Kamau Brathwaite’s poem “South” is a beautiful and powerful piece that speaks to the human experience in a way that is both relatable and unique. The poem explores the concept of home, and how it can be both a physical place and an emotional state.
Brathwaite’s use of language and imagery creates a vivid picture of what it means to be displaced, both physically and emotionally. The poem is ultimately a moving exploration of what it means to be human, and how our sense of home can be both a blessing and a curse.
The poem “South” by Kamau Brathwaite is a nostalgic work. It emphasizes themes such as the desire for home, childhood idealization, people’s displacement caused by oppression and social turmoil, and personal conflict. The speaker is nostalgic throughout the poem, reminiscing about his birthplace while speaking with a yearning for and pride in it.
The poem has a light, lyrical tone. Kamau Brathwaite was born in 1930 and is a Barbadian poet, writer, historian and critic. He is considered one of the most influential Caribbean writers.
He has written numerous books of poetry, prose and criticism including “Masks”, “Rights of Passage”, “Mother Poem” and “Elegy for Marcus Garvey”. His work often focuses on the themes of nationhood, history, identity and cultural memory.
The poem’s title, “South,” refers to the southern hemisphere, which includes the Caribbean islands, South America, and southern states of the United States and Africa, all of which are associated with black people’s racial oppression. Throughout history, slaves have frequently travelled to the North in search of freedom, and this is always contrasted with the South in Literature.
The poem is about the black experience and Kamau Brathwaite’s own journey “south” to his native country, Barbados. The poem is divided into four stanzas, each one representing a different stage in Kamau Brathwaite’s journey. The first stanza begins with the speaker talking about how he is “tired of the north” and its cold weather. He talks about how he longs for the warmth of the south and how he is “sick of the snow”. This could be seen as a metaphor for how Kamau Brathwaite is tired of the racism and oppression that black people face in the North.
The second stanza talks about how the speaker is “sick of the city” and its “concrete canyons”. He talks about how he longs for the “warmth of the sun” and the “sound of the sea”. This could be seen as a metaphor for how Kamau Brathwaite is tired of the cold, impersonal atmosphere of the city and longs for the warmth and natural beauty of his native country, Barbados.
The poet appears to be dealing with a quarrel of some sort. The speaker appears to be changing his view, perhaps as a youngster, and possibly into something that is different from the one he previously held. The speaker reminisces about the islands’ beaches and beautiful scenery in the poem – treasures often taken for granted by islanders – and seems to be addressing his conflicting feelings regarding this paradise.
The poem’s title, “South”, may refer to the geographic location of the island or possibly to the direction the speaker is heading in his life – away from the island and towards change.
The poem begins with the speaker declaring that he is “tired of this place”. He is likely referring to the island where he grew up and currently lives. The speaker goes on to say that he is “tired of the sea and sand”. These lines could be interpreted in a couple of ways.
The speaker could simply be stating that he is tired of the island’s beaches – places which are normally seen as paradise. Alternately, the speaker could be saying that he is tired of the island itself. It’s possible that the speaker feels stifled by the island and its small-town mentality.
In the second stanza, the speaker talks about how he is “tired of the sun”. This could be a reference to the hot weather which is common in tropical climates. The speaker could also be saying that he is tired of the constant brightness and heat – conditions which can sometimes be overwhelming.
The speaker goes on to say that he is “tired of myself”. This line could be interpreted in a number of ways. The speaker could simply be tired of his current situation and yearning for change. Alternately, the line could also be seen as a moment of self-reflection. The speaker could be tired of his own actions or behaviours – things which he may have done in the past which he is not proud of.
The poem ends with the speaker saying that he is “tired of this place” and that he is “ready to go”. These lines reinforce the idea that the speaker is ready for a change. He is no longer content with his current situation and is longing to move on to something new.
In the first stanza, the speaker sees “the bright beaches: blue mist” (line 2) and looks out at “The fisherman’s cottages… shores…,” as well as listening to the sound of the sea, which “heaved and breathed with life’s strength” (lines 2–6). The language evokes mental pictures of scenic countryside, bright sunshine, and azure seas.
He speaks of the “fishermen’s houses” (line 4) with an element of nostalgia, as though they represent a simpler time that has now passed. The poem takes on a more sombre tone in the second stanza, as the speaker reflects on the “strange fruit” (line 9) that grows on the island. This could be interpreted as a reference to the slaves who were brought over from Africa, and the violence that they endured.
The phrase “blood-red blossoms” (line 10) could be symbolic of the bloodshed and cruelty that took place during this period. There is a sense of anger and regret in the words “we forgot… what it cost” (lines 11, 12) suggesting that the speaker feels that the island has lost its way, and forgotten its roots.
The poem ends on a hopeful note, with the speaker saying “But we shall remember…and begin again” (lines 13, 14). This could be interpreted as a call to action, urging the people of the island to remember their history and learn from it, in order to create a better future.
Kamau Brathwaite’s poem “South” is a powerful reflection on the history and culture of his homeland, Barbados. Through vivid imagery and lyrical language, he captures the essence of the island and its people. The poem speaks to the strength and resilience of those who have been through hardship, and the hope that lies in the future.