The Art Room

By: Shara McCallum

The Art Room

Because we did not have threads

of turquoise, silver, and gold,

we could not sew a sun nor sky.

And our hands became balls of fire.

And our arms spread open like wings.

Because we had no chalk or pastels,

no toad, forest, or morning-grass slats

of paper, we had no colour

for creatures. So we squatted

and sprang, squatted and sprang.

Four young girls, plaits heavy

on our backs, our feet were beating

drums, drawing rhythms from the floor;

our mouths became woodwinds;

our tongues touched teeth and were reeds.

About Shara McCallum

Shara McCalum was born in Jamaica to an African-Jamaican father and a Venezuelan mother. She moved to the U.S. at the age of nine. Her work reflects themes of race, gender, history and personal identity. She was awarded the Witter Brynner Award from The LIbrarby of Congress in 2013.

Interpretation of "The Art Room"

The video linked to the QR code is an example of traditional Jamaican dance. Much of McCallum's poetry is written about growing up in Jamaica, including this poem. The poem is about how in Jamaica they do not have the traditional art supplies like in the United States. As stated in the poem, it is hard to come across different colored pastels and threads in Jamaica. Instead, in Jamaica they use song and dance as their art form because no supplies are needed for song and dance. As shown in the video, their feet are beating drums and their mouth are woodwinds, just like in the poem. The author's background also plays a big role in the meaning of the poem. Shara McCallum was first into theater, dancing and singing before she got into poetry.
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plait - a braid

Context of the Poem: "Four young girls, plaits heavy/ on our backs," Wearing braids in their hair is a common hairstyle for young girls in Jamaica.


Some themes throughout the poem are song, dance, and the Jamaican culture. As said above, the poem describes Jamaican culture's art form of song and dance.
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