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Unformatted text preview: Keya Agarwal ARLT 100 – 35327- Paris Noir Rhythmic Expression of Black Culture: An analysis of Jacques Roumain’s poem; “When the Tom-Tom beats,” as a critique of colonization “…the White that made you a mullato is this bit of foam cast up, like spit, upon the shore 1 .” In his poem “When the Tom-Tom Beats…,” Jacques Roumain reveals the inner turmoil of the colonized, which arises due to an eradication of their true identity, leading to their existence as outcasts in their own country. Being involved in the fight against United States’ occupation of Haiti, Roumain’s critiques of colonization and ‘white civilization’ are prevalent in his poem. In such times the only solution proposed to overcome such a predicament is through the rise of black consciousness and racial pride, which would require an awakening from the ancestral past through a bond that transcends time. This awakening to establish a bond and regain a sense of lost identity is acquired through rhythm, in his literary work. Upon a close analysis of When the Tom-Tom Beats… , the notion that rhythm plays a key role in shaping the themes of the poem can be conceived, particularly with regard to colonization and cultural exoticism due to the nostalgic ties it creates with the past. However, how is rhythm conveyed as a link between the ancestral past and the present? In addition, what is Roumain attempting to convey by establishing this connection between the unfinished past of slavery and the present? Furthermore, since there is an 1 Wolitz, Seth L. ""When the Tom-Tom Beats..." by Jacques Roumain and Translated by Langston Hughes." Black Poetry of the French Antilles . [S.l.]: Fybate Lecture Notes, 1968. Print. association between rhythm and the tom-tom, what is the tom-tom symbolic and representative of, and what does this highlight in the context of the poem? This thesis will explore how Jacques Roumain employs rhythm in his poem to create ties between the present and the unfinished past of slavery. This connection can be viewed as a parallel in his work, thus suggesting that colonization is a means of modern day slavery. Furthermore, in the poem the tom-tom is employed as a symbol of rhythm, representing an essential element of black being, and hence criticizing cultural exoticism by presenting black culture as superior to white civilization. In When the Tom-Tom Beats… , rhythm plays a central role in acting as a medium of communication between the past as present. The consistent suggestions to vibration throughout the poem appear to establish this role, for instance in phrases such as “heart trembles” and “troubled water.” Both phrases present very visually striking images of vibrations being passed on and conducted as if it were in fact the rhythm that is infectiously spreading. The phrases appear to conjure the “old mirage” that “rises from the pit of the night”, as if the distant vibrations from the ancestral landscape are calling forth the subject in the poem. The idea of a calling is further developed through the forth the subject in the poem....
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- Fall '08
- Colonialism, Jacques Roumain, Fybate Lecture Notes