'Praise Song for My Mother' by Grace Nichols

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About the poet:

  • From the Caribbean 
  • Then moved to UK
  • Inject poems with Indian folk law, cultural displacement, elements/nature, embraces diversity

Structure/form: 

  •  A Praise Song is African in origin and is used to celebrate the life of the person it is about 
  • It has a similar intention to an ode and can serve as a euology
  • In this case, Nichols appears to be celebrating the life of her mother
  • Structure resembles a stair case
  • First three stanzas follow a pattern
  • The last one breaks this pattern - representative of falling off the edge into adulthood without the nurturing presence of her mothe, either that or it could signify a change in relatiobship
  • First three stanzas: monometer (to introduce as the first line), diameter (second line), trimeter (to extend the metaphor in the final line)
  • First three stanzas being uniformed reflects the stability of her childhood 
  • Breakdown in structure - hints at childhood ending 
  • Last line - no full stop shows the relationship being unresolved/ love on going. Adulthood leads to lack of treatment and structure 

Language analysis:

You were

water to me 

deep and bold and fathoming 

  • 'You were' commences the anaphoric repetition that continues through the poem which shows the huge impact her mother has had in a variety of ways. Represents structure of childhood, empahsises presence of mother day after day 
  • Metaphor- water is a necessity, just like her mother in her life.
  • Rule of three- in third line. Example of an extended metaphor 
  • Deep - wisdom, emotional depth, strong and dark in colour, physical depth, needing serious thought/profound
  • Bold - strong and powerful, not shy, brave
  • Fathoming - Literal = a unit of water. Metaphorical = understanding/or difficult to understand
  • Sibliant alliteration - 'were water'. Were is in the past tense - either mother

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