About The title of the poem ‘electricity comes

About the
Author:

Marcia Douglas was
born in the U.K. and grew up in Jamaica. She is the author of the novels, The
Marvellous Equations of the Dread: a Novel in Bass Riddim (2016), Madam
Fate (1999) and Notes from a Writer’s Book of Cures and
Spells(2005) as well as a collection of poetry, Electricity
Comes to Cocoa Bottom (1999).

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Her work has appeared
in journals and anthologies internationally, including Edexcel
Anthology for English Language/London Examinations IGCSE, The Oxford Book of
Caribbean Verse, The Forward Book of Poetry, Sisters of Caliban: Contemporary
Women Poets of the Caribbean, Cultural Activism: Poetic Voices, Political
Voices, Kingston Noir, Jubilation! Poems Celebrating 50 Years of Jamaican
Independence, Mojo: Conjure Stories, Whispers from Under the Cotton Tree Root:
Caribbean Fabulist Fiction, Caribbean Erotic: Poetry, Prose, Essays, The Art of
Friction: Where (Non) Fictions Come Together, and Home: An
Imagined Landscape.

Her awards include a
National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a U.K. Poetry Book Society
Recommendation. In addition to writing, she performs a one-woman show, Natural
Herstory, and teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

About the
book:

In Electricity
Comes to Cocoa Bottom the reader is taken on a journey of light, from
the rural flicker of the firefly, the half-moonlight of the limbo of exile in
the USA, to the sense of connectedness and arrival suggested by the image of
the eight-pointed star. It is also a journey of the voice, traversing back and
forth across the Atlantic and across the continents, pushing its way through
word censors and voice mufflers and ending in tongues of fire.

 

 

 

Poem analysis:

The
title of the poem ‘electricity comes to cocoa bottom’, the word ‘come’ –
which is defined as: to enter into being or existence; to be born – suggests
that electricity wasn’t currently present in the small village – cocoa bottom.
The name of the village could suggest that it is located somewhere in Jamaica
as they grow ‘coca’ over there. Likewise, the poet, Marcia Dougles, is from
Jamaica as well therefore it is much more logical to assume that the village is
somewhere in Jamaica.  Moreover, the readers can deduce from the title
the importance of electricity and because it is a small village it does not
have any.

The
poet begins the poem by the word ‘Then’. The foreboding of time here
plunges the reader straight into the excitement mingling amongst the ‘children’
who have all gathered to see ‘Mr. Samuel’s electric lights’. Through
this, the readers are capable of perceiving the excitement and enthusiasm felt
by the children induced through the thought of ‘electricity’, which alludes
towards the fact that their village lacked the resources needed to produce
power for electricity. The readers can also contemplate the reverence dictated
for ‘Mr. Samuel’ as his name is the only name mentioned – besides Grannie
Patterson – and he owns the light, too; which again shows us the importance of
electricity to the people and children residing in the village and explains to
us why everyone is gathered at his house. The word ‘all’ signifies the
importance of this spectacle and further enhances the readers understanding
regarding the importance of electricity in this village.

Furthermore,
the poet introduces an element of juxtaposition when she states: ‘lamps
filled with oil’. This is also ironic because of the fact that the
congregation is gathered to witness the birth of light without the use
of oil. Therefore, by juxtaposing these two elements together, the poet might
be trying to convey her feelings about the lack of resources in the village or
how the people living there are not modern enough or compliant enough with the
technology of the modern world. Hence, juxtaposing and contrasting the modern
world alongside with the old or the past.  Similarly, the poet may also be trying to
portray the level of illiteracy in the village.

The
poet then describes the anticipation of the kids by using words such as: ‘waiting…watching’
the use of alliteration here allows the readers to understand the crowd’s
eagerness and expectancy. The poet again denotes towards the prospect of
contrast while she states: ‘…the sky turn yellow, orange’. This is interesting
because she talks about materialistic light about to be produced just
when the natural light is about to fade away. The adjectives ‘yellow’
and ‘orange’ similarly allude towards the ‘light’ produced
naturally by nature itself.

It
is ironic how this, in an abstract manner, represents the human need of
creating such resources by their own will to benefit them; even though if it is
going against the natural course of the nature.

Likewise,
when the poet states: ‘Grannie Patterson…peeped…door’ this could convey
her ideas about how the old people are reluctant about adapting to the new
world’s ever growing technological gadgets and tools – maybe because their
believes and faith are somehow challenged and threatened by it; or maybe
because they feel like it is something beyond the reach of their mental
capacity and therefore it seems cunning and foreboding to them; hence, very
difficult to accept. However, just like ‘Grannie Patterson’ the old
people are still curious about the development of the world, which is why they
closely admire it from afar; just like how Mrs. Patterson ‘peeped through
the crack in her porch door’.

