Identity Politics by Tayi Tibble. Essay Feedback please

Your identity is not fixed. It changes throughout various stages of your life as you navigate yourself. Tayi Tibble has been brought up with two distinct parts of herself: Her Maori background alongside her infatuation with popular culture, which she portrays in her poem ‘Identity Politics’. This essay will analyse how the use of literal imagery, slang, allusion, listing, repetition, metaphors, sentence variety, contributed to the success of the text.

At the beginning of the poem, Tibble initially develops the belief that our clothing expresses our identity. She presented this through the use of literal imagery, “I wear it as a dress with thigh-high vinyl boots and fishnets”. The image of the shirt being used for a dress instead explores the concept that we can manipulate clothes to how you prefer them, how you want to be perceived by others. Your own identity could likewise be the same. She explores this subject again later on when she explains her co-existing personal identities. She has a Maori background and also identifies herself as an ‘urban millennial brat’. Her Maori identity craves for external adornments to express herself, but she doesn’t want to neglect any other aspects of her either. She established this through the use of colloquial language and allusion, “… something bougie, like custom-made pounamu hoop earrings.” Tibble uses this to illustrate that the accessories she uses also express who she is, which explores the idea of having co-existing personal identities. She can have pounamu hoop earrings which represent her Maori background, but also “something bougie” like vinyl boots, which again represent her desire for modern-day fashion. This makes readers reflect on the performative nature of identity, and how our fashion is integrated into our own daily lives. Tibble meticulously shows how clothes may be a way for different people to express themselves, but the same clothes may also determine who we are. And by extension, this follows through with her idea that clothes are not just ‘superficial fluff’, but are a means for people to use to communicate their identity with others. Another part of Tibble’s co-existing identity is represented through the use of listing, “drunk & wet-faced waking up to the taste of hangover, a dry mouth, a strange bed,” Tibble is very academically intelligent, with a master’s degree in creative writing. This doesn’t stop her from doing reckless activities like binge-drinking, as shown in the listing. These decisions that she makes do not undermine her intelligence, however, it shows how society sets apart what it determines is good or bad. Tibble provokes troubling moral questions as she explains how society creates a generalisation that you can only have one specific part of yourself, and you can’t be ’greedy’ and enjoy both at the same time. We see Tibble is still “steering through the storm” but she could enjoy the things that bring her joy and laughter, whilst also focusing on her studies and accomplishing notable achievements. This is again another addition to her complex identity.

Tibble enjoys encouraging young girls to be themselves, even if it doesn’t sit with what society wishes them to be. She likes to invigorate the ‘bad girl’ image instead of mounting more stigma onto this label. Tibble effectively shows this through the use of literal imagery, “I am inhaling, long white clouds”. This is a play on words to describe vaping, but it could also allude to the idea of the Maori word “Aotearoa”. This could again show the tension within her identities, and she is comprehending her Maori background. “… and I see rivers of milk running toward orange oceans of sunlit honey.” Through the use of this long, complex sentence, Tibble proficiently exhibits detailed imagery. Through the use of diction, Tibble illustrates vibrant images of Pacific colours. This could suggest the contrast between what was promised and what was delivered to the Maori people.

Following on from this, Tibble uses of repetition of the rhetorical question “Am I navigating correctly?” to show her seeking approval from her ancestors. Tibble has a passion for modern culture and, as she pursues this, she cannot fully indulge in it because of colonial guilt. Deep inside her, she knows the effects of what hegemony did to NZ, yet she can’t stop herself from wanting to immerse herself with her interest in today’s society. Not only does Tibble illustrate our own personal identities, but also continues into the national identity of NZ. This is epitomised by the extended metaphor, “… the greatest failed marriage… In America, couples have divorce parties.” This emphasises her views on colonialism and its effects on NZ, especially on the Maori people. Tibble compares the Treaty of Waitangi with a marriage and recommends NZ should break free from the shackles of this failing marriage. This is suggested through the reference to American history and how NZ can still do the same through the use of the short sentence, “We always arrive fashionably late”. Ultimately wanting NZ to focus on ourselves, our national identity and what would benefit NZ. This short sentence switches the tempo to really emphasise how this ‘failed marriage’ would ultimately become a catalyst for the deterioration of the relationship between Māori and Pakeha. The extended metaphor and short sentence help Tibble successfully instruct readers on this disconsolate subject. Tibble addresses herself ‘as a Māori who understands the devastating effects that colonisation, globalisation and capitalism had on our people’. This is reinforced by the poem, where there is the repetition of “I want to” and “I go back”. This shows her desperation in searching for her past and her cultural roots, and suggests that colonialism had a detrimental impact on all of NZ. It also had flow-on effects that millennials, like her, can not trace back to their heritage. She wants to fill those empty gaps left in her culture. But when she tries to, all she finds is exploitation and mistreatment.This illustrates to the reader that she has powerful emotions of frustration towards not simply her own personal identity, but our national identity as well.Her understanding of this is shown through the use of the allusion “Welcome to the wonderland… tiki bars… traffic-light cocktails” These all allude to the South Pacific being advertised like a theme park cheapening the valuable culture which Tibble and many others deeply connected to. Although on the outside, it seems that it was promoting Pacific culture, for more people to understand and appreciate this culture; in reality, it was devaluing and exploiting, especially in the eyes of those who come from that background. This commercialisation of this culture is just one example that shows that with this failed marriage, many irreversible consequences were brought along beside it, which is exceptionally illustrated by Tibble.

Tibble delivers a piece of advice with the last sentence of her poem. “The sea stretches out farther than the stars.” Through the use of this comparative merged with a metaphor, Tibble implies that the same action of following the stars can refer to both her ancestors and her. Her stars, ‘Kim Kardashian’ and ‘Rihanna’ are the celebrity stars she looks upon and who she uses to help her navigate through her journey, her sea. Tibble uses these wonderful ideas presented in the poem to show her journey, her struggles and her optimism. She had traversed her sea; Now she wants us to do the same. The comparative acts like an affirmation that we do not need any outside validation, We can trust ourselves on our own journey. This speaks directly to the crux of the author’s purpose. Tibble had used the first-person point of view for this poem to immerse readers into her thoughts and ideas.

Tibble has offered readers her valuable opinions and views on not simply our own personal identities, but also our national identity, “I kind of think of this poem as my prayer poem.” Tibble believes this poem could reassure her and show the true purposes of the creation of this poem. Readers can relate to this poem as it depicts the complex idea of identity and how it surrounds us. As a Chinese-Kiwi, throughout my whole life, I have been trying to balance out the unique identities within me. Therefore, it is particularly poignant when I read this poem. From switching which stars I decide to follow, to changing my entire wardrobe, this poem has shown me I can follow through on my journey, my sea.

Kia ora - welcome to Studyit

Which essay question are you answering here?

I tried to do how the language features contributed to the text but now that I look back at it, I don’t think I weaved it through enough.

So something like “Analyse how the use of language features contributed to the success of the text”? It is all good, I’ll give you feedback on what you have but since such a big part of the marking schedule is to do with how well you answered the question it is hard without the exact wording :slight_smile:

Thanks a lot. I’ll make sure to remember to answer the question tomorrow morning.

Hi again

Apart from that, this is a really well done essay - great understanding, some excellent vocab and evidence, clear purpose and beyond the text and some really beautiful phrasing. Just try and use the key words - success - in this case, a little more - just weave it in with what you have "this is successful because it makes the readers reflect on the performative nature of identity…: etc etc. I think you will absolutely nail it tomorrow if you keep that in mind :slight_smile: Best of luck!

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