Linton Kwesi Johnson

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Linton Kwesi Johnson’s dub-style of poetry does not cause one to immediately categorize it as children’s literature. While Johnson’s poems tend to deal with more mature subjects, they do have a kind of linguistic appeal for children. Johnson’s use of rhyme and accent are visible through examination of the poem “If I Woz a Tap-Natch Poet.” Johnson’s poetic devices allow the poetry to flow like natural conversation, which could appeal to younger readers.

The poem opens with humility and powerful use of style. Johnson suggests the idea of having goals and role models, which is something that young children would understand. In the first two stanzas of the poem, Johnson begins by explaining that if he was a great poet he would be able to write a poem “soh dyam deep / dat it bittah sweet” (6-7). He makes mention to poets “like Chris Okigbo / Derek Walcot / ar T.S. Eliot” (Johnson 2-4). Although Johnson is a great poet, he still admires his predecessors. The fact that Johnson is being very humble about his work as a poet and encourages striving for life’s ambitions.

From the start of the poem it is clear that Johnson uses a very distinctive style of writing. Although there is no strict rhyme scheme or structure to the stanzas, there are some poetic techniques that stand out. One of the most obvious details to the poem is the use of accent. Johnson embraces his Jamaican accent through poetry. Even the title alone of “If I Woz a Tap-Natch Poet” emphasizes the accent. The diction forces readers to slow down, yet still flows well linguistically. A good example of this is in the fifth stanza,

goon poet haffi step in line
caw Bootahlazy mite a gat a couple touzan
but Mandela fi him
touzans a touzans a touzans a touzans. (Johnson 24-27)
Johnson essentially creates his own words, but when the lines are read out loud it is easy to understand what he really means. Johnson’s use of accent is a very powerful aspect of the poem.
While there is no strict rhyme...
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