Christina Simmons- Christina Simmons was born on an island called St. Lucia, situated in the Caribbean. At a very young age of 5, she was left back by her mother with her grandmother. She had to leave for London to live with her father. She joined them after 4 years at the tender age of 9. The change of the place and school had come as a shock to her; initially she wasn’t a good student and used to be mostly engrossed in day-dreaming. But gradually she involved herself in more academia, and aced herself in that arena. It had motivated her to pursue higher education. She trained as a social worker for two years. She later on trained herself as a primary school teacher but did not enjoy the field. She thus, moved on to involve herself in counselling. It was during this time that she realised her forte is in creative writing. She explored all the areas inclusive of creative writing, script writing, poetry workshops, singing lessons and even playing drums and guitars. Her central motive was to entertain a person and that’s how she made her debut in the world of poetry.
Poetic Devices in Disabled Soul Woman-
Line 9: “broken wings” and “thread of life” – Hands and dreams have been compared to wings; A parallel has been drawn between the thread and the last days or the difficult moments in one’s life.
Line 14: The speaker compares herself with the mystical bird Phoenix.
Line 21: The speaker draws a parallel between herself and Uncle Tom.
Summary of Disabled Soul Woman-
The poet begins with an elaboration of the coupling of Beauty and Pain. The first line speaks of the same; that a fully bloomed “red rose” without any thorns will overcome all odds with its beauty which is void of any kind of flaws (thorns). She is confident and she doesn’t find it necessary to prove herself to anybody, “only need to be convinced myself”. The “unseen shadows” who look at her, her eyes are them, she can hear them as she asks them, as she asks sarcastically “What’s that you say!?” The second stanza is devoted to show the speaker’s confidence in herself. She believes she can “make it through the storm: climb the tallest tree”. Even though she is tired of fighting against all odds, but with “broken wings” she is still holding on to life “and will not wither”. She questions that when she passes by quietly, what does her spectator notice about her? She answers her own question, in which the reader is made aware of the fact that the speaker is a black woman, who is assumed by all as “poor, penniless/ Not in touch with own truth”. She clarifies that she is aware of her roots, what makes her move on to live her life as her ancestors, who had fought and lost their own lives to give her and her fellow beings, theirs own. She compares herself to the mystical bird Phoenix “who burnt itself only to be reborn much stronger and more aware with a wider understanding of the spiritual powers behind” her words. She dreams of happiness and joy which she will have when she takes her “last breath into a new beginning”. In the fifth stanza the poet makes it clear that she wants to be accepted by the society as she is and not “rearranged into an image which pleases You”. She absolutely rejects the idea of a “fake identity”. She says that it is challenging and she could not be any less bothered about it. The next stanza is treated as a way to intensify the issue that the poem talks about. The speaker makes it clear that the melamine in her skin “makes colouring into a shade of luscious brown”. She gives an insight to the reader of the pain that she feels, the skin she is supposed to feel proud of is made to be ashamed of. Her hair too is exposed to such criticism, her curly “hair is not perceived as quality locks so therefore doesn’t need taking care of and styled in variation”; her “lips are not viewed as attractive”. In the second last stanza she asks for a chance so that she can convey her message to the mass, but she decides otherwise and she remains mute. She justifies her actions in the last stanza. She says “within my quietness is knowledge and wisdom beyond comprehension;” she is sleepy but she is reminded of her responsibility, her duty. Her passions are her principles that she lives by which is invisible to the “mere mortal” eyes who can only manage to give her condescending looks.
Critical Analysis of Disabled Soul Woman-
The poem addresses a very sensitive issue – the plight of the black community. The poet’s life in London definitely wasn’t easy. There are various aspects where the blacks are and have been dissed, looked down upon by the society; the one that the poet takes up is Beauty. She compares the thorn-less “red rose” that can overcome all odds just because it is beautiful and flawless, to her. She comes across as a confident girl who is proud of her colour, her roots and believes in herself; as she says in the third line of the first stanza that she doesn’t feel it necessary to prove her worth to anyone else apart from herself. She knows that she is continually subjected to being a talking issue to the people whom she passes by, she knows that she is being watched and criticised with each passing moment. But she has accepted it and has decided to move on, she considers herself to be above all this. She has immense faith in herself, she is positive that she can make it through odds like storm and climb the tallest tree, in spite of her flaws (as put by the society) nothing will stop her from living her life on her own terms. She is aware of the sacrifices that her ancestors had to make, to make it possible for people like her to live peacefully. She realises her life is not hers alone as it belongs to them too. Hence she cannot dare to lose confidence. She is like that Phoenix who no matter how many time dies, it burns only to come back newer and stronger. She is a fighter who will never back down, no matter how hard the society makes it for her; she will never cease dreaming of the “Joy” that never comes her way. In spite of all the criticism that she faces, she ditches the idea of changing herself. She wants to be accepted as she is, without altering a thing about her. She invests the sixth stanza in describing her physical attributes which have become an issue to be criticised by her spectators. Her “luscious brown skin” which should be a blessing is now made a reason to be ashamed of. Her curly hair is not “quality locks”. Her untamed curls here can be studied as the way the whites saw the blacks, slaves, men who are more like animals, who need to be captured and made to work for them (the whites). Or it can be simply studied as, the unruly hair which doesn’t need any styling as she will still be a brown skinned girl who is not seen as beautiful. Her lips too aren’t attractive enough. The last two stanzas hints at the possibility that may be the poet has made attempts previously to change the way the things are, but seeing the futility of the same she has decided to keep mum. She now knows the secret to survive through this; she knows that these people are not worth her words and time. Her knowledge and her wisdom cannot be encroached upon, and her life is the gift of her ancestors, who have given her responsibilities, which she needs to complete. Her words, her duties and her beliefs are beyond the understanding of these mortal beings who can only laugh at her, and criticise her, but she knows that nothing can stop her.
Central Idea of Disabled Soul Woman-
The language of the poem as well as the poetic technique is quite a simple one. This in fact intensifies the heavy subject that is being dealt with by Simmons. Central to the poem is the socio-political issue of racial discrimination that the blacks have been subject to from time immemorial. She, being a native of an island named St. Lucia situated in Caribbean and later on being a part of the white society in London, can be said to have faced some degree of racial discrimination. The brown skinned speaker clearly sounds like a modern day girl, who belongs to a much more advanced generation, as she is seen to be confident of her looks; instead of lamenting about her situation, she has gathered courage to fight against all odds and survive as she owes that much to her ancestors.
Tone of Disabled Soul Woman-
There is no shift in the tone of the poem. From the very beginning there is a voice of a rebel present in the poem, and till the end it remains static. The tone can be defined as the confident voice of a brown woman who is not a bit ashamed of her appearance though that is what she is supposed to feel. Rather she is proud of who she is, and what her ancestors has done for her and her fellows. Even in the last stanza we see a similar tone, when she seems proud of her knowledge and wisdom as it is one’s quality and not physical appearance that sets her way above the other mortals.
Conclusion- “Disabled Soul Woman” is a poem that will impart the confidence that the poem is filled with to the brim. Whether it is a brown, or a black or a white person, anyone can take the lesson from this poem, that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you are, what matters is whether you believe in yourself or not. If you have faith in yourself then nothing can transpose you from your path. The confidence that the poem boosts the reader with, is unconquerable.