An Exploration of Grace Nichols Resentment at the Legacy of the Slave Trade Through Her Poem ‘Taint’

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The Atlantic slave trade began in the sixteenth century and was abolished in the British Empire in the early nineteenth century. During four centuries American and Europeans nations obtained enslaved people from African slave-traders (although some were captured by Europeans slave traders). Born in Guyana in 1950, author and poet Grace Nichols moved into England in 1977 where she has compiled several books of poetry, many of which discuss the slave trade. Her poem “taint” is an illustration of her resentment at the legacy of the slave trade.

The title of the poem itself is significant; a one emotive word impact: “Taint” which means spoil, stain or tarnish, a negative word that introduces the reader to what’s to come. I would also argue that the lay-out of the poem complements this notion; the layout is effectively disorganised with stanzas and lines of different sizes, which can be qualified as visually unsightly.

Her first stanza begins with the word “But” which would usually imply a response to an on-going conversation but the rest of the sentence gives the impression the author is making a plea: ‘But I was stolen by men’

I believe the use of the pronoun at the first person signifies that, however Grace Nichols hasn’t lived the experience narrated in the poem, she adopts the persona of her ancestors as if it did happen to her. The first person will be consistently used throughout the poem and contribute in making the reading/experience much more personal. With the use of strong emotive vocabulary such as “stolen” I believe Grace Nichols wants to show the reader how she felt like a possession. The use of “stolen” rather than “kidnapped” dehumanises and the use of passive tense indicates that it was against her will: she was stolen; things were being done to her and she was not in control. All of which contribute to convey a feeling of defencelessness. Making a pause, a one line gap, she then goes on to say:

‘the colour of my own skin’
The phrase...
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