. the course of the poem manhunt depicts the flow of the couple’s relationship, the opening stanza using the repetition of the word ‘after’ to indicate that these ‘passionate’ days they once experienced had long lingered away. the use of emotive language such as ‘intimate’ and ‘passionate’ gives the impression of the overall tone of the entire poem.
Metaphors are a common occurrence throughout the stanzas that follow – as the poet describes the post-soldier’s face as a ‘frozen river’ displaying how little emotion he displays towards his lover. Metaphors often contrast to the idea that follows to emphasise the impact of his injuries as she explores his body, and to portray the place their relationship was in before and then after the war, for example she describes his ‘punctured lung’ as ‘parachute silk’ and the ‘metal’ bullet under his chest as a ‘foetus’. This use of metaphor also gives indication for a hopeful ending for the pair, as it highlights that somewhere he still possesses that delicate beauty and calmness that she will someday unlock. Adjectives such as ‘damaged’ and ‘grazes’ are used to imply that although he is injured- he is not broken entirely. the poem, written in second person and using the pronoun ‘he’ in replacement for the man’s name cause the poem to appear more distant than it had the potential to be; as the poet is attempting to distance herself from this broken lover she once new so well.
Although their relationship is portrayed as turbulent through the constant use of enjambments, the fact that a steady rhyming pattern in continued up until the final stanzas, shows that the relationship for them has potential to be mended as they still clasp and underlying current of tenderness and intimacy for each other. The ending stanzas are dark and delicate and use half-rhymes such as ‘mine’ and ‘mind’ and phrases such as stating that the nerves in his body ‘tightened’ and ‘closed’ to show how things nearly were different, using the metaphor an ‘unexploded mine’ to emphasise this point, as one generally thinks of mines as ‘exploding’ therefore it indicates the frustration she feels at being so ‘close’ to discovering her lover but not quite being there.
In ‘A Praise Song for My Mother, there is a slight hint of resentment she feels towards her mother – which displays similarities to the frustration she feels for him in the manhunt. this is displayed through the final stanza when Nichols tells us the words of her mother as to go to her ‘wide futures.’ the use of the word wide and the surrounding blank space displays the isolation and negativity she experiences when her mother tells her to leave and find her own way in the world. In addition to this, the slightly uneven formatting in the poem displays how sometimes their relationship was rocky. the repeated phrase ‘you were’ before anything positive being written about her mother indicates that it is not this way any longer, however, the fact that the phrase is repeated shows that there is a steady current waving through their relationship making it strong. The reoccurring use of present participles also highlights that the mother’s love is eternal and can not die out. The poet compares the love of her mother as timeless substances such as ‘water’ and the ‘moon’ the further emphasise this point. Nichols tells us her mother was ‘sunrise’ to her which displays how she viewed her as the light of her world; the moon representing motherly love, depicts how caring her mother could be towards her. The constant use of metaphors is similar to the manhunt- and although they are used for different effects, they both portray love.
Nichols implies that her love for her mother intwines with her love for her home-country, as she describes her mother as being a fishes ‘red gill’ to her, the grammar rejection of an apostrophe showing how her love is too vast to be subjected to one single object. The writer utilises all the senses in her poem, such as describing the ‘fried plantain smell’ and water being ‘deep’ and ‘bold’ to remind herself how much her mother was to her and try and convey that to the reader. The repetition of the word ‘replenishing’ depicts how she is attempting to bring back all the memories to try and convince herself as much as the reader how wonderful her mother was.