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What attracts most in Emily Dickinson's poetry is the powerfulness, with which it speaks. Her verses capture the author's insights and help the readers to understand and even to re-live some events in their lives through her emotional and precise images. Considering her recluse way of life, with most of friends being actually only pen-friends, it is very possible that writing poetry served Dickinson as a way of releasing her pain - from the deaths of the people she loved or from the imperfection which she saw in the world - and sometimes just escaping from it.
At the other hand, along with all the interest and admiration which her poems arouse because of the fascinating combination of mystery, profound musings on the eternal topics, such as love, death or immortality and bright images and metaphors, through which they are expressed, some of her verses are still hard to understand. Maybe one should have more biographical details about this woman so as to perceive some of her lines, but certain entries still remain as mysterious as her personality.
An American poet, novelist and playwright Langston Hughes is best-known for his contribution to the cultural movement, referred to as The Harlem Renaissance. This movement grew out of the social and cultural changes which took place in early 20th century America with the end of the World War I and the abolition of slavery. The African Americans, such as Langston Hughes used art to prove their humanity and demand for equality.
One of L. Hughes strongest points is the sincerity with which he writes. When he shares his vision of the people of his race, the impression is he simply tells a story, without any anger or hatred which could have been easily raised in his soul by the racist attitude constantly coming from white, but with sadness while he can not ignore all the sufferings and injustice the racism brings. The truthfulness and simplicity of his evidences towards the fact that a person's soul does not depend on the colour of skin make the reader really trust his verses and be impressed by them. However one may think some of his verses to be slightly oppressive because of the sadness mentioned, though it could be hardly said to be a disadvantage, considering the theme and general idea of them. All in all, the way by which the author conveys the idea of equality of black and white people, giving the reader the picture of what an African American feels and thinks is rather powerful and it really makes one to think over the issues brought up by Hughes.
The first poem I picked for analyzing is the one by Paul Laurence Dunbar which is called "We wear the mask". It is one more example of using the art by an African American living in the end of the nineteenth century for trying to convey to all people the thoughts, which would be hardly accepted if expressed face to face, in terms of a conversation. One more time, the bitter sincerity and truthfulness of the feelings, which the lines of the poem contain, make this verse a strong piece of work that catches the reader's attention and leaves a deep impression.
In my opinion, one of the most dramatic parts of this poem is the fourth line of the first stanza: "With torn and bleeding hearts we smile". The metaphor used by the author suits perfectly for describing inner pain which he and his people feel even though they try to conceal it by smiling. It produces a really strong impression, making the reader not to be repulsed, which is actually a sort of feeling which complaints sometimes produce, but to feel real sympathy towards the author's pain.
The theme of this poem, as it was mentioned above, is the suffering and pain which African Americans frequently had to conceal in order to get by in America of the late nineteenth century. Blacks could not express publicly the bitter feelings which the racism of whites evoked in them, for such expression would easily be followed by dangerous retaliation. And sometimes they even had to conceal their pain from each other, so as not to impose an anxiety upon their loved ones. Therefore many blacks wore a sort of mask that was supposed to express happiness and satisfaction with life, concealing their sufferings and distress altogether.
The second poem is "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke. It is interesting how the author, who was emotionally shattered by his father's death when Theodore was only fifteen years old, shares his remembrances of his childhood, giving an image of father who is somewhat in his cups, waltzing clumsily with his little son.
The image of the father is probably the most bright, arresting and altogether controversial point of this poem. At the one hand, quite a drunk father, who can not coordinate his movements well enough therefore causing the boy to scrape on the father's belt buckle by the right ear each time the father misses a step, may seem to be fairly repulsive. However, I would rather say that the author wanted to share the image of a man, who works hard and enjoys a little drink at the end of the day, giving the reader quite a realistic picture of the workman's family life. There is no tragedy or offence in the lines - the author describes this situation quite calmly and peacefully.
Therefore, the theme of this poem is probably the childhood remembrances of the author. He managed describing this short event in his life very well, by including little details, catching the reader's attention, like a battered knuckle of his father's hand, a palm caked hard by dirt and disapproving countenance of his mother, who frowns at her husband's tipsiness and romp. However, it hardly seems that the author feels anger or bitterness remembering that waltz. He just shares an event that happened in his life long ago, when he was a little boy and his father was alive.
Another poem I have chosen is "A work of artifice" by Marge Piercy. The author uses a very bright and interesting metaphor, speaking about the bonsai tree in terms of vocabulary which is well-known to any person familiar with the hobby of gardening and altogether implying the comparison between this tree and a woman. Though she does not tell it directly, her reference is still obvious and such an understatement makes the poem even stronger.
The image of the bonsai tree is the most arresting in this verse. The author gives exact numbers to make the contrast between the tree's potential, saying that it can grow eighty feet tall, and its present opportunities of growing to a height of mere nine inches, because of the gardener who does not want it to grow big and powerful - all the gardener needs is a beautiful neat tree in the attractive pot.
It is easy to understand that the author implied a woman while talking about a bonsai tree even by the phrases used in lines thirteen and fourteen, such as "small and cozy" and "domestic and weak". These are the common epithets for woman.