Moreover,
the poet then states: ‘…cable was drawn like a pencil line across the sun’.
The use of this similie explains to the readers the poet’s ability to express
how the cables were like a sketch across the sun. However, this again points
towards the concept of conflict between humans and nature; as ‘pencil’
is something created by humans and a ‘line across the sun’ might suggest
how humans have ‘sketched’ their mark onto nature itself by devising
such technologically advanced machines and tools; such as electricity. But, the
definition of ‘sketch’ is:  a simple,
quickly-made drawing that does
not have many details. Therefore, the use of this particular word
might allude towards the fact that no matter how advanced human beings get,
they will only be able to ‘sketch’ their mark upon nature, not fully be
capable of ‘drawing’ upon it, as nature has and will always prevail upon
humans.

Moving on, the poet then states: ‘The fireflies waited
in the shadows, their lanterns off’. Here, the poet personifies the ‘fireflies’
with humans by giving them human traits – such as the capability to ‘wait’.
However, the readers can notice and element of irony mentioned here, too – as
it is easy for the fireflies to wait knowing that they have the means of
producing electricity whereas it is tough for humans because they lack
resources.

The poet again vocalizes the conflict between humans and
nature, suggesting how nature naturally prevails upon humans due to its natural
characteristics and the ways in which it is created.

The poet then creates a sense of anticipation and tension
because it is almost time for the grand finale. She uses devices such as
onomatopoeia: ‘the klings – klings swooped…hills’, personification: ‘A
breeze coming…held its breathe;’, similie: ‘as soft as chiffon curtains’
and repetition: ‘Closing. Closing’ to describe with great magnitude the
effect of the ongoing event and how it creates excitement and apprehension
amongst the audience.

Then, very simply but effectively, the writer conveys the
enigma and the finale of this spectacle in a single word: ‘Light!’ The
exclamation suggests the overwhelming feeling felt by the poet as well as the
audiences who are all observing this spectacle formulate in front of their
eyes.  

The poet further expresses her elated and joyous feelings
through sentences such as: ‘and there arising such a gasp’, through
onomatopoeia: ‘fluttering of wings, tweet-a-whit’, through repetition
and alliterations: ‘such swaying, swaying’ and then, again, denoting the
spectacle: ‘Light! Marvellous Light!’ Through this repetition of ‘light’
the readers can comprehend how important electricity is to the people of the
village and how it was purely a ‘marvellous’ scene for the ‘children’
to observe, which is why they had ‘all’ gathered outside ‘Mr. Samuel’s’
house.

The poet then asks through the personified voice of the
wind: ‘is there one among us to record this moment?’ By the introduction
of this question, the poet introduces a decline to the happiness and the
excitement narrated in the poem so far. The tone used to narrate ‘but there
was none’ is sad and brimming with disappointment. It allows the readers to
perceive how the children of the village might feel disappointed once the
spectacle had ended and they had to finally return home which is further stated
by the poet ‘lit their lamps for the dark journey home’ which enhances
the readers understanding of the children’s disappointment and growing sadness.

The structure of the poem is such that it conceives within
it the entire summary of the poem along with its message:

Just like the illuminating of ‘light’, the poem starts of
immediately without explaining what had happened before. The excitement and
anticipation described by the poet in between could suggest the flow of the
electricity towards the light bulb, which is quick and instantaneous; much like
the excitement and feelings of the children. Then, once the electricity has
raced through the wires and generated light through the light bulb, it lingers
around for a while – just like the elated and overwhelming feelings of the
audiences who witnessed the spectacle of light and electricity. In the end,
when the light bulb is switched off everything turns dark – just like how the
children of cocoa bottom felt disappointed and dull when they had to return to
their homes with their lanterns guiding them through the dark roads.

Likewise, this poem can also be analyzed through different
perspectives. For example, through the perspective of ‘imparting of knowledge’:

The gathering of ‘all’ of the ‘children’ at
‘Mr. Samuel’s’ house could suggest the children’s curiosity, excitement
and quest for the attainment of knowledge imparted to them from their tutor –
Mr. Samuel’s. The feelings of anticipation – ‘held its breath’, ‘Closing.
Closing’ – could denote the children’s anticipation for obtaining
knowledge. The effective and elated joy of ‘Light!’ could symbolize the
‘light’ illuminated within one’s soul due to the acceptance of
knowledge. The saddening tone of ‘but there was none’ could allude
towards the scarce resources in the village due to which the children are
incapable of writing down the knowledge given to them from their tutor. And the
depressing mood created through the statements ‘dark journey home’ and ‘the
moment had passed’ could explain how the children were sad that they had to
depart from their tutor and go back to their houses.