The Poems of Rita Joe, first book of the author’s poems, was published in 1978 and has become a classic among readers. In this collection, there is a poem by Robert Frost. An original poem will be created for the occasion by Mi’kmaq poet and vocalist Rita Joe. According to the speaker, the poem recalls his or her time at Canada’s Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, where children were punished for speaking in their indigenous dialects (Joe 18). As a result of the loss of her spoke, or ancestral language, she felt estranged from her ancestors, culture, and even her sense of self. Throughout the poem, the poet highlights the importance of the relationship between language and culture. He also blames colonial regimes for taking use of the suppression of Indigenous languages to oppress indigenous people.
A must-read children’s book, “I Lost My Talk,” emphasizes the value of language as a form of cultural expression and identity, and it is well worth your time. During her time in “Shubenacadie school,” one of many residential schools in Nova Scotia, Canada, dedicated to eradicating Indigenous culture, a young woman was forced to give up her native language to survive (Joe 18). As a result of being obliged to converse in English rather than her original language, the speaker’s sense of self has been broken, and she regrets the loss of both languages.
She needed to change her speech patterns while attending the “Shubenacadie school” to acquire a new language. Because of this, the speaker claimed, she felt as if she had destroyed her family’s history. As a result of the dominant culture’s insistence on her being compelled to “speak,” and also to “think” and “create” in English, she lost touch with her own “word”—her people’s customs, beliefs, and values (Joe 18). As a result, she was compelled to follow in the footsteps of her oppressors’ ways of thinking and being, which were inherent to her own culture.
She claims she will never be able to adequately comprehend or communicate in English because she will never be able to comprehend or communicate in English correctly. She claims this is because she will never be able to adequately comprehend or communicate in English (and, perhaps, her English will never be easy and fluent) (Joe 18). It isolates the speaker, who cannot communicate with her people or “teach” those from other cultures about herself and their own cultures due to her exclusion from the outside world.
The speaker asks for permission to “find her talk,” which implies relearning her native language and restoring contact with her culture to understand better and share who she is honestly and genuinely with the audience (Joe 18). Even though language and culture are inextricably intertwined, the poet argues that language can be used as a weapon of cultural oppression or as a tool for cultural preservation, depending on the context. In addition, she will be unable to express herself in her native language, which is a crucial element of her identity and culture, for the rest of her life, because of the accident. The speaker believes that studying her original language will allow her to reconnect with her ancestors and reclaim a fundamental part of herself. After initially saying that she had lost touch with her roots, she explains how she got to forget her native language, which she refers to as “talk.” Instead of disappearing, she claims that it was taken away from her by the same people who are the subject of her letter.
The word “talk” (or, more specifically, anadiplosis) is used repeatedly throughout the poem to attract attention to the poem’s fundamental issue, which is the importance of language in our daily lives. Instead of using the word “language,” phrases such as “conversation” are used, which has importance in this context. It both indicates that the poetry is less formal and suggests that the loss of one’s native language may make it more difficult to communicate one’s thoughts and feelings. “I Lost My Talk” does not refer to a speaker’s failure to communicate effectively in English; instead, it describes their attempt to say something that does not easily translate into English. She is now in a precarious situation between being unable to freely express herself in her native tongue and feeling uneasy using the language of her oppressor. She can no longer freely express herself on her tongue but still feels uneasy using the language of her oppressor. My fascination with poetry stems from the fact that it is more personal to the author. After being separated from her family at an early age, she describes her difficulties in adjusting to a new culture.
Joe, Rita. I lost my talk. Nimbus Publishing, 2019.