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Caribbean Journal of Education

Frank Discussions in Verse: What Women Tell Each Other in Opal Palmer Adisa’s 4-Headed Woman

Opal Palmer Adisa presents frank exploration in poetic form on subjects like mental and emotional breakdown, menstruation, pre-marital sex, abortion, oral sex, masturbation, adultery, and pressures of family life, to name a few. She gives symbolic and metaphorical signification to what is still considered taboo, immoral, or unspeakable in certain enclaves and communities, relegated to the private spheres and spaces of our lives but needing to be uncovered, addressed, and resolved through open dialogue and debate. An overall message is conveyed in 4-Headed Woman: Poems that women’s issues are best dealt with when women support and encourage, provide solace and advice, share life experiences, and listen to each other. This supportive and communicative process need not always be immediate or face to face and can transcend barriers, as well as occur among intersections—of space, time, age, ideology, sexual preference and orientation, class, and race—as illustrated in the writings on the wall in the ladies’ room. The paper analyses selected depictions from the collection of women’s hidden and outer realities in the privacy of this public place/space—of how women publicly address the private concerns, problems, and situations they face in a society of paradoxical expectations. The ideas of a community of women and the complexity of women’s lives are portrayed in the symbolism of the 4-headed woman, further echoed in the 4-part structure of the collection that culminates in the experimental poetic performance piece which draws together each thematic focus of the entire text.

Publication Date: 
Thursday, 27 May 2021
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