56780036 ENG2603 Assignment 1
1. Poetry analysis of “Letters to Martha”
The letters were written by Dennis Brutus during his incarceration on Robben Island. During this time he wrote numerous poetic letters to his wife, Martha. The writer employs the use of metaphor to describe his feelings of containment during his time in solitary confinement. The poem I will be analyzing in the following essay is with reference to the metaphor of confinement, and the general setting that Brutus tried to convey in these letters.
The first line of the first stanza, Brutus begins to open the reader to the idea of confinement. Brutus uses the phrase "...particularly in a single cell"; the word choice speaks to the author's previous experience of being alone. However, he is highlighting this specific moment of loneliness with the use of the word "particularly". This line includes the phrase "...single cell...". The denotation of this phrase refers to the single holding cell wherein Brutus was incarcerated on Robben Island. These single holding cells are also known as solitary confinement. The use of the word "single", although it is literal, explores the idea of being held (confined) alone, with no other contact. I surmise from the fact that he chose not to use the word ‘solitary’ with reference to this confinement ties into the idea that he is away from his loved one, given that the intended reader of this poem is his wife. The idea of being "single", that the cell has cut him off from his closest human connection, the use of this metaphor is strong and impactful given the context and the intended reader. The use of this metaphor is also employed to describe the setting in which he finds himself. The fact that Brutus is in “…a…cell…”, explains to all readers of the poem that the character is incarcerated.
In the second stanza, the poet introduces the idea of religiosity. The phrases he uses include "...Nightly prayers...Bibles..". Bringing religion into the poem at this point, colours the setting even further. The person in the cell is speaking about connecting to a higher power as if by engaging in "... Nightly Prayers..." he will have some solace from this loneliness he feels in the “single cell”. The author mentions the fact that the prisoners have access to Bibles in the line “the accessibility of Bibles”, perhaps in doing so, he was trying to suggest that the Bible was his only confidant.
The tone of the poem changes with the line "... Proximity to death...". This line introduces a sense of foreboding. The situation in which the writer finds himself is dire. The setting takes on a new and sinister feeling. The fact that the author is referencing death and his proximity to it could further mean that he himself is on death row or, that the possibility of death is an...