In the poem “The Mongrel,” Canisia Lubrin uses several literary devices to comment on diasporic geographies. The word “Mongrel” is used to describe animals of different breeds but it is also used as a derogatory term for people of mixed race. In this poem, Lubrin uses the term to refer...
In the poem “The Mongrel,” Canisia Lubrin uses several literary devices to comment on diasporic geographies. The word “Mongrel” is used to describe animals of different breeds but it is also used as a derogatory term for people of mixed race. In this poem, Lubrin uses the term to refer to people of color who have been displaced and oppressed through history. It is also interesting to note that Lubrin capitalizes the word “Mongrel” each time she uses it, as this suggests it has become an identity, not just a descriptive term.
Lubrin uses a lot of imagery to emphasize the intense pain of the diasporic experience. For instance, recall how she writes that the Mongrel’s ancestors “drew their roots up” through “walls of knotted blood.” She then explains that the night came with ships and stayed and soon:
These generations miss their gills, scales
and talons, still dug in old valleys, still
lulled by disappearing suns, by broke hours
of bone branding flesh, held dark through
immortal dark, a gleam of that riverine name.
The vivid way in which Lubrin describes the history of the diasporic experience helps emphasize how painful and long-lasting it is. In particular, her emphasis on immortal darkness underscores how awful this experience is. The ancestors of course did not have gills like fish, but in saying they miss their gills, Lubrin emphasizes how they no longer have the freedom of animals like fish. It is also interesting to note Lubrin's use of alliteration when she mentions the “bone branding flesh.” The repetition of the “b” sound at the beginning of the first two words emphasizes the brutality of the experience. Lubrin uses several other alliterations throughout the poem too, like when she mentions “earth’s scrubbed sands” to emphasize the harsh movement the Mongrel is experiencing.
All of the literary devices Lubrin uses help readers understand the long-lasting cultural fragmentation of diasporas. Recall how she calls them a “species of amnesiacs.” This is an exaggeration of course, but it brings attention to how quickly people forget how destructive displacement can be.