The poets uses poetic techniques, language and structure to convey their ideas, attitudes and themes in their poems, which in turn creates the specified effects or impacts on the reader. The poem ‘Limbo’ is a poem based on the harsh experience of slavery through the poet’s eye; his attitudes are quite ambiguous and thus help to create a sense of subtle life faced by slaves on reader’s mind. The other poem I choose to compare for the effect is the poem ‘Blessing’. While ‘Limbo’ poses the theme of inequality, ‘Blessing’ creates a similar effect though in different context: we are driven to see, feel and imagine what it is like to receive the scarce necessity water, which we take for granted.
Layouts in both poems are a deliberate method employed by the poets in terms of visual effects. Blessing employs fragmented lines in the first stanza illustrating the simple fact: “There never is enough water.” First Stanza sets the issue of lacking the basic necessity water for a part of the world where water has to be “imagined’. Thus the impact on those people’s lives is seemingly worrying; poet thus employs short, abrupt sentences to express the emptiness it creates for those people’s lives. Similarly poem ‘Limbo’ employs an unusual presentation to illustrate the subtleness associated with slave lives. Most lines are repeated with minor differences, that stresses the ongoing oppression, simply due to the life they are forced to live based on their race classified to be ‘inferior’ to white. The poet constantly reminds the reader: despite the suffering, culture and tradition will last forever; limbo dance, west Indian slave dance, is repeated in the background through lines: “limbo, limbo like me”. We are driven to believe in poet’s appreciation of culture in terms of ‘making the best out of worst’. It is written in the first person narrative in contrast to blessing. Both narratives are effective in both poems as for ‘Blessing’: third person perspective sets the scene whilst ‘Limbo’ creates a genuine account by employing first person narrative.
Way in which punctuation is used is significant in ‘Blessing’; second stanza lacks full stops which are replaced by commas, that in effect illustrates the flowing water as well as fulfilling happiness it creates to the people. Repetition is featured in this poem unlike in poem ‘blessing’; hence the layouts contribute to the impact on what is being said in the poem.
Language used in both poems creates an impact on the reader, in terms of how we interpret the poet’s thoughts and feelings about the idea they are presenting. ‘Blessing’ opens with a hard hitting simile that creates an image of a seed case that is dry: “skin cracks like a pod.” This image is powerful to set the scene for the events that follow. Similarly the poem ‘Limbo creates such an impact on the starting line: hard striking in order to encourage the reader to read on. Employing ‘and’ as the first word implies that this suffering is not recent; it’s been going on for generations. The ‘silence’ suggests the slaves speak another language hence why they wouldn’t have been able to express themselves. Strong alliteration of the letter ‘s’ in lines 10-13 adds to the sinister suffering for the slaves due to possible beatings. The reader may interpret ‘stick’ in two possible ways as it is ambiguous: ‘stick’ that is the limbo pole, which is extremely difficult to get beneath; slave life is hard to avoid, thus it “is the whip” that causes pain and suffering. Other meaning being the ‘stick’ the slaves were beaten with. Strong rhythm along with repetition creates an impact of relentlessness and emphasizes the monotony of slave labour.
‘Blessing’ contrasts techniques used in the first stanza, before water pipe bursts to the second stanza when it does. She gives personifies water using metaphors as “a voice of a kindly God” creating an impact of reverence and sacredness water is for those people’s lives. There is a clear change in tone from the first stanza to the second; where in the first water was to be “imagined” to the liveliness it creates when it has finally arrived. This liveliness is created through language such as imagery: ” a congregation”, onomatopoeia: “rush”, “burst”, “crash” and “roar”, alliteration: “flow has found” and “polished to perfection” ; creates appealing sound as well as sight. Water is referred to as “silver” in contrast to the pots that are “brass”, “copper”, “aluminum”. This contrast illuminates the value of water which has become “rush of fortune”. The poem is in present tense: “flashing” and “screaming” as same with poem ‘Limbo’: “calling”, “praising” and “raising” that impacts its emergency and current feeling. Both poems employ extended metaphors: ‘Blessing’ to emphasise the sacredness of water while ‘Limbo’ the limbo dance is used to describe the story of African people transported as human cargo. The quote “knees spread wide” suggests the cramped conditions through an image of low ceiling, which explains why they were seated in such an awkward position.
The underlying attitudes of the poet seem to emerge at the ending of blessing: “over their small bones” despite the happiness expressed though the image of children “screaming in the liquid sun”, reveals the reality of harsh survival endured by slums in this part of India. “small bones” image suggests undernourishment of children. The immense joy water had brought them reflects poets intentions of expressing the slums’ simplicity of life. Water seems to be miraculous to them while we take it for granted. She expresses water as a “blessing” and “a fortune” showing how these terms can mean different things to different people. Furthermore, it reinforces the power of nature: water that transforms people’s lives.
However, the suffering caused by oppression is evident throughout ‘Limbo’ until the very last lines when the tone swifts to a positive tone. This contrast is shown through positive diction such as “raising, calling, and praising” that suggests hope though it is contradicted by the “burning ground” implying a new slave life. The reluctance of facing subtleness is enforced by the three fragmented words: “hot slow step”. Sun is referred to as hope and life giving in both poems: “sun coming up” while ‘Blessing’ uses sun as a symbol of life giving quality of water: “liquid sun”.
I prefer ‘Blessing’ more than ‘Limbo’ because of it’s underlying theme of poverty and unequal resources for all human beings. I have been impressed by the way Blessing portrays innocent happiness within the disturbing simile that is created by reading the first and last lines together: “The skin cracks like a pod/ over the small bones”. It makes me realize how advantaged we are, who take it for granted while there is another part of this world who would have to “imagine he drip of it”.