Home » General » The Integration of Poetry and Communication

MOST people find poetry cumbersome to decipher because of the contrived way poets use diction and all its “tricks” like metaphor, metonymy, imagery and symbolism, which in some sense inhibits communication. The traditional poem, which uses conventions like rhyme, assonance, consonance, alliteration, lexical reiteration and a controlled metre burdens the reader to such an extent that poetry itself as a vehicle used to ferry societal mores and values, becomes dysfunctional.

There is a shift, however, from the restrictions of the traditional poem as poets consolidate their role as the voice of the voiceless and truth’s defence.

Though that may be a plus, the essence of poetry remains as entrancing now as it was centuries of yore mainly because of its two-fold nature.

A distinction exists between the connotative and denotative meanings of a poem or any other literary work which integrates literature and communication.

The denotative meaning of a poem is the obvious surface interpretation that the reader draws from it.

The connotative meaning, on the other hand, is the deeper meaning underneath the poem which is more subjective and less obvious.

The connotative meaning is open to a plethora of interpretations whose truth lie in conviction.

This two- fold presentation of ideas enables poets to impart their deeper feelings of anger, distress, frustration, disillusionment, love, hatred and betrayal to their readers who are themselves not unfamiliar to such experiences as they may share the same cultural norms and values.

If conventional imagery and symbolism is used, then the task is even mitigated but if idiosyncratic elements are employed, it may be aggravated.

Freedom TV Nyamubaya embraces the connotative and denotative levels of poetry in the poem “A mysterious Marriage”.

Denotatively, the poem is about two children whose ideologies are infringed by “armed robbers” culminating in their decision to seek solace in blood and iron as it dawns on them that armed confrontation is the only vent out.

In their search for freedom, they get married coming home after the war, to wild cheers and merriment characteristic of a “wedding”.

Unfortunately, the grand wedding anticipated fails to take place as only the groom is present and the bride fails to materialise, much to the chagrin of the waiting crowd, which feels cheated and betrayed.

The general atmosphere is that of betrayal at the personal level, though it also reflects on the community and national levels.

At the connotative level, however, the illocutionary force suffices to express the ugly consequences of imperialism on the African continent.

The names “Freedom” and “Independence” epitomise those values which the Africans hold dear and feel are robbed by the nameless gang of aliens. They do not take lightly to the robbery of these values by anyone.

The union of these values in matrimony suggests how significant they are to the welfare of the oppressed Africans.

“Freedom” who is only seen as a shadow, is symbolic of mistrust, betrayal and snobbishness at the deeper sense of both the personal and national platforms, as the masses feel betrayed by their visionaries.

Charles Mungoshi also echoes this rationale in the poem “Winter”. Denotatively, the poem is about an old man at wit’s end and is engrossed in his reminiscences of the past to the extent that he fails to espy the persona invading his privacy.

The scene reincarnating itself in his eyes is that of destruction as suggested by the phrase “pulled down”.

The atmosphere pervading the poem is that of aridity and coldness as depicted by the imagery of “brick-and-rubble” and “the cold July wind”.

At the connotative level, however, the cold voice of politics and its bane on the individual psyche overwhelm the obvious diatribes and internal woes of an old man who has lost variety and reason, and now at sixes and sevens, nostalgically regards his past and its glory.

Change to him is infectious as he fails to grasp the cold reality of the changing tide which has swept him off his feet.

The depiction of the street -“Pioneer Street” – suggests political allusion, as the first settlers of Rhodesia dubbed themselves “Pioneers”.

Hence, the association of the street with all that is sinking and decaying connotes the idea of a sinking ship against the currents of change, yet the old man precariously hangs onto it.

The symbolic bastions of colonisation are reduced to rubble by the new political dispensation.

Although the race and cultural identity of the old man is not explicitly stated, the “wilted rose in his button hole”, which is expressive of cultural connotations betrays him.

The fact that he also alludes to the demolishers of the buildings as “they” against “we”, exposes his racial identity.

To demonstrate the integration of literature and communication, Barthes (1977) defines connotation and denotation in communicological terms. In concurrence with De Saussure (1916), Barthes defines denotation as the direct relationship between a sign and its referent in reality.

It follows reason, therefore, that the sign “Pioneer Street” denotes a road fringed by pavements and buildings in existence in Harare, although the street has since been renamed Kaguvi Street.

Semiologically the word pioneer becomes the sign “pioneer” whose use as a street in Harare depicts reality.

Connotation, on the other hand, describes further interaction that exists between signs and their users.

According to Barthes, signs have a way of interacting with the feelings, emotions and cultural values of language users, enhancing the creation of mental images more developed than the original referents of those signs.

Thus, the sign “Pioneer Street” to a Zimbabwean does not only evoke the mental image of a street that actually exists in Harare, instead it connotatively conjures colonial domination characterised by suffering, dispossession and betrayal each time it is mentioned.

Connotation is only possible because people sharing the same cultural values and norms also share similar inter-subjective reality.

Hence, by simply transmitting signs like “Pioneer Street”, “mzungu” or “Dedan Kimathi”, Mungoshi and wa Thiong’o can connote the idea of imperialism, because artists share the same experiences with their societies.

Culture, therefore, plays a pivotal role in connotation.

In his depiction of the demise of cultural values and norms as a result of colonisation and its influence on African societies Chenjerai Hove in “Up in Arms” (1982) and “Red Hill of Home” (1985) uses the signs “migratory bird” and “bulldozers” in the poems “Lost Bird” and “Red Hills of Home” respectively.

Bulldozers are symbolic of destruction – not only the physical destruction of the African landscape – but the destruction of African values and norms.

The migratory bird embodies abundance in the Zimbabwean context as it is the harbinger of the rainy season. Culturally, the bird denotes a bumper harvest as such its presence is associated with life, joy and celebration.

In semiological terms the analysis of connotation, denotation and symbolism as espoused by Barthes lays bare how aspects of literary meaning are interpreted by readers.

This interpretation process integrates literature and communication as the extraction of meaning can only be possible if people understand not only the denotative aspects of discourse but its connotative aspects expressed through symbolism, imagery, metaphor and metonymy as well, for it is this that makes the reading of poetry not only intriguing but unique.

Source : The Herald

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