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This is evident from the first as the poet writes,
I am inside someone -- who hates me. I look out from his eyes (1-3).
This approach allows him to take a jaundiced view of himself and criticize his own shortcomings, as if they were those of someone else. He says he hates himself, meaning more that he hates some of the things he has done and that he may expect more from himself than he has been able to deliver. The way he pauses at the end of the first line emphasizes the next part of the sentence, that he is inside someone who hates him, meaning himself. He observes himself and does so as if observing the act of observing as well, creating a double distance between himself as poet and himself as man. The poet writes, "I look / out from his eyes" (2-3), again seeing himself watching himself. The work expresses the divided and in some ways unfinished nature of the black man in American society. In addition, the poet is expressing the view that his reality and his sense of self depends on his hatred of others. He says he hates himself, because he has been made to hate himself by the majority white society that prevents him from feeling complete. When he looks out at himself and hates himself, it is because of his inability to overcome the limitations placed on him. In the world in which he lives, "innocence is a weapon" (13).
In the most expansive sense, this poem expresses the pain felt by the poet as he tries to communicate with those outside his own flesh and with himself at the same time. Baraka's poetry is thus like a scream from someone burning alive, an image of the travails of the artist that is highly expressive. As the title of the poem says, it is "An Agony" and takes place right now, an immediate experience that shapes the message of the poet, defines the nature of the poet, and forces the poet to suffer pain all at the same time. This poem explodes on the page as if it were a stream-of-consciousness rant forced out of the poet as he observes himself and experiences self-hatred and doubt in the face of a social order that he does not believe is listening. He is at war with himself, between the self he was made to be by circumstances and the self he wants to be and is trying to become.
Louise Bogan's poem "Women" is a feminist work and restates many attitudes toward women by indirectly contrasting women with men. The contrast is not overt but is rather inherent in the way the poet says what women are not and do not do, implying that men are those things and do those things, which are not suited for women. By even raising these elements, the poet is saying that men engage in these behaviors and that the question has been raised as to whether women do as well. Her answer is that they do not, and it is necessary to read between the lines to see reasons why they do not.
The poet writes as if observing another species, for of the 20 lines of the poem, 9 begin with "they" and one with "their," as if the poet were setting women aside as a separate entity and writing about them. Women are contrasted with men in terms of work in the field, for women do not seek to tame the wilderness or to care for the cattle or give their attention to the finer points of farming. Instead, women are depicted as internalized creatures who turn their eyes inward, while men turn outward. Women "have no wilderness in them" (1) and are instead "Content in the right hot cell of their hearts" (3). Indeed, they are seen as oblivious to much of the world around them, suggesting that they are self-absorbed to the point of not seeing much of the beauty around them:
They do not hear
Snow water going down under culverts
Shallow and clear (6-8).
The portrait painted is not flattering, though there is sympathy for the way women live even if the reason why they do so is not explored.
Other women are represented and also comment on the society in which they live. Gwendolyn Brooks in her poem "We Real Cool" uses an urban dialect to create an interesting image of the life cycle and to evoke a sense of the sing-song that might be used in street play like skipping a rope. The ideas are carried line by line as the noun for each sentence is found at the end of each line while the verb and object are found on the next line. The subject is always "we." The poet identifies the speakers as seven pool players, and the story they tell is why they have no lives beyond spending their time in the pool room waiting for death. They say they are "real cool," and they got that way by leaving school. The seven are drop-outs and have no options beyond lurking late, drinking, listening to jazz, and waiting for death -- "We die soon."
The meter of the poem is regular, with two strong accented syllables leading to a pause for a period, followed by the beginning of the next thought with "we." The fact that all syllables are accented makes every short syllable equal to all others, and this adds to the sing-son quality of the piece. The primary rhyming syllable (not counting the rhyming "we" of each line) is next to last in each line, creating short couplets. The piece manages in a few short lines to create an image of life as repetition, and the dullness of this repeated pattern makes life seem futile and short.
Adrienne Rich's poem "Living in Sin" is in free verse, with sharp imagery created line by line. The situation is evident from the title, and each image builds on the idea of this woman examining her life and the reality of it as compared to romantic images of living in sin. Rich uses alliteration to link elements in her imagery and to convey a sense of unity. The primary sound in the opening lines is the "p" sound:
Half heresy, to wish the taps less vocal, the panes relieved of grime. A plate of pears, piano with a Persian shawl...
The "s" sound dominates in the next few lines. These repeated sounds create a sense of monotony and repetition, in keeping with the idea that the woman is finding her life to be a series of repeated events and actions, most of them examples of the mundane chores everyone has to perform just to live. "Living in sin" has all the glamour of everyday life in this poem, for that is precisely what it is for each person involved. The idea of continuity and that each day is the same is carried in the repeated image of the milkman on the stairs, arriving each day to announce the beginning of another 24-hours just like the last. Love dissipates in this repetitive atmosphere but returns each evening.
The poem "I Am Ready to Tell All I Know" by Minnie Bruce Pratt is structured as a dramatic interaction between mother and son. It is told from the point-of-view of the mother, who is the one who offers to tell all she knows. This title alone creates in the reader a sense of a revelation about to take place, and the rest of the poem indicates that this revelation is one that both specific to a given situation and generalized to parent-child relationships everywhere. The specific situation is of a child from the South going to school in the North and learning of a history that has been kept from him, a history that his mother is now ready top reveal. It is a history of racial injustice and murder, and the young man is surprised to learn of it in school and to learn that his mother has known of this and not told him. The mother for her part is ready to tell all she knows, ready because she has come to realize that all young people are linked just as all parents are linked -- how would she feel if the young man hung by a mob were her child?
The dramatic situation is clear, and most of the poem is taken up with the musings of the mother as she reacts to the questions asked by her son. The question forces her to reconsider the history of the south and her own place in that history. It forces her to reconsider her relationship with her son and to wonder in effect how any mother could tolerate the sorts of things that happened in the South in the past given that such events harmed the children of some mother somewhere. The mother…[continue]
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