What poetic device is used effectively in the poem "Death Came to See Me in Hot Pink Pants" by Heater Royes?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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"Death Came to See Me in Hot Pink Pants" by Jamaican poet Heater Royes displays much of the cultural hybridity of Caribbean literature, modulating the received forms and themes of traditional British literature with the lived experience, cultural roots, and linguistic literature of the islands. 

The most important poetic device used is personification. Rather than death being treated as an abstract concept, or portrayed in terms of medical technicalities, Death appears as a person. Unlike the "grim reaper" of European tradition, a skeleton carrying a scythe, death appears as a "beautiful black saga boy" wearing hot pink pants and a matching waistcoat. 

A "saga boy" is a Caribbean term meaning well-dressed, stylish, and urbane, in essence almost a contemporary "dandy". This personification is effective because unlike the traditional grim reaper, who is horrific, the saga boy Death is attractive. Although the narrator fends him off in the dream, the narrator is also attracted to his beauty and laughter. 

Given that Royes is an AIDS activist and addresses many of the social issues of drug use and crime in Jamaica, the attractiveness of the personification of death suggests a darker underlying theme, of the narrator perhaps dying of AIDS or taking drugs, and seeing death as more attractive than real life. 


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