Monday, February 10, 2014

Review of "Chorus of the Mothers-Griot" by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

"Chorus of the Mothers-Griot" by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on February 10, 2014.  A link to the poem, including the poet's notes, may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23861.

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (b. 1967) is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma.  She has three published books of poetry to her name.  Additional biographical information may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/439?utm_source=PAD%3A+Chorus+of+the+Mothers-Griot+by+Honorée+Fanonne+Jeffers&utm_campaign=poemaday_021014&utm_medium=email.

The poem is dedicated to Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753 - 1784), the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry.  Additional biographical information about her may be found here:  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/phillis-wheatley.  One of her more famous poems was reviewed in Songs of Eretz on September 15, 2013 http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/search?q=Phillis+Wheatley.

"Chorus" was inspired by the accomplished poet Lucille Clifton (1936 - 2010).  Biographical information about this poet may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/79.

Jeffers reveals in her notes that a "griot" (pictured) is a sort of West African bard.  The poem represents "encapsulated bits of language"that female black slave speakers might recall from their original African culture.  The bracketing of the lines may indicated that each line is a separate woman's voice.

The poem is arranged as and possibly works as a triptych.  It also is arranged as five separately titled smaller poems.  Read in its entirety, the poem seems disjointed.  Perhaps this is deliberate, meant to represent that only disparate fragments of the lost African culture remain.

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