Hurricane Hits England by Grace Nichols

Hurricane Hits England is a fascinating poem that appears, initially to be about a hurricane, but ends up giving more insight into the subject of the poem and the ways in which the hurricane affected her. Although a hurricane is a tragic event, in this instance, it served the subject of this poem in a positive way. The speaker and the subject seem to be one and the same. The poem begins in third person and shifts to first person as the poem progresses. It is almost as if the speaker feels she is outside of herself at the beginning of the poem, but becomes more comfortable referring to herself in the first person as the poem proceeds.

 

Hurricane Hits England Analysis

Stanza 1

The speaker begins the poem, which can be read in full here, in third person, referring to her subject as “her” but leaving the relationship between the subject and the speaker vague. She reveals, however, that the person to whom she refers was changed by the hurricane. It brought her “closer to the landscape”. Initially it is unclear whether this is in reference to physical vicinity or emotional attachment. The speaker describes the woman as having lain awake throughout the night, listening to the “howling” of the hurricane as it happened around her. She described it as something that was “gathering rage” as it grew.

 

Stanza 2

With the beginning of this stanza, the speaker shifts into first person, making it difficult to tell whether she is beside the subject referred to in stanza one, or whether the speaker and the subject are one. In this stanza, the speaker cries out for the storm to talk to her. The names she uses to call out the storm reveal that the speaker is not from England, though she is clearly in England when the hurricane hits. The terms “Huracan” and “Oya” and “Shango” refer to deities and gods from certain regions of Africa and the West Indies. The use of these terms reveals that the speaker has a personal knowledge of this religion. When she refers to the hurricane as her “sweeping back home cousin” it reveals that she has come from somewhere else, and also that she is very familiar with hurricanes.

 

Stanza 3

The speaker continues to talk to the hurricane as though it is an old friend. The tone suggests that the hurricane has come to England on a rare visit, specifically to see her. She makes it clear that the hurricane on the “English coast” is quite out of the norm. Although she herself is very familiar with hurricanes, she does not deny that it is “reaping havoc”. She only wonders why it does so “in new places” rather than the places where hurricanes usually happen.

 

Stanza 4

The speaker continues to talk with the hurricane, referencing the effects. She describes the way it brings “blinding illumination” wherever it goes. This is a fascinating use of two words with seemingly opposite meanings, juxtaposed to cause the reader to question their meaning. The hurricane itself is blinding in the physical effects it has on the coast. However, it is also illuminating in that the eyes of the English are opened to the realities of the tragic effects of the hurricane. Whereas previously they may have only heard of hurricanes happening in far off places, now they have been exposed to one first hand.

 

Stanza 5

There is a shift in tone with the first line of this stanza. The speaker begins to contemplate the deeper meanings behind the hurricane. In the face of disaster, people often ask why such terrible things happen. In this particular poem, the questions posed are deeper still because of the speaker’s overall view on the hurricane. She is looking, perhaps, for a deeper message for herself personally. She believes that the hurricane has somehow brought her closer to England in heart, and she feels that the hurricane has come to visit her like an old friend from home. Here, she wants to know what message the hurricane brings for her. She wonders what meaning lies behind the “trees falling heavy as whales” so that they are pulled up by their roots and buried completely.

Read more:   Praise Song For My Mother by Grace Nichols

 

Stanza 6

The speaker continues to address her personal attitude toward the hurricane. Though it was a tragedy for everyone around her, she wonders why she feels as though the hurricane has “unchained” her heart. Still speaking directly to the hurricane, she states that she will “align” herself with it. She tells it, “I am following the movement of your winds”. Ironic as it is, she has found some solace in the hurricane. This reveals the intense difficulty of her life as a newcomer to England. If something as tragic and destructive as a hurricane has made her feel at home, it is clear that she has struggled intensely to adjust to her new life in England. When she was in her homeland, it is unlikely that she would have welcomed a hurricane. However, after having spent some time in England, the hurricane seems like an old friend. She welcomes it because it reminds her of her experiences at home. This reveals how difficult it has been for her to adjust to a new culture and new experiences.

 

Stanza 7

Here, the speaker refers to her reaction to the hurricane as a “sweet mystery”. She cannot understand herself why the hurricane has made her feel at home in England, finally. She says that the hurricane as broken “the frozen lake” that was inside of her. This implies that she has been somewhat void of feeling since her immigration to England. Her heart had become hard like a frozen lake. It is likely that having had to adjust to an entirely new culture left her feeling void of her soul, as if she had left her true self back home. Now, the hurricane has broken up that frozen lake and allowed her to feel like herself once more. This is the first time she felt like herself on English soil, and it took a hurricane to make her feel at home in a new place. She says that the way the hurricane shook “the foundations of the very trees” was what opened her eyes to see “that the earth is the earth is the earth”. This last line suggests that the speaker finally feels that she shares experiences and a common ground with her new English neighbors. Hurricanes happen everywhere on earth, and even though she is not at home, she is still on earth and all people in all places around the world share some experiences. The hurricane was one of those experiences that allowed her to see that she was really not all that different from the people she was now surrounded by. Although she came from a different place and had experienced a different upbringing and was a part of a different culture, in the end all people share some basic human experiences. The hurricane brought that realization to the speaker when it hit England.

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