By Lesley Jeffries (auth.)
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Extra resources for The Language of Twentieth-Century Poetry
The final section of chapter 7 illustrates more fully this kind of symbolic use of grammar. The following excerpt from Downpour by Penelope Shuttle has two sentences, neither of which includes a main verb, though the first has three participles (blown, seeping and helped) and one finite verb (comes) all occurring in subordinate clauses: Through the letter box, leaves instead of letters, wet leaves blown along the path and seeping through the low letter box, an invasion that comes slowly, but helped by the rain.
Kali Uka, for example, in a paper called From Commitment to Essence (Nwoga, 1978), claims that despite the chosen language of writers such as Soyinka and 20 THE LANGUAGE OF TWENTIETH-CENTURY POETRY Achebe being English, they have interwoven African themes and linguistic nuances in a subtle and evolving way: A bilingualism then exists. It enhances the transmissions of ideas, the discovery of new expressiveness, new modes. It does not simplify things; it does tell us that a welding together of English and the vernacular, be it Ijaw, Igbo or Yoruba, which can make sense to at least a secondary school leaver, has emerged.
The whole of this book is about experimentation with language, some of it politically motivated. all of it aesthetically aware. The present chapter, however, aims to describe the ways in which non-standard varieties (rather than unique experiments) have appeared in poetry written in English in the twentieth century. Although all of the poetry being discussed here is written, we could see the spread of non-standard English in poetry as an THE INFLUENCE OF THE SPOKEN LANGUAGE 25 influence from the speech habits of people who can usually also command the standard variety in the appropriate (usually written) contexts.