Analyze the form and content of the poem "Bread" by Kamau Braithwaite.

Quick answer:

In "Bread" by Braithwaite the increasingly broken and disorienting form of the poem reflects the broken dreams of black people. Bread, a metaphor for dreams of life and abundance, begins to bake and rise in the early part of the poem. Then the dream it represents increasing turns into a nightmare of sacrifice and lost hope, ending on words envisioning life "w/out dream."

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In "Bread," Caribbean poet Braithwaite begins with the easily flowing rhythms and positive imagery of kneading and forming bread. He then moves, as the poem progresses, to more broken and jagged rhythms and ever more harsh and negative images. Bread is a metaphor for the dreams of black people for life and abundance, dreams that the poem shows breaking and turning into nightmare.

The poem's first two stanza describe the kneading and baking of bread. Although there are ominous notes of "foreign cornfields" and the "cold flesh" of dough, the poem flows without jarring breaks from line to line as the dough readies for the oven. We learn that the dream of the finished bread becomes "tougher." In the oven, the bread starts to "crisp and crackle" as if it is nearing completion.

Yet by the third stanza, something is interfering with the dream the bread represents. This is society, symbolized as shops and markets and the "slab of lord." The rhythm becomes broken and interrupted with frequents stops (periods) as the bread/dream becomes the symbol of the sacrifice of Isaac, an innocent, ready to be killed. The bread/dream becomes the broken symbol of "strife" and "howl[ing.]"

People are blocked from the bread. It becomes hard to reach because of pennies—the money people need to buy it. Braithwaite breaks the word "pennies" between two stanzas creating an enjambment, which is when a line of verse continues into the next line or stanza without a break. Braithwaite uses both the stops of frequent periods to create fragments along with the lengthening quality of enjambments to create a feeling of disorientation in the reader. This mimics the sense of disorientation the black feels at his interrupted dream.

By the end of the poem, the knife and hands that should have cut the nourishing bread are at the throat instead and rats appear. The poem's finale comes in the form of anaphora, which is the repetition of the same words—"rolled into"—at the beginning of each of the last three lines. In this case, the anaphora creates a sense of litany that despairs at the prospect of life "w/out dream," the two words with which the poem ends.

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