Perhaps the most striking feature of Aidoo’s style in Our Sister Killjoy is the elegant, almost seamless combination of prose and poetry throughout the text. What seems unique about Aidoo’s use of prose-poetry is how these two literary forms are read both through one another and up-against one another. The subtle integration of the poetic verse into the prose prompts the reader to understand the poetic verse as an extension or expression of the speaker’s thoughts. In this sense, the prose is read through the devices of the poem and vice versa. However, the apparent differences between these forms force the reader to confront the problematic nature of translating meaning. For example, Sissie encounters several instances in which Europeans lump all non-white people into a single category (i.e. the Nigerian men on the plane, the way Mary compares Sissie to the Indians she met). When these moments are expressed in the prose, we do not get a sense of the frustration this causes the speaker or the deeper issues that it gestures toward. However, in the poetry, this idea becomes much more clear. Another exemplary demonstration of this technique is the poem about her brother’s African name. In the dialogue with Mary, Sissie does not appear offended that her friend is so shocked by her “German” nickname nor does she seem filled with any particular urgency to educate Mary’s position. Conversely, Adioo’s poem about the African name reminds me of verse from Abrahamic religious texts, which extol the various names of God, suggesting that these names have significance on a spiritual level for the individual. What I love about this is that it calls our attention to how poetry or rather poetics are an inherent feature of language, which resists translation insofar as it transcends translation. While the forms and devices of poetry are unique to different cultures and time periods, poetic meaning is able to communicate certain truths or feelings universally. This universality stands out in stark contrast to the ways in which semantic language fails again and again and again to bridge the gap between cultures.
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