Therefore, the theme of this verse is a concern about the woman's role in society. Marge Piercy gives a stereotypical opinion about a woman from the man's point of view, with the gardener expressing it. He does not want to see anything in the tree, except from its being a beautiful thing decorating his house and creating a cozy and domestic atmosphere. On the contrary, the author gives her thoughts about what a woman can be if not suppressed by saying how powerful the free tree can grow.
The next verse is "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas. This piece of poetry is a highly emotional and inspiring appeal to the people saying, that death is something that should be fought, not meekly accepted. Such a striving for life is really worth respect and admiration, that is why I consider it to be a great poem.
Probably, the brightest and the most emotional stanza in this poem is the last one, in which the author appeals to his father, saying "Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray". The speaker calls his father not to fade away, but burn with emotions and feelings as long as he can, never putting up a fight. He does not care if his father even will curse him - for that is also the sign of struggle, passion, live. One more epithet in this line showing the speaker's wish to see more feelings, passion and therefore fire of live in his father is the word "fierce" for tears.
Consequently, the theme of this verse would be the speaker's wish for everybody to live a strong life and not to go down silent, quietly and miserably. Though Dylan Thomas admits that one knows that death will come anyway sooner or later, he calls never to give up fighting and even if one feels that the death is close and one's sight blinds the speaker tells to "rage against the dying of the light". Throughout the whole poem one can perceive the author's eagerness and passion with which he addresses the reader which makes the verse really inspiring and catching.
The last poem I picked up is "Those winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden. It brings up an urgent and acute issue that sometimes we do not give credit to the things which another person does for us, accepting them as a matter-of-course. As for me, it is definitely an issue which is worth thinking over.
The most striking lines of this poem are the last two lines of the third stanza. Here the speaker asks the rhetorical question: "What did I know, what did I know of love's austere and lonely offices?" This question sounds a bit like an excuse: the author explains that he could not appreciate what his father did for him, because he was a kid and did not know much about life in general and love in particular. Such a situation is very common for many people, that is why these lines leave a little sad but altogether bright and strong impression.
Thereby the theme of this poem is the indifference with which people sometimes meet care and love displayed towards them. It is not only that such indifference can hurt the people who love you; it will make you sad and repenting in the future, when you will look back and remember the moment of your life when you could have treated somebody with love and respect which she or he deserved, but did not do that. The speaker describes the routine his father did every Sunday's morning by giving a picture with tiny details from which the reader is able to see a real father's care for sun, for example in the second line of the second stanza it is said that the father used to awake the boy only when the rooms had already got warm. However, being a routine, all these things had passed unnoticed by the boy, who really understood that regard only when he grew up.
I would say I favor the last poem which is "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden over the other four. The major reason for that is because of the theme of the verse. Being very familiar for many people it makes the poem clear and intimate for the reader. Good deeds and care often go by unnoticed, without a due expression of gratitude from people they were done to. Sometimes when later a person comes to remembering such an event, it may awake embarrassment and shame, along with sadness from the fact that the ignorance in the past can not be recovered now.
What also attracts in this poem is also the way by which the author sets the scene. The verse is fairly unrhymed, thus producing an impression of the thoughts and remembrances the author wants to share in a private conversation. Though the expressions which Hayden chooses for describing that event of his life are really bright and unusual, such as "blueback cold", which immediately gives the reader a perfectly clear image of the unheated house on winter morning. Talking about his father, the speaker uses the phrase "cracked hands that ached from labour", so that the reader would develop a right image of the father, like of a hard-working man who remembers the duties he owes to his family even on Sunday, when he is actually able to have a rest from a tiresome week and sleep for a little longer. The poet develops a little drama filled with bright and intriguing images which make the reader not simply read the information about the event, but see, hear and re-live those Sunday mornings together with the speaker.
The speaker's behavior as a child is also very familiar and easy to understand and picture in mind. It is like all people prefer to lie in warm bad a little more, reluctant to get up, knowing that the house is still cold. So this boy just lies in his bad, listening to his father rekindling the fire to make the house warm.
There is a vague point in this poem though. The line "fearing the chronic angers of that house" can be interpreted in different ways. It is hard to understand what exactly the speaker wanted to say by that. This phrase may relate to the family problems the boy suffers from, especially considering the fact that Robert Hayden himself had a rather traumatic childhood, witnessing quarrels between his foster parents and often suffering beatings. Thus, if one considers this poem to be autobiographical, it is even easier to understand the boy who does not care much about his father. Having problems with his parents at home and peers at school a teenager is unlikely to notice and appreciate the regard and care for him which his father still displays. But having grown up and looking back Hayden might have understood that despite sometimes he was unhappy with his foster father, his father was not indifferent to him, and just showed his love indirectly.
To sum up, I think this poem to be undoubtedly worth reading and, what is more important, thinking over. The issue about the ignorance with which people sometimes respond to love and regard still remains timely and needs being paid attention to. So it is better to think first about what one is saying or doing if he or she does not want to be tortured by unpleasant memories in the future.