The Twist by Edward Kamau Brathwaite

“The Twist” by Edward Kamau Brathwaite depicts a lively night in a shanty town where people gather to dance.

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The Twist

In a little shanty town
was on a night like this

girls were sitting down
around the town
like this

some were young 
and some were brown
I even found
a miss

who was black and brown
and really did
the twist

watch her move her wrist
and feel your belly twist
feel the hunger thunder
when her hip bones twist

try to hold her, keep her under
while the juke box hiss
twist the music out of hunger
on a night like this.

— Edward Kamau Brathwaite

Summary of “The Twist”

“The Twist” by Edward Kamau Brathwaite depicts a lively night in a shanty town where people gather to dance. It particularly focuses on the energetic and infectious dance style called “the twist.” The narrator describes the diverse group of girls participating in the dance. He portrays their youth, varying skin tones, and enthusiastic movements.

The poem captures the excitement, hunger, and rhythm of the music, as well as the sense of community and joy that accompanies the dance.

In other words, on a lively night in a poor community, young women are dancing passionately to the twist. The narrator finds himself captivated by one of them, an attractive mixed-race woman, by her moves and sensuality. He describes the physicality of the dance and his own growing desire.

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About the Poet

Edward Kamau Brathwaite was born on May 11, 1930, in Barbados. He was a widely celebrated Caribbean poet, scholar, and cultural theorist.

He held a Ph.D. from the University of Sussex and was a professor of comparative literature at New York University.

His famous works include Rights of Passage (1967), The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy (1973), Middle Passages (1992), and Elegguas (2010).

He was a recipient of numerous literary awards. Some of them include the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1994 and the Griffin International Poetry Prize in 2006. Edward Brathwaite passed away on February 4, 2020.

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