Rukhaya M.K

A Literary Companion

Month: November 2014 (page 2 of 3)

Poetry Analysis: Margaret Atwood’s”Journey to the Interior”


The poem is a monologue, the apt form for introspection. It is a metaphysical poem with the recurring motif of ‘journey’  that Atwood explores in other works like Surfacing.

The interior referred to here is the psyche of the poetess. The poetess utilizes an extended metaphor here: The poetess’s inner exploration stretches out to the journeying of the mountain. The use of the words “similarities” (line 1) and “differences” (line 20) exemplifies contrast and allows the reader to make connections between the physical world and internal realm, and bridge the gap between connotation and denotation.

As one delves deeper into the mind, it stretches out into various directions –incomprehensible and inscrutable. A person with a firm faith can embark on the discovery of the self, and survive unscathed in the process. For outsiders, the human mind is as limited as a two-dimensional picture “flat as a wall.” The hills from the distance seem “welded together”. But from near, the opening between them into breaks into vast prairies. Furthermore, it does not imply that the interior landscape or mind is uniformly fertile. It has its share of barren swamps that are capable of producing “spindly trees.” The “cliff is not known as rough except by the hand.” The world supposes that only tangible objects exist in this world.…

Poetry Analysis: Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”


Maya Angelou born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928, is an American autobiographer and poet who has been called “America’s most visible black female autobiographer” by scholar Joanne M. Braxton. The poetess presents in ‘Still I Rise” the average black American woman who rises like the phoenix each time she is bent by oppression. The typical Black American would be willing to break rather than bend. Here, she triumphantly asserts with conviction how she continues to rise with renewed vigour.

History is said to bear testimony to the events of the past and the character of a person. Nevertheless history is quite often produced from the biased view of the individual historian, and most of the time is distorted. Indeed, the pen is mightier than the sword. However, Maya Angelou declares that she will rise from history that may “pin her in coruscating prose.” Though she is subject to bitter, twisted lies, and though she is trampled in the dirt, she will rise like dust. She endeavours to touch everything with her personality, just as dust touches everything on its way, by it presence. She reminds one of the celebrated Uzbek poet Boborahim Mashrab who asserts: “From the dust of my shirts edge there will rise hundred thousand gods”.…

Poetry Analysis: Maya Angelou’s “Poor Girl”


Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928 is an American autobiographer and poet who has been called “America’s most visible black female autobiographer” by scholar Joanne M. Braxton. In the “Poor Girl”, the speaker sympathizes with a girl who her ex-lover is seeing now. Though she addresses her as ‘Poor Girl’, one discerns that is not only sympathy, but empathy as well. The speaker is contemplating on her own predicament, as she was cheated in the past by the same person.

She begins the poem addressing her ex-lover. She asserts that she recognizes the fact that he has got another love. Note that she uses the word ‘another’ as his love is not exclusive. The girl adores him unconditionally just like she used to. For both of the women, love was the very breath of their life, as they hung on his words. The word ‘hang’ connotes desperation, as in clinging on for dear life. The words came across as ‘gold’; sounding the age-old adage that “All that glitters is not gold.” The girl in question presumes that she understands the man’s soul, but actually does not. They were at a point united in their beliefs; but now separated as time and space has changed the speaker’s conviction regarding the man.…

Poetry Analysis: Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman”


Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928 is an American autobiographer and poet who has been called “America’s most visible black female autobiographer” by scholar Joanne M. Braxton. Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” in included in the collection And Still I Rise.

The woman portrayed here is the woman of substance, as she rises above conventional paradigms that enslaves her into a domestic archetype or aesthetic construct. The pretty /plain woman dialectical pair may also serve to emblematize the dialectical pair of the white/black with regard to an American Black writer.

The poem challenges the oft-quoted adage that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. In this modern era of ‘reification’ or commodification, people are akin to things, that they are assessed on the basis of their packaging and material worth. The more the individual is visually appealing, the more the confidence-factor. In such a context, Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman poses a question mark, as to what lends her so much of confidence. She quips with unflinching self-assurance that she may not be her appealing in the conventional sense. Nor does her figure pose a challenge to a fashion model. People fail to believe her as she reiterates that her x-factor lies in something beyond this.…

Poetry Analysis: Langston Hughes’ “Theme for English B”


Hughes penned “Theme for English B” in 1949 at the age of 47. Here the word ‘English’ stands as a symbol for universality; It does not need to be attributed with any grade (A, B) to mark its significance.The speaker in the poem is an imaginary one conceived by Langston Hughes and not the poet himself, as the speaker is ‘born in Winston-Salem’, while Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri. The college that Hughes is speaking of in his poem is not Columbia University. It is the City College of New York located on the highest hill in Manhattan. Arnold Rampersad who edited Hughes’ Collected Poems has stated that the college that features in the prescribed poem is the City College of New York on his visit to the CCNY during its 30th annual Langston Hughes Festival.

