A Shred of Identity
Will this moon scrap itself off my poems!
This twilight zone stretching between English school
And my cockroach voice?
To the ant perched on a grain of sand
My giant Artistic dilemma is scarcely visible
Only clearly seen when I raise my foot.
The bee on its sweet sticky errand, seeing me,
Shoots off at a tangent humming his scorn.
The early swallow from his searing flight
Scarcely casts instantaneous glance at my pains.
The dustman shrugs, hurls his concrete burden
Into factory hand adjusts the zip on his overalls
And without a care awaits his Call – factory’s siren;
The milkman cycles his round; the soldier
Kisses his girl hurries to carry out orders.
They all seem to know their own selves
While I like a madman continue to decipher
The print on a shred of blank paper
The print that is to become the poem behind this poem.
- I think this poem by Marechera expresses delves into the experience one might feel when identity comes into question, but I feel Marechera explores or eludes to identity discomfort in multiple ways.
The references that Marechera makes to the bee, swallow, dustman, milkman, and soldier are all examples of people well-adjusted into their routine, effortlessly engaging with the responsibilities they are expected to fulfill. However, it’s not quite as easy with a work of art such as poetry, as expressed in the lines “The print on a shred of blank paper/the print that is to become the poem behind this poem”. Some part of Marechera’s work becomes apart of the self, unlike these others roles played out in the poem. I make this connection based off the shared lines of the title and the closing lines of the poem: “A shred of identity” & “The print on a shred of black paper”. Part of this art form, largely imparts a piece of the writer’s identity. I wonder if this might elude to a concern this writer has about being a black individual and perhaps, about having his or her skin-color become indicative of the author’s poetic identity. As a writer reveals parts of the self within the lines of a poem, it allows for the reader draw conclusions about the author. Such a process involves the author to become a work of art that is crafted by the reader–”the poem behind the poem”.
On the other hand, certain lines might also point to a more conventional approach to understanding the lines of this poem. “They all seem to know themselves” is an explicit expression made by the author about how this author perceives his or her feelings and identity. The references to Twilight zone might further depict some of the author’s identity confusion. From my own experiences, twilight/twilight zone is usually indicative of a time and place of mystery, suspense, and wonder.
But where does this identity confusion come from? Based on the location the author places Twilight zone, between “English school” and “my cockroach voice”–the author’s voice. It is arguable that this poem is communicating a dissonance between the expectancies of structured professional writing (English school) and the freedom of artistic creativity, the author’s voice. I think cockroach was juxtaposed with the author’s voice because cockroach are seen as insignificant, disgusting creatures-that most people desire to kill or avoid. It makes me wonder if a voice like this has a place in school (or English school, for that matter), even though a voice like this might be important and equally beautiful as others.
- This poem by Marechera represents self searching or identity, in the sense that all the things he describes have a purpose but he has yet to figure out what his purpose in life is. This poem also shows how important it is to find oneself and learn or try to acknowledge what your existence means to you, as everyone around you acknowledges what your identity or existence is without you knowing. This is shown for example (the soldier Kisses his girl hurries to carry out orders)They all seem to know themselves. All the things expressed in the poem has a purpose and he is still unsure of his own purpose.
- Personally, I think this poem is very political and really enjoyed it. The poet skillfully uses imagery, symbolism and metaphors like a brush to paint an ambiguous art piece. This creates multilayers to the poem. However, if you examine each part, each line of the poem, the creator’s message(s) becomes clear. That is the approach you must take with Marechera’s poem. From one line to the next, the poet plays with imagery and language. Since the poem is ambiguous, there is lots of room for interpretation. In the first three lines of the poem, the poet makes the subject matter clear to me, through a question. For example, she begins with the moon engaging in some type of aggressive action to potentially separate itself from the poem. The moon could be a metaphor for the “Haves”: who create distance from the “Have-nots”; typically well rounded Caucasian; extremely bright and wealthy; occasionally look down on others; and have enormous influence and pull on those around them. “My poem” is simply the poet’s skillful self-expression of feelings and voice by way of images, words or song. In the next line the poet introduces time and space. Marechera make reference to a stretching twilight zone. When I think of this, it reminds me of Shakespeare’s green space: a setting at times occupied with conflict and drama that exists outside reality. In the poem, this space extended between school and her voice. The fact that the poet specified an “English” school and “cockroach” voice is not a coincidence. The poet could be referring to England or those who have or currently work to create social standards, attitudes and practices to have control and limit personal viewpoints. In the racially explicit Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, the term “white cockroach or niggers” was an offensive term used to describe white Creoles. The reader uncovers racial tension, identity issues, distance and space, conformism and rebellion in the first three sentences which become recurring themes throughout the multi-dimensional poem.
