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Close reading for George Elliott Clarke’s Negation Essay

The poem’s heading ‘Negation’ is rounded about the fact that the author is taking new path in the poetry description by trying to etch out a new identity for oneself but this is continuously difficult for time and again there is a distinction between white and blackness; commonly referred to as racial gratification. The definition of the word negation also speaks volume about the difficulty being experienced by the author as the inability to accept something that already exists.

Ideally, form is one of the most fundamental aspects that are easily notable about poems. It is evident that the poem is presented as a lyric with fourteen lines but goes against the norm of rhyme schemes and adopts the iambic pentameter blank sonnet style where each line of the poem is divided into ten syllablesCITATION Mab00 p 52 l 1033 (Mabillard 52). The syllables in each line are divided into iambic feet which are attuned to the idea that a stressed syllable is followed by an unstressed syllable for instance; Na and Sty to form nasty as expressed in the poem. The initial twelve lines of Negation bring to line the issue of racial identity and prejudice as the dominating factor that George Elliott seeks to attend to. He reflects on Shakespeare’s character Caliban in The Tempest who he describes in rather harsh words as being, “(Slick black bastard – cannibal-sucking back Licorice-lusty, fifty-proof whisky),” this is just representational of the authors disgustCITATION Lan01 p 13 l 1033 (Lancashire 13).

However, in the final two lines of ‘Negation’ i.e. the couplet, the author comes out in support of black revolution by resolving his previous stand; a classical representation of couplets where an author resonates on his sentiments in the first three quatrains of the poem. With specific interest is Frantz Fanon’s work the Black skin, White masks illustrates George Elliott’s sentiments in negation as being a global problem with whites continuously despising blacks in their speech and literacy writings; reference can be made to line nine of the negation poem that points out blacks as, “Nasty, Nofaskoshan negro, I mean..” and goes on to the next two linesCITATION Cla08 p 33 l 1033 (Clarke 33). The writing Nofaskoshan is in black dialect which generalizes the people of Neva Scotia a province in Canada with inhabitants of African descent. In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon also mirrors the same but in defense of the black race. He refutes with the lines, “Dirty nigger!’ Or simply, ‘Look, a Negro!’ // I came into the world imbued with the will to find a meaning in things, my spirit filled with the desire to attain to the source of the world, and then I found that I was an object in the midst of other objects. // sealed into that crushing object hoodCITATION Fan52 p 109 l 1033 (Fanon 109).”

Looking at Fanon’s sentiments, we see the depiction of blacks as subjects of the whites, most interesting is the inability of blacks to identify themselves as subjects and merely objects of service to the white, they are constantly in push to break away from the old york. Notice in the last two line stanza (couplet), the author is still in struggle with where his real stand is, this two-line stanza of a blank sonnet is usually meant to resolve the recurring theme in the previous stanzas but in this case author make a reference to the second person ‘you’ depicting the debate that even though he agrees to the fact that change in black perception is evident he still has not fully accepted this fact.


Clarke, George Elliott. Blues and Bliss . New York : Waterloo: , 2008.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks . Atlanta : Grove Press , 1952.

Lancashire, Ian. Blue . Vancouver : Polestar Books , 2001.

Mabillard, Amanda. Shakespearean Sonnet Basics . New York : Barnes & Noble , 2000.

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