English 1302 Poetry Analysis
Page 957, Countee Cullen, “Yet Do I Marvel” 1. What is the significance and effect of the allusions to classical literature/myth in general? To these myths in particular? How do they individually and collectively help characterize the speaker’s situation? Through the use of metaphor and allusion, Cullen allows the readers to put themselves in his shoes. Through his poetry, the reader is presented with the struggle and the underlying true message- the harshness and cruelty towards the African Americans- the reality of racism. 2.
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Does the speaker’s attitude toward God or our sense of that attitude shift or change over the course of the poem? If so, how so? Where does he (and/or do we) end up? The first twelve lines of the sonnet portray the paradoxical nature of a “good and kind God. ” Cullen remarks that if God were really good and kind then why did he create the mole as a blind animal? Why should we all die? Why do our best efforts often end in frustration and failure and unhappiness? Cullen answers these rhetorical questions by stating that God’s ways are mysterious and can never be fully understood by ordinary human beings.
The final couplet, however, reveals his anger and frustration at the plight of talented and sensitive black poets like him who are suppressed and oppressed by the white majority, making him to doubt god’s goodness and kindness. Page 959, Langston Hughes, “Harlem” 1. According to this poem, is there an answer to the question asked in the first line: “What happens to a dream deferred? ” Yes, there is an answer; the question, “What happens to a dream deferred? ” appears to be answered with nothing but more questions. But if we analyze each question we get an idea of what the speaker really believes about dreams being postponed.
The “dream” is a goal in life, not just dreams experienced during sleep. The dream is important to the dreamer’s life. Nevertheless, the speaker’s position is clear that any important dream or goal that must be delayed can have serious negative affects. 2. This poem was written in 1951, approximately twenty years after the end of the Harlem Renaissance. It is the only poem in this chapter on the Harlem Renaissance that was written years after its end. How is the content of the poem possibly related to Harlem and the Harlem Renaissance within a post-Renaissance perspective? In 1951, frustration characterized the mood of American blacks.
The Civil War in the previous century had liberated them from slavery, and federal laws had granted them the right to vote, the right to own property, and so on. However, continuing prejudice against blacks, as well as laws passed since the Civil War, relegated them to second-class citizenship. Consequently, blacks had to attend poorly equipped segregated schools and settle for menial jobs as porters, ditch-diggers, servants, shoeshine boys, and so on. In many states, blacks could not use the same public facilities as whites, including restrooms, restaurants, theaters, and parks.
Access to other facilities, such as buses, required them to take a back seat, literally, to whites. By the mid-Twentieth Century, their frustration with inferior status became a powder keg, and the fuse was burning. Hughes well understood what the future held, as he indicates in the last line of the poem. Pages 959-960, Langston Hughes, “The Weary Blues” 1. Who is the narrator of this poem? Is the narrator different from the piano player in the poem? Is there a difference in the style of the poem as it shifts between the voice of the narrator and the voice of the singer?
The singer and song become united in the same way that the speaker of the poem becomes not only a first-person narrator, but a third-person omniscient storyteller. The central narrative voice describes an African American in Harlem, who is observed singing and playing the blues. 2. Are there any clues in the poem about the life of the singer? Why might the singer have the blues? Yes, there are clues, such as, “Down on Lenox Avenue”: Lenox Avenue is a main street in Harlem, which in terms of the geography of New York, is North, or uptown.
We might wonder why Hughes has written “down on Lenox Avenue” rather than “up on Lenox Avenue. ” Let’s think, then, about the identity of the speaker of the poem. Because Harlem was home mainly to African Americans and the parts of New York City south of Harlem (referred to as “downtown”) were populated mainly by whites, if the speaker were to perceive Lenox Avenue as “up” from his place of origin, we might assume that he is white. All the singer seems to have is his moaning blues, the revelation of “a black man’s soul,” and those blues are what helps keep him alive.
Part of that ability to sustain is apparently the way the blues help him keep his identity. Even in singing the blue, he is singing about his life, about the way that he and other blacks have to deal with white society. As his black hands touch the white keys, the accepted Western sound of the piano and the form of Western music are changed. The piano itself comes to life as an extension of the singer, and moans, transformed by the black tradition to a mirror of black sorrow that also reflects the transforming power and beauty of the black tradition. . What do you make of the last line of the poem? Why does Hughes choose the word “dead” here? The poem works out Hughes’s apprehension, his feeling that his ability to understand the emotions that generated this form of artistic expression was not on a par with the expression itself This is indicated by the last line of the poem, where the speaker notes that the piano player “slept like a rock or a man that’s dead. ” The poem’s last line, then, ignores the blues performer’s ability to articulate pain and likewise to subsume it.
