In "blkfern-jungal" by Aileen Corpus, what are some language devices, and how are they used to convey the general meaning of the poem?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this piece, it is helpful to understand the speaker's dialect. "blkfern-jungal" by Aileen Corpus, is an example of Black Australian Aboriginal verse. As with any kind of poetry, there are literary devices to be found.

First, note that dialect is defined as...

...the language of a particular district, class, or group of persons. It encompasses the sounds, grammar, and diction employed by a specific people as distinguished from other persons...

The use of dialect makes the poem more realistic, and its main character more believable, simply by using the language of the poor, uneducated, living on "Regent Street."

One device that is used is inference, which takes place when the reader (through clues left by the writer) can...

...draw a reasonable conclusion from the information presented.

Look to the following excerpt:

wlk’n down regent street i see 

blks hoo display blknez 

(i min they sens of blknez)...

The speaker is walking down the street. He sees black men that look black, or rather, convey a sense of blackness. We can infer this to mean that they are black in terms of their skin color, but they are not "black" culturally: they have nothing in common with the speaker. They offer a meaningless observation to the speaker—that in time he will one day rise above his place in the "gutta" (gutter). And when that time comes, magically (or so it would seem—for they offer nothing substantial, like a job, etc.), his life will change dramatically. They say that time is...

...gonna lif yoo outta 

yor blk hole n sho yoo 

how t’wlk n dress n tlk.

They tell the man that he will be raised out of his poverty ("blk hole") and he will know how to walk, dress and talk. This infers that he knows none of these things now. Obviously this is nonsense, for time will not make these things happen—change must come from opportunity and assistance: education, fair housing, food, employment, etc.

The speaker looks more closely at these men with a "sense of blackness," and he notices a halo around their heads:

n i look up n see 

arown th’ haylo of they hair, 

a cosmetic afro ring

shiny haze 

like it blines me man!!

"Haylo of they hair" is a metaphor, comparing an angel's halo to the glow around their Afros. Perhaps the sunshine on their coiffed hair is reflecting a light—from a gel or spray they are wearing.

The man studies how they are dressed:

so mu eyes go down t’thair

smart soot ol prest n cleen

n thair hi heel kork shooz...

They have beautiful clothes and shoes. The speaker looks at himself, and studies his own "soiled blknez." But it doesn't seem a bad thing.

A funny thing takes place. Ironically, these well-dressed men believe they understand the speaker's life, but they are really only smug and condescending—as if they are saying, "You can be like us—in time." After the near-blinding light is gone, the speaker sees beyond their appearance to a truth—he has an epiphany (insight that changes his way of thinking). This, now, is situational irony: the difference between what you expect to happen and what really happens. Instead of having men with only a "sense of blackness" enlighten him about life, he turns the tables. He advises them...

‘ime gonna lif yoo outta 

yore blk hole n sho yoo 

how t’wlk n dress n tlk’

The men don't have any answers at all! So he gives them the same advice they gave him. He's comfortable with the truth of his "blknez." Maybe they will feel the same—in time.