 

The title of the poem suggests a theme for English B. The mention of an English B underlines the existence of an English A, that renders the English A default-the standard one. And the question arises for the need for an English B. The instructor in the class asks the student to go home and write a page. The only requirement is that the page must come out of the writer; it is only then that it will be true or ‘genuine’.Such a stance goes against the New Critics who divorced the author from the text; and stated that the text is autonomous.…

Poetry Analysis: Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues”


Langston Hughes’ ”The Weary Blues” focuses on a musician in upper Manhattan. The musical instrument of the whites is taken over by a black, for, music is universal. His rendering of the music is termed as ’droning’. The term ’droning’ may refer to the fact how he labouredly delivered music for a living. Since drones thrive in communities, the music may signify the collective consciousness of the blacks. This is why probably the music is ‘syncopated’.’ Syncopated’ means stressing a normally weak beat. The aspect of the blacks-the Harlem Renaissance is foregrounded with the stressing of this weak beat .The musician oscillated to the music that mellowed to a sentimental humming(croon).

The poet has penned the phrase ‘”down on Lenox Avenue” instead on “up on Lenox Avenue” as blacks inhabited the Northern part of Harlem. The word “down” may also signify the architecture of Harlem colonies, with the multi-storied apartments looking down on the avenues, as people resided in the upper floors of the buildings. The lower apartments were reserved for business purposes. The African Americans were responsible for the birth of the jazz and blues music that was born out of “irresistible impulse of blacks to create boldly expressive art of a high quality as a primary response to their social conditions, as an affirmation of their dignity and humanity in the face of poverty and racism” (Norton Anthology of African American Literature 929).…

Poetry Analysis: Langston Hughes’ “Mother to Son”


Langston Hughes’s “Mother to Son” is in the form of a communication between a mother and son. The words of a mother to her children are the most sincere and earnest form of utterance. The title “Mother to Son” exemplifies a one-to-one correspondence between the two where there is more give than take. The language in dialect form brings out the rawness of feelings in their original form. She conveys to him the reality of life throughout the poem in the form of an extended metaphor of a crystal staircase. The metaphor is indeed very symbolic. The symbol of the staircase echoes that to reach the top, one has to start from the bottom rung. It at once stands as a potent emblem of luxury. The crystal staircase also gives one the impression of it not being there though it is, there, thereby connoting ease. It also emblematizes transparency. Again, its texture represents smoothness. Life, she signifies is not always a “smooth ride.

Well, son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tack in it,

And splinter,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor—

But all the time

I’se been a-climbing’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.…

Poetry Analysis: Langston Hughes’ “I,Too”


Langston Hughes’s “I,Too” is an assertion and affirmation of the black ego that has been always relegated . It is an attempt to subvert the dialectical pair white/black.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.

Tomorrow,

I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”

Besides,

They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

Hughes penned the poem at the age of 22 in the city of Genoa in 1924.The title of the poem by Langston Hughes has the black ego asserting itself. “I” stands for the ego. But the ego is not egoistic here as it declares: ”I, too.” The speaker wants a place at par with the whites.

America as a country has always been represented by the whites. The innumerable blacks that inhabit the country are relegated as citizens owing to the practice of Apartheid. Just as the East, they are viewed as ’the Other.” In their own country, they are attributed only second-class citizen status.

Singing is an expression of freedom. Walt Whitman emblematizes the action of singing in “I hear America Singing” as an affirmation of being American.…

Poetry Analysis: Langston Hughes’ “Harlem-A Dream Deferred”


Langston Hughes poem “Harlem- A Dream Deferred” was written in 1951.The blacks were distraught with dreams and disillusionment after the Civil War had freed them from the shackles of slavery. Though they were liberated and granted the rights to vote by federal laws, the blacks were marginalized in all other significant spheres as they were limited to segregated schools .They were not attributed with the capacity to think and were restricted to menial work. Earlier, if the system of slavery downgraded the blacks openly, the current state of affairs had a ‘sophisticated’ way of doing it. The abolition of slavery was a dream the blacks nurtured. However, it transformed into –‘a dream deferred’ as though the dream was always reserved for the future tense. The raw comparisons verging on revolting images reflects the language of the blacks devoid of any sophisticated erudition, and is straight to the point.

The revision to the U.S. Constitution as approved in the post-Civil War period established basic rights to black Americans as American citizens. Nevertheless, the court and legislative laws later weakened the officially permitted security of the blacks. For instance, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 1896 (Plessy v. Ferguson) that it was lawful to provide “separate but equal” accommodations for passengers of Louisiana’s railroads.…

Poetry Analysis: Langston Hughes’ “As I Grew Older”


Langston Hughes’s “As I Grew Older” reflects the regressive graph of the poet’s dreams as he grew older. The graph appeared to be inversely proportional to the progression of time.

Langston Hughes’s “As I Grew Older” represents not only his growth in stature, but the obstacles to his growth as an individual, and a member of society. The purpose of Life for a person is defined by his dream. He states that “It was a long time ago” that his dream existed. The lines that begin like a fairy tale point to a fairy tale existence–the aspiration of a black in a white-dominated society. The dream at the moment was right in front of him, an ‘in the face aspect’. It is likened to the sun .The comparison is apt, as the Sun stands for sunshine, brightness, the warmth of life and rays of hope. The light of the Sun also seemed to show him the way.

Subsequently, the poet brings in the metaphor of the Wall that grew when he was supposed to grown in its place. The wall referred to here is the wall of Apartheid, the invisible but sophisticated barrier. The wall is emblematic of boundaries,and barriers, and marginalization and segregation, as in Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall’.…

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