- It is clear the narrator feels lonely and unimportant. The moon is always a significant element of the poems. The moon is up in the sky watching the lonely ones and the narrator feels that maybe even the moon doesn’t want to be part of his poem.
Not even the small creatures notice him, like the ant the bee. The narrator says his dilemma is giant, but whatever he feels, the pains and the emptiness are scarcely noticed.
He talks about the factory worker, the soldier and the milkman. All of them are doing their ordinary duties and living their ordinary lives. Nothing seems to bother them, they know themselves, there is no conflict. One day after another. If they are happy or not no one knows. They just carry on, while the narrator is not noticed by anybody. The narrator is the only one who is able to perceive the surroundings, to understand each one’s little role in life ( people and creatures), but he can’t understand himself. He feels like a “print on a shred blank paper.” He feels so small that he doesn’t even feel like a print on a regular blank paper, just a shred of blank paper, and the meaning of this print is still to become another poem.
- A Shred of Identity by Dambudzo Marechera, from the title it is very clear that it is about identity. The tone of this poem is lonely, sad, lost and confused. The narrator is confused and is still searching with his own identity. He uses ant, bee, dustman, milkman and soldier as metaphor that they all have their own purpose in life, but he is like a madman continue to decipher and like a piece of blank paper waiting to fill with link and become a poem. I think this poem brings out the ultimate question of Who am I? and “What is purpose of life?
- In an effort to transport into Marechera’s psyche I felt somewhat steeped in an artist’s Midafternoon reverie. There’s this omnipotent sense of self aware reflection, and a slight internal war over his ‘plight’. There’s a certain portion of dare I say guilt, because of how insignificant he views the abstract ‘artistic dilemma’ he’s facing. He alludes to plebeian-esque walks of life, e.g, milkman, dustman…even mundane rituals like a solider kissing his woman goodbye. While there’s a somber resonance throughout, I honestly can’t help but feel like the artist is chuckling at his situation. Such a problem to have, the art of finding ones self, the internal fear of losing one’s sense of self and becoming a sheep, carbon copy and clone. The internal strife that an artist, especially is forced to face. The extreme alienation, the self deprecation in the early stanza all serves the purpose of laying the foundation for a dilettante civil war. I feel these are deep thoughts in the mind of the poet as he thinks aloud and ponders his situation and purpose.
- Marechera in this poem, is trying to find himself. Clearly alone and attempting to find his purpose, is lost. From the first line and throughout the poem, he understands that there are people out there that know what they have to do (factory worker has to go to worker) and animals too (the swallow hardly looks at him and continues to fly). Every being in this poem has a purpose or a goal except him. Very deep and forces those that are in the same ‘Artistic dilemma’ to think about their purposes.
- The poem has a really sad tone where this black person is looking for his identity. The narrator of the poem is confuse about himself, he compares himself with what he sees like cockroach, bees.Here cockroach is significant because it’s appearance is scary and by this the narrator may be trying to show that he is scary and his voice is like “cockroach voice” which means that he can’t raise his voice like a cockroach doesn’t raise it’s head when it hears people coming near it.And “bee” is significant as the narrator is like moving back and forth like a “bee” looking for his identify. He also says that he is “only clearly seen when i raise my foot” means that nobody notice him, cares him that he himself doesn’t recognize him. It seems like he is only noticeable when he stands may be because of his giant and black feature. All these actually show a very deep sad tone of eh narrator.
- Marchera’s poem ” A Shred of Identity” is almost a cry for individuality. He refers to having “cockroach voice” which makes me think he thinks very lowly of himself. He thinks his voice is as small and insignificant as an insects voice. He refers to the world around him as busy and not noticing him “Scarcely casts instantaneous glance at my pains.” The narrator is lonely and realizes that everyone around him is caught in a cycle of life that does not concern themselves at all with his life/ pains. Others surrounding the narrator “all seem to know their own selves” while he
“like a madman continue to decipher” his own “self.” He tries to find his identity and all is left is “The print on a shred of blank paper” which is the poem he writes, which is the definition of him. The poem illustrates his identity lost, alone and overseeing others ability to identity themselves but not him.
