Limbo, by Edward Kamau Brathwaite, is a poem about slavery. In this essay I am going to be looking at the different methods that are used in the poem. Firstly, the layout of the poem. It is split into lots of short stanzas with some lines only containing one word. This is so that it keeps the rhythm. Limbo is a dance and this meaning of the word is shown through the layout. There is also a lot of dactyls. These are one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. ‘over me’, ‘under me’, ‘calling me’ etc. these add to the rhythm.
The rhythm however is broken in the last line. This could show the end of the dance, the end of the poem or the end of the slavery. There is no punctuation in the poem. This is because the rhythm which you read it to forces you to pause in the correct places anyway so there is no need for it. There is a lot of repetition in the poem, this could be for a number of reasons. It could be like a chorus in a song which repeats a number of times. It could show how slavery was repeated until it stopped finally. Or it could be to emphasise the points, for example ‘stick is the whip’.
This could be to emphasise how they are being hit and it could also show how they are being treated like animals. Animals such as horses are whipped to make them run faster; they could be treated like animals and whipped to make them work faster. There are a number of monosyllabic lines in the poem. These are used to show anger. ‘stick hit sound, ‘knees spread wide’, ‘stick is the whip’. They are all very harsh sounding. ‘stick hit sound’ doesn’t have the ‘a’ or ‘the’ that you would write normally so that it mimics the drummers beat.
‘knees spread wide’ is particularly meaningful. It brings up the subject of rape. There are two types of rape this could be related to, firstly there is the physical rape of individuals. This could either be literal or be talking about the mistreatment and advantage taking. Secondly there is the rape of the nation. A whole nation has been taken over and dominated unwillingly. Furthermore there is more repetition near to the end. ‘down down down’, ‘up up up’. These both contrast each other and show the turning point in the poem.
The repetition is there to emphasise how far down and how far up, just one down does not have the same effect that three do. First person in used in the poem to personalise the experience for the reader. The word ‘me’ is repeated 18 times in the poem, which could bring around a feeling of isolation which only the limbo dance can free you from. There is a bit of assonance in the poem. ‘stick is the whip’. The ‘i’ sound makes it sound like something is being struck, which fits in with the slavery theme. ‘Limbo like me’ It is the most repeated line in the while poem. It could have two meanings.
Firstly it could mean ‘come and dance with me’ as in, why don’t you come and limbo like me. Or secondly it could mean, ‘I am in limbo’. Limbo between heaven and hell, life or death. Limbo is not as angry as you might expect from a poem about slavery. It views it more as something which is not very nice or good, but you can work through it and find an end. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Other Poets section.