The poem “Grandmother” is composed by an American – Indian poet and novelist Ray Young Bear, who seems to have great respect and love towards his culture and traditions. He belongs to the Mesquaki tribe who are supposed to be the first dwellers of America. They are known as the red-Indians and are facing many difficulties culturally and socially. After the discovery of the new world – America, their existence is in crisis. They find their culture is being replaced by the belated cultures of the whites. In the poem, the poet depicts the typical culture of Mesquaki tribe.
In this poem, the poet describes the problems of Mesquaki tribes by Portraying the beautiful picture of his grandmother who is no more alive now. Here, the grandmother represents the culture, civilization and the value of his community. The poem is just a way to remember and explore the typical features of his tribe. It is about the poet’s sincere love and attitude towards his parent culture. At simple level, it seems that the poet is describing his grandmother who is different from the other race of women in the world. But at deeper level, he is exploring and searching the identity of Mesquaki tribe. In the last lines of poem, by using the dark works like ashes, sleeping fire, night and using ‘i’, the poet shows that the red Indian culture is being quite invisible and unimportant due to the introduction of new culture.
The poem has its special quality since it appeals our sense organs. Here, the poet draws a picture of his grandmother using words. He says that he could recognize his grandmother from a long distance looking jus a shape and her purple scarf and plastic shopping bag, which she used to wear and carry. Here, purple scarf and plastic shopping bag suggest their way of life i.e. culture. Talking about his deep attachment and close relationship towards his grandmother, he says that he could identify his grandmother’s hands which were warm and damp. Here, warm and damp suggest his love and affection towards his grandmother i.e. his culture. Same like the way he could recognize the voice far away rock and the words that flow inside him like the light of someone stirring ashes from a sleeping fire. Here, the poet seems quite pessimistic during dark words. The sleeping fire indicates that the memory of his grandmother is being quite dim. In other word, it means everything is in confusion. His tribe, his culture and people are in confusion either to follow their old culture or to enter the new culture that is totally guided by modernization.
Theme of the poem
The poem “grandmother” composed by Ray Young Bear draws a picture of his grandmother at surface level, but has symbolized his Mesquaki tribe and its culture at deeper level. The poet has described the appearance of his grandmother as the culture of his tribe. Using the various senses like seeing, feeling, hearing and smelling, the poet has pointed out various facts of his tribe. However, the poet expresses his sorrow regarding the cultures of Mesquaki tribe that are in the verge of extinction due to the immigrating cultures and modernization in America. Moreover, the poet has pointed out the love and devotion towards his Mesquaki cultures and has focused on searching and conserving his and his tribe’s true identity.