The poem 'Blue' by Chris Abani is best read and interpreted through the context of the writer's life. It is worth reading a little about his background before attempting to analyse the poem, so that certain themes and messages in the work can be discerned.It is also worth looking at other works, such as 'Becoming Abigail.' The author comes from the latest generation of authors from Nigeria who aim to translate to non-native speaking readers, the harrowing times experienced by Nigerians growing up in their strife-torn African country. He started writing very young - his first book 'Masters of the Board' was published in his adolescence. A thrilling political book, it seemed similar to a later Nigerian coup and Chris Abani was imprisoned due to suspicions that he had something to do with the attempted overthrow. So we can see these moods and references in our summary.
In the first stanza, Abani paints the picture of slaves imprisoned in the hold of a trading ship. We can deduce this from the image of the slaves cramping themselves ever tighter to make more space. Abani suggests that at this stage they are not in complete despair but still hope for freedom. The words 'tar' and 'plank' suggest a ship while the word 'licorice' is a bittersweet contrast with a happy childhood lost. The second stanza concerns itself with physical deprivation, suffering and thirst, and also touches the metaphysical with references to time and history, suggesting that injustice has always been present through the history of mankind.
The third stanza shows the captain's anxiety about the loyalty of his crew and his fears around disorder and chaos as he trades cargo from port to port, and the author imagines how a female slave might feel, wanting to kill her captor. He imagines her running across the deck and smiting the captain with her chains.The fourth stanza muses over whether a sharp sound that breaks out is that of the captain's skull injury or that of a gunshot killing the slave as she drops over the side dragging the captain with her - all snared up in her chains. So we see the themes of imprisonment, despair, control, power, disorder and revenge.