That the speaker and the piano player never meet, or as Tracy asserts, “strike up a conversation, share a drink, or anything else,” suggests that the experience does not rupture the speaker’s externality. He never enters that space whereby the piano player is speaking for him, giving utterance to his loneliness. Finally, at no point in time does the speaker in the poem insert himself into the lyrics. In this respect, the last line calls our attention to the slippage that occurs when an understanding of the blues is lacking.
That the speaker utters the possibility that the piano player has killed himself illustrates his failure to realize that the blues is performed reflection and not a preface to suicidal behavior. Pages 963-964, Claude McKay, “The Harlem Dancer” 1. This poem is an English (or Shakespearean) Sonnet with three quatrains and an ending couplet. What “celebration” seems to be made in the three quatrains? How is this “celebration” deflated in the ending couplet? In the first quatrain, McKay begins by expressing his disdain for America; however, he also expresses his dependence on the country as well.
When he states “Although she feeds me bread of bitterness”, the speaker is telling the reader that he or she depends on America for his or her bread as a child depends on its mother. This leads the reader to believe that the speaker in McKay’s poem recognizes the fact that America is the source of his or her provision, although the food that is being provided is that of bitterness. This particular statement also might lend itself to the underlying feeling that many black Americans were experiencing at this time regarding their limited rights in the South.
The country was responsible for seeing that blacks were given equal rights, but these rights were restricted unless the man could reach very unreal expectations. This led to bitterness among the Southern blacks. The second quatrain takes on a more positive focus, seemingly leading the reader to see some of the reasons that the speaker does, in fact, have positive feelings for America. “Her vigor flows like tides into my blood, / Giving me strength erect against her hate”.
These lines indicate that the strength of the burgeoning country was the energy that fueled the speaker’s life. The most interesting interaction within this piece of text is the insurgence that the speaker brings out within the conflicting nature of the prose. While the speaker is boldly proclaiming that America is the source of his or her strength, he or she is rebelling against the provider of that strength and using it to stand up against the racial hate that was prevalent during this time period in America.
Although the speaker is standing in strength against the bigotry and injustice within America, he or she seems to feel as if his or her personal stand might be insignificant within the larger picture of the struggle for equality. “Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood”. It is impossible for a single person to resist the mighty rushing waters of a flood as it rolls over the land. Perhaps, the speaker is expressing the futility of one person standing against the bigoted history of a nation alone.
However, just because the speaker stands alone in futility, it does not preclude him from taking that stand. Pages 964- 966, James Weldon Johnson, “From the preface to The Book of American Negro Poetry” 1. According to Johnson, what are the contributions that can be made by Negro poets? I believe he wanted to let us know that Black or African literature has a rich history or tradition, which is largely due to the effects of the tragedies well documented in the recorded history of the African people, of dislocation, deprivation and degradation.
In these circumstances it is hardly surprising that the propagation of Black culture including its literary achievements is a much recent phenomenon when compared to other races. Also the artistic style and dialect of the Negro is uniquely art in and of itself. 2. Do you think that Johnson’s statement “the richest contribution the Negro poet can make to the American literature of the future will be the fusion into it of his own individual artistic gifts” has been realized from 1921, the year the preface was written, to today?
Why or why not? Explain your answer thoroughly. Yes, I believe the value of the Negro poet has been realized. The renaissance allowed for the flowering of a new consciousness, the emergence of great writers, masterful musicians, the celebration of one’s cultural roots, and the development of self-confidence and consciousness. It is without a doubt that the Harlem Renaissance was like an eternal spring of inspiration in the soul of African-Americans. That spring has provided nourishment and inner drive for sustainment into the eras beyond.
That spring has fertilized the earth and has allowed the population of African-Americans to move into new and diverse dimensions regarding their self-worth, marvelous accomplishments, and diverse cultural successes. That spring of life in African-Americans which move them from slavery to freedom, is still watering the garden for future exponential growth economically, politically, philosophically, psychologically, and sociologically in directions beyond our human comprehension. Pages 975-977, Zora Neale Hurston, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” 1. How does Hurston define and feel about her “color”? Explain your answer thoroughly.
The majority of Hurston’s characters, though represented as black, could just as easily be of any race. Their lives, loves, humors, troubles and travails appear in Hurston’s writing as universal constants, soothing or afflicting without regard to either skin color or gender. Hurston approached the question of her apparent unconcern over racial issues more directly when she said, “I have ceased to think in terms of race; I think only in terms of individuals. I am interested in you now not as a Negro man but as a man. In am not interested in the race problem, but I am interested in the problems of individuals, white ones and black ones. ”