Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Homecoming: Anse La Raye” is about estrangement from one’s own culture as well as from the larger world. The title of the book in which this poem originally appeared supports this idea of separation or division. At one point in the poem, the speaker’s poetic self becomes poignantly aware of the fact that “there are homecomings without home.” His quandary is not easily explained. The island is viewed with an unbiased eye but also with a restrained rage. He attempts to see its natural beauty, but his attempt is stifled by the decay around him. The ocean becomes boring; its movement creates “the doom-/ surge-haunted nights.” The comfort that one might associate with the constant caress of the sea gives way to rumbling turmoil. Standing on the beach with the children, he contemplates their fate and suggests that they may never get a chance to ride the “silvery freighter,” which appears on the horizon as a symbol of human potential and freedom.

When the speaker’s poetic self leaves the beach, he sees the “dead/ fishermen.” One of the men appears to greet him, but the speaker’s poetic self remains aloof. In one last reference to the fishermen, the speaker states that one of the men has “a politician’s ignorant, sweet smile.” This smile is benign, at least on the surface. The speaker possesses a negative yet sympathetic attitude toward these men. He has already pronounced them “dead.” They are racked by a pervasive and...

(The entire section is 572 words.)