Saturday, 7 January 2012

West Indies, U.S.A.

West Indies, U.S.A. by Stewart Brown

The Poet


Stewart BrownBorn 1951 in Southampton, Stewart Brown is a poet, editor and critic. He studied art and literature at Falmouth School of Art, the University of Sussex and the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. He spent periods teaching in schools and universities in Jamaica, Nigeria, Wales and Barbados. Since 1988 he has taught in The Centre of West African Studies at the University of Birmingham, where he is now Reader in African and Caribbean literatures. He has travelled widely through West Africa and the Caribbean in relation to both his research and creative writing, and lectured for the British Council in both regions. As a poet he received a Gregory Award in 1976 and has subsequently published four collections of poetry.In the 70s he had several one–man–shows of paintings in Jamaica and the UK, and he continues to make visual images. He has edited or co-edited several anthologies of African and Caribbean writing and critical studies of the West Indian poets Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite and Martin Carter.

In this poem, the poet records his impressions of the Islands from a view, thirty thousand feet above. He sees some of the islands as more prominent than others. Some are more culturally and economically developed as can be seen in his impression of Puerto Rico, with “silver linings in the clouds” and the glitter of San Juan. But to him, each country has its own distinctive features and characteristics, which are highlighted at its terminal.

Against these islands, the poet sees the influence of the United States on Puerto Rico: he sees Puerto Rico as a representation of the United States - “America’s backyard”. Stringent laws are enforced at its terminal to prevent passengers from entering without legal documentation. The fear of foreigners who sneak into the island and tarnish the image of the land is well noted by the poet. He notes the influence of American culture and lifestyle in Puerto Rico. The glitter of the cities pulsating with life is well captured in the “polished Cadillac’s” and “Micro chips”.

Answer these Questions

1. What is the theme of the poem?

2. (a) Select the simile in the first two lines of the poem.
(b) Explain why the poet makes the comparison,
(c) Do you find it interesting and original? Why?

3. What is the distinctive feature of each of the following terminals?
(a) Port au Prince (b) Piarco (c) Vere Bird

4. Why are all passengers other than those embarking at San Juan, required
to stay on the plane?

5. What do you think is “that vaunted sanctuary”?
Why is it considered a vaunted sanctuary?

6. Select three pieces of evidence which show America’s influence on the
lifestyle of Puerto Rico.

7. What do you think is the mood of the poem?

8. What is the tone of the poet?


  1. Most Caribbean Islands these days are really adapting the American culture instead of keeping there own. this is the main reason why most Caribbean islands are no 'fully independent'

  2. Yes but they only adapt some of the American culture. Take trinidad for e.g. it is very unique in its culture as they have soca and calypso also, jamaica is widely known for its dancehall genre etc this goes for all caribbean countries.

  3. I have a question: what does the imagery of the gambling casino in the first stanza suggest? what is the poet trying to say?

    1. It shows the influence of a culture that is not Caribbean per se; how another culture can erode another; they think the people who illegally enter are going to tarnish the island but they are already tarnished by American culture

    2. Actually,i think the casino imagery is reflected by the way they look from an airplane view (the baize being the endless sea and the islands the playing cards) but is also further explained in the following line. In this case, it means some come up lucky others not,however Puerto Rico is lucky as reflected by its wealthy exterior, which is supported by America.

  4. I really have no idea how to shape my question it's kinda confusing. Here it is: what is the relation between Puerto Rico and America? There's something that the America still owns Puerto Rico?. I'm really confused...

    1. geographically Puerto Rico is part of the Caribbean but politically it is part of America

  5. What is the poet mean by "the shattered inwards of a TV set that's fallen off the back of the lorry,all pained valves and circuits the roads like twisted wires"? I heard it's like a comparison to the country? I'm not sure.

  6. hi can anyone help me with question number 4

    1. Plane has to go somewhere else

  7. How does this poem relates to life

  8. What is the message of this poem?