Poets in The Kitchen

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In life, we are often confronted with a plethora of both opportunities and challenges. What matters is what we do with what is given to us. People are expected to behave differently in different situations. People's lives unfold in different ways as they communicate with others. Paule Marshall's "poets in the kitchen" is a clear example of what it takes to make the most of the circumstances we find ourselves in. According to Marshalls, literary giants are not only those who write it down but there is also a need to build the platform in the absence of one. For instance, spoken word has as well taken shape over the years and provided a chance for people with talent to express themselves. Marshall illustrates how her mother and her friends utilized their free time together.

From the beginning Marshall clearly indicates that the women she interacted with while growing up who also happen to be her mother’s friends were in their own fete poets. This in as much as in today’s world they could not be perceived so, considering their articulation, dressing as well as their literary style, spoken language (paragraph 1). This was also coupled with the women’s way of life, “the women were a group of ordinary housewives and mothers, they did not spend their days in an attic room writing verses”, as is supposed of normal poets. Instead they were tied up with the activities of the kitchen and house chores.

Marshall explains in detail how the women from Barbados would spend most of their days “scrubbing floors” as they write letters to their family members (paragraph 2). During the week they would often, “adorn an apron a pair of old house shoes in a shopping bag, board a train in search of a day’s work from the white housewives”. Having to stand at designated corners was a clear indication that the kind of work they would par take in was not as decent they would anticipate, this is evidenced by the women terming it “a few raw-mouth pennies” (paragraph 4).

The brownstone where Marshall and her family resided was the women’s meeting point after work for a cup of tea or cocoa. This was when their poetry would take shape. When they opened their mouths to speak, their talks were endless, poetic accompanied with passion and impressive range. Alongside the usual gossip among women, they would go ahead to tackle issues relating to the state of the economy at the time. This was inclusive of “aftershock of the mid 30’s depression, as well as suicides on wall street”. The women used the afternoons as therapy sessions, as a way of restoring their dignity from the labor and the merger pay they tend to receive from the white housewives. “Through language they were able to overcome the humiliations of the work-day” (Paragraph 6). Self-expression was the women’s strength as they possessed creative energy enabled them to freewheel in their talk.

Language for these women was essential as it was part of the, “African tradition making it an integral part of their lives, as art and life were considered one” (paragraph 7). in their talks, a lot was included for instance, the strangeness of America in terms of power and complexity, laws, and attitude towards the upbringing of children. They shared complaints about not being able to freely raise their children as is supposed to be, stating that their authority was being undermined. “you can’t discipline the young Barbadians as one pleases, because of the repercussion of being jailed.” Being black and foreign, the women were invisible to the American society and were only viewed as a source of cheap labor. Marshall points out that, she most often disappointed some people when she mentioned her source of inspiration for her literary prowess as her mother’s brown house kitchen (Marshall 25).

Work Cited

Marshall, Paule. “From the poets in the kitchen.” Callaloo 18 (1983): 22-30

January 20, 2022



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