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Arthur Nortje and His Way Essay

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Updated: Dec 18th, 2019


While analyzing a poem written by Arthur Nortje, I would like to tell you a few words about the author’s life. So, Nortje was born in the early forties; he is famous South African poet. The poet is often classified as one of the most brilliant talents. Ann Langwadt says that “Nortje wrote about being coloured and the paradox of being neither African nor European, while simultaneously having ties to both worlds” (1).

In my opinion, the poet was interested in the issues of national identity; that is why his racial identity was very important for him. They say Arthur Nortje can be the only South African.

Grant Farred is of the opinion that “Securing an ideological space for coloureds within the ranks of the disenfranchised and crafting an artistic vocabulary that can engage the problematic of racial ambiguity and ambivalent political identification are two of the main issues in Arthur Nortje’s poetry” (57).

Another important point I would like to highlight is Nortje’s attitude towards the relations between the person and the community. Thus, the poet is recognized to be the fighter for freedom and independence.

The thesis statement

In most cases the poet’s desire to fight for independence is mostly associated with the state or experience of alienation, and for this reason one can make a conclusion that Arthur Nortje, exactly, in exile. In Exile is a poem which is related to all people who live in this world.

The body: the fundamentals of In Exile

Farred is of the opinion that “In Nortje’s case, exile allowed him to reflect, ruminate, and compose with an intensity that was largely generative, only seldom enervating” (60).

Of course, the poet realized how bad the feeling of alienation was, but thorough the feeling Nortje also understood all the constituents of colouredness. However, the issue which impressed me most is that the poet was an exile twice.

He was an exile not only abroad, – in London and Toronto, but also at home. So, the only conclusion I can make is that loneliness was a natural state the poet experienced all the time. Exile from the first is recognized to be the confirmation of my opinion.

The peculiar feature of the poet’s writing style is his ability to investigate an emotional disconnect. When Nortje came to Canada, he felt alone and experienced alienation. “This exile extended beyond a mere geographical dislocation; his poetry seems to explore an emotional disconnect – one of temperament and an inability to forge personal relationships that were lasting or meaningful” (Poetry Pages 1).

Arthur Nortje’s poem In Exile discloses the inner feelings of the poet. In spite of the fact that the author describes blue sky and wind-beautiful day, his feelings are mostly negative and gloomy. In my opinion, the poem reflects the author’s sense of loss he experienced earlier. He speaks about the emotions his soul and heart feel.

Benign, a cloud obscures the sun, this hunger… are the lines, which are mostly associated with a poet’s past life and expectations, hopes and dreams. I suppose there is a sense of nostalgia, which one may feel in the lines. Thus, open skies, wind sweeps between the towers “have no senses of being fixed or permanent” (Poetry Pages 1).

On the other hand, there is also another evidence of the poet’s sensation of pain and nostalgia. To my mind, Nortje’s memories are really strong, that is why the poem is so vivid and impressive. On the other hand, the poem symbolizes the author’s loneliness in the world. When the poet writes that the grains that slide away are wind-breathed, it seems that he describes the happiness he lost.

I would like to point out that the images of alienation are represented not only in the poem In Exile, but also in numerous other works written by Arthur Nortje. The author’s self-reflexive awareness of loneliness is reflected everywhere. His masterpiece, which causes the feeling of nostalgia, is not an exception.

I’ve read the poem several times, in order to understand true feelings of the author. Thus, when I read the lines for the first time, I thought that Nortje depicted gloomy perspectives only, but I was wrong. The first lines show that the author tries to find harmony; however, he fails, unfortunately.

Imaginative needs or requirements of the author are not satisfied; that is why his mood as well as attitude of mind is so murky. To emphasize the feeling of loss, Nortje provides his readers with an opportunity to imagine how good the things could be. Thus, he not only depicts a loss of appetite for life, but he explains the emotions which arouse sadness.

In my opinion, the author wants his readers are to understand the interdependence between the world and self. Although Nortje tries to find a recovery in his poem, he can’t do it; all his attempts to find happiness and hope haven’t been crowned with success.

But wrong pigment has no scope; the line which shows that Nortje wants to forget about these painful memories, and tries to disclaim them. The line demonstrates that the author has no desire to fight for the things, which can make him happier.

On a sand slope I build a picture of the sea; this line of the poem shows that the author thinks about his home, his land; he remembers all pleasant moments, which took place in his life.

The conclusion: the meaning of the poem

I suppose that all the poems written by Nortje, i.e. those poems which disclose the issue of exile show the way the poet relies on to cope with the pain of exile. In other words, the poet fights with his memories, and painful feelings through denial.

Although the poem is mostly associated with the past and the present, the readers are to speak about their own interpretations. In my opinion, the main advantage of the poem is its simplicity. For instance, all people are familiar with the feelings of nostalgia and loneliness; for this reason, it is obvious, that all the readers can understand the context of the poem and as well as its hidden interpretations.

The only issue I would like to consider in details is alienation. The fact that the reader was always an exile seems to be strange. Thus, I know that the poet felt himself alone all the time, even when he was at home. It was his natural inner state. So, can I state that Arthur Nortje felt alienation differently? – I think I can, as all people may be alone and feel estrangement by reason of experience, etc.

In Exile is considered to be a thought-provoking poem, which allows the readers to understand the inner state of famous South African poet Arthur Nortje.

Works Cited

Farred, Grant. Midfielder’s Moment: Coloured Literature and Culture in Contemporary South Africa. Ed. Paul Smith. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000. Questia. Web.

Langwadt, Ann. The Midfielder’s Moment: Coloured Literature and Culture in Contemporary South Africa, 2000. Web. <>.

Poetry Pages, 2012. Web.

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