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Extra resources for Contemporary Caribbean women's poetry : making style
The conﬂictual relationship between identities is staged, in this poem, entirely in terms of literary models with the ‘facts’ of the boy’s ‘real’ identity reduced to skin colour (‘within one taut brown skin’, ‘in one brown body’, ‘slanting eyes’, ‘raven fringe’). The speaker’s sustained use of an ‘imported’ literary map for ‘reading’ the boy suggests an inability to imagine the boy’s diﬀerence in any other terms. Perhaps, too, the poem, in constructing the child’s boyhood nostalgically (‘this may be the last year when within/one taut brown skin/three story-book boys are tangled into one’) implies a repressed anxiety about his raced identity in manhood – when the literary parallels may no longer be sustainable?
Allfrey’s poetry had gained recognition much earlier on from ‘the centre’ when, in 1950, she was awarded the second prize in an international poetry competition sponsored by the London-based Society of Women Writers and Journalists, Vita Sackville-West being one of the judges. The prize-winning poem was entitled ‘While the Young Sleep’, and it was the prize money from this award which made the writing of The Orchid House possible. The prize-winning poem makes reference only to an unspeciﬁc domestic context and the ‘war poems’ mentioned above invoke images U.
Allfrey 39 Meeting me in the road, he greets me: comrade. Rough music in that word, rude magic In grip of clenching ﬁst on willing hand. This is our barricade against the tragic Creeping decomposition of our land. (In Circles, p. 20) And in ‘Colonial Committee’ (which Allfrey notes was ﬁrst published in Aneurin Bevan’s newspaper, Tribune), Allfrey’s political take is unequivocally anti-colonial: the olive and mahogany and white of the assembled faces, but no frown hints at the terminating trusteeship, or at the adolescence too prolonged; for in this civil jungle scarce a snarl or yap of pain attests the deeply wronged.