How does Canisia Lubrin use literary devices in "The Mongrel" to present diasporic geographies?

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In “The Mongrel,” Lubrin uses devices like alliteration, imagery, and exaggeration to emphasize the long-lasting impacts on diasporas. For instance, she describes how dark the experience of displacement has been for many generations of mixed-race people. She also calls diasporas a “species of amnesiacs” to show that they should not forget how the impacts of diasporas live on through generations.

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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.

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Analyze the poem “The Mongrel” by Canisia Lubrin to demonstrate how the poet uses symbolism, hyperbole, and repetition to elicit fresh conceptualizations of diasporic geographies.

Canisia Lubrin’s poem “The Mongrel” explores the complications of race and belonging through consideration of the biological and cultural heritages for people in the Caribbean islands. The primary symbol that the author deploys is that of the “Mongrel,” a character that is at once divine, human, and animal. All kinds of mixtures are included in this central symbol, which demonstrates continuity over time, even as its (or her) form and exact composition vary depending on the location where it appears. The ubiquity of the Mongrel as a representation of diasporic geographies is suggested in “the Mongrel’s Creole maps,” which associates biracial, New World people or “creoles” with images of space or territory in “maps.”

Another symbol of the complexity of mixed heritage is Caliban, which the author calls “the animal that knew it had been/ brutalized by men. An allusion to the character in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Caliban stands for the attribution of animal characteristics to people of non-European heritage.

Hyperbole, extreme exaggeration for effect, is associated here with characteristics of the Mongrel, which extend the emphasis on temporal continuity: “On a throne / of a million years.” This character’s features also reveal a singular message that connects with their ongoing pain and protest: “she’d done nothing except bawl the lost, / are enough!” The emphasis on lost people indicates the alienation of diasporic peoples’ experiences.

Repetition applies especially to “the Mongrel,” a term that appears more than 10 times. The theme of temporal continuity is furthered by repetition of “still,” the word that begins the poem.

Still unraveling from ghosting stars ...

The Mongrel was still breaking ...

still dug into old valleys, still

lulled by disappearing suns.

The Mongrel’s

orienting grace is still its tail.

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