- As i read this poem i noticed it has a very sad tone to it. The speaker seems lonley and doesnt know who he is or what he want to be. Everyone around them is living life and has a purpose even tiny insects like the ants and bee. Title shows that hes in search of his idenitiy but in the end he refers to himself as a madman while other seem to know who they are. “They all seem to know their own selves While I like a madman continue to decipher The print on a shred of blank paper” he doesnt seem like he has faith in himself to ever be able to find who he really is, but also he says they all “SEEM” to know their own selves while he doesnt know his own identity, all these people could be living life day to day and seem like they know who they are but really are just the same as him and dont know their true identity.
- This poem seems to be in a sad and confused tone. The writer is obviously in a self identity crisis of some sort and transmits this through his poetry. He uses various objects in his poem to reflect on such a the bee, milkman, and soldier. All of these figures are involved in a repetitive and mundane lifestyle. They all seem to be the same between their own kind. None stand out and identify themselves as what they are. The poet talks about this relating to himself as he cannot ind his identity. I found the use of the objects in the poem to be wise choices that inevitably illuminate the poets identity crisis.
- As you read this poem, it seems apparent that the narrator is seen to have an identity crisis in a sea of sorrow. There are evidential hints as to such loneliness and pain he is experiencing. To begin with, when he says “This twilight zone stretching between English school/ And my cockroach voice?,” it intrigues me as to why he would compare himself to such a creature in this metaphor. Of all things he could have mentioned in the metaphor, he picked a cockroach. The way I interpret this is the amount of disgust he thinks of himself. Cockroaches are known to be viewed as repulsive creatures. He continues on to say that, “The bee on its sweet sticky errand, seeing me, shoots off at a tangent humming his scorn,” which might imply the pain and lonesomeness that he feels from someone, or in this case, a bee, sees him and quickly avoids away. Then there is the line, “Scarcely casts instantaneous glance at my pains,” which offers a true and straightforward sense to the reader the evidence of pain. From these clues alone I feel that we can suggest the presence of pain and loneliness in the narrator’s voice and heart.
If we continue on, we can see that the author is at a loss of who he is as he describes the routine behavior and actions of others around him in life and ultimately state “They all seem to know their own selves/ While I like a madman continue to decipher/ The print on a shred of blank paper/ The print that is to become the poem behind this poem.” The way I interpret these last four lines is in through the reasoning that these lines are mere representations of his search for identity. As others live their lives with no problem with identity, the author “continues to decipher..the print on a shred of blank paper” which I think represents a part of his identity. And as he finishes saying, “The print that is to become the poem behind this poem” kind of confirms that the “print on a shred of blank paper” will be the addition to his identity solved.
Overall, this poem was rather a pleasant one (to read), aside from its gloomy tone and nature. It feels well organized and thought out which truly supported the delivery of the point and focus to the reader. As self explanatory in the title, this poem is perhaps a “shred” of many “shreds” of one identity.
- The tone of this poem is a really sad. Every line underlines the author’s state of mood. The author’s use of imagery and symbolism makes this poem to flow easily even though there is no rhyme. By every line you can feel the author’s loneliness and sadness.
- Marechera’s poem expresses a sad tone about feeling alone, dealing with self-searching or identity. In the poem, he describes that all things have a purpose but he is still trying to figure out what his purpose in life is. The line “While I like a madman continue to decipher,” it seems to me that he is unable to find himself, and this kind of searching would not even be a viable option. The last line “The print that is to become the poem behind this poem” means that nothing is as it seems on the surface.
- Marechera’s poem ” A Shred of Identity”, clearly expresse the turmoil one goes through when he or she yearns for a feeling of purpose. As Marechera looks around at others that seemingly have found peace, it intesifies his feelings of despair and loneliness. It is important to keep in mind that while every other being seems to be at peace, they may also have the same feelings of despair. This is evident by the fact that the poem indicates that nobody notices the author and thereby they probably view him in the same way he views them. They are very likely having thoughts of despair and looking at the author who in their view seems at ease only increases their inner conflict.
Comment by Ari Siff — May 15, 2012 @ 10:32 am