“Music and Mensis” or the Deconstruction of the Pregnancy and Childbirth Metaphor in Ntozakae Shange’s “oh—i’m 10 months pregnant”

Laura Major


To reimagine the pregnancy and childbirth metaphor, which, in general, perpetuates the mind-body split between creation and procreation, not only must the poet write about her personal experience of procreation but she must metapoetically confront the dichotomy separating this experience from her creativity. By doing so, she implies that procreativity is an experience to be related poetically and that a poem is the product of the mind and body creating and procreating. For the African American woman poet, the reckoning is even more fraught, for the Black woman’s body has historically been divided “into two neat categories: Sexed and Unsexed” (Mahurin 330). Ntozake Shange attempts to resist the above binaries in her poem “oh—i’m 10 months pregnant.” She insists both on the embodied mind, creating babies and poems, and on the impossibility of dividing women into sexed and unsexed by focusing on the very condition and action proving the existence of both: pregnancy and childbirth. This article shows how throughout the poem, Shange defies conventional use of punctuation and language, and actually pokes fun at the notion that poetry and babies are analogous. She does so by critiquing medical discourse and playing with the limits of metaphor. Ultimately, because the resolution of the pregnancy and the production of the poem both depend on Shange’s likening her baby to language, this paradoxically becomes an admission about the material and metaphorical connection between books and babies.

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