Archive for the 'Eng 241' Category

Marianne Moore

November 30, 2006


Spent early years in Kirkwood, Missouri in the home of her grandfather, Reverend John R. Warner
Never saw her father, and inventor and manufacturer who suffered a nervous breakdown before her birth
Graduated from Bryn Mawr College and taught in Carlisle Indian School
Corresponded with William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, T.S. Eliot, H.D. and Ezra Pound
Moved to Greenwhich Village and lived in Manhattan or Brooklyn for the rest of her life
Never married and shared her home with her mother until her mother’s death
Edited ‘The Dial’
Poems at first appear eccentrically arranged but the intricacy yields its pattern and meaning to the attentive reader
Interested in varied habits of natural species and man-made objects
Became a popular icon and often threw out the first pitch at Dodger and Yankee baseball games
Told the New York Herald

“I like country fairs, roller-coasters, merry-go-rounds, dog shows, museums, avenues of trees, old elms, vehicles, experiments in timing like our ex-Museum of Science and Invention’s two roller-bearings in a gravity chute, synchronized with a ring-brearing revolving vertically. I am fond of animals and take inordinate interest in mongooses, squirrels, crows, elephants. I read few magazines but would be lost without the newspaper.”


Visible, invisible, / a fluctuating charm / an amber-tinctured amethyst / inhabits it, your arm / approaches and it opens / and it closes; you had meant / to catch it and it quivers; / you abandon your intent.

-A Jelly-Fish (in whole)

wade / through black jade. / Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps / adjusting the ash-heaps; / opening and shutting itself like
an / injured fan. / The barnacles which encrust the side / of the wave, cannot hide / there for the submerged shafts of the
sun, / split like spun / glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness / into the crevices- / in and out, illuminating
the / turquoise sea / of bodies. The water drives a wedge / of iron through the iron edge / of the cliff; whereupon the stars,
pink / rice-grains, ink- / bespattered jelly-fish, crabs like green / lilies, and submarine / toadstools, slide each on the other.
All / external / marks of abuse are present on this / defiant edifice- / all the physical features of / ac- / cident – lack / of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and / hatchet strokes, these things stand / out on it; the chasm-side is
dead / Repeated / evidence has proved that it can live / on what can not revive / its youth. The sea grows old in it.

-The Fish (in whole)


William Carlos Williams

November 29, 2006


Born in Rutherford, New Jersey
Mother was a Puerto Rican immigrant of mixed Jewish, Basque, and Spanish ancestry
Grew up in a household of three spoken languages: Spanish, English, and French
Attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania where he befriended Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, and H.D.
Set up a family practice in a home office in Rutherford and married Florence Herman in 1912: the couple had two sons
Wrote poetry after work before joining his family for dinner
Initially imitated John Keats and Walt Whitman in poetry
Later found his own distinctive style by combining meticulous observation with inventive word choices and stanza forms
Viewed poetry as an immersion in material existence: gives a single thing next to other things without comparing them
Williams’ motto was

“no ideas but in things”

Powerful psychological poet: achieved insight by confronting darkness and disorder, and explores the challenges of aging and ill health
Great social poet: evoking material conditions and cultural practices of people around him
Translated poems from Spanish, French, and Chinese
During his retirement he spent his days at the Paterson Public Library researching the history of the city and composed ‘Paterson’
Never received the attention and praise given to other modernists: was rejected the title of Poetry Consultant to the Library of Contress (Poet Laureate) because of liberal politics


At ten A.M. the young housewife / moves about in negligee behind / the wooden walls of her husband’s house. / I pass solitary in my car.
Then again she comes to the curb / to call the ice-man, fish-man, and stands / shy, uncorseted, tucking in / stray ends of hair, and I compare her / to a fallen leaf.
The noiseless wheels of my car / rush with a crackling shound over / dried leaves as I bow and pass smiling.

-The Young Housewife (in whole)

Is the speaker reporting or creating the situation in his mind
The poem sets up a number of paradoxes that create unreliability in the speaker
The young housewife is defined and controled by masculinity

so much depends / upon
a red wheel / barrow
glazed with rain / water
beside the white / chickens

-The Red Wheelbarrow (in whole)

By the road to the contagious hospital / under the surge of the blue / mottled clouds driven from the / northeast – a cold wind. Beyond, the / waste of broad, muddy fields / brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
patches of standing water / the scattering of tall trees
All along the road the reddish / purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy / stuff of bushes and small trees / with dead, brown leaves under them / leafless vines –
Lifeless in appearance, sluggish / dazed spring approaches –
They enter the new world naked, / cold, uncertain of all / save that they enter. All about them / the cold, familiar wind –
Now the grass, tomorrow / the stiff curl of wild carrot leaf
One by one objects are defined – / It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
But now the stark dignity of / entrance – Still, the profound change / has come upon them: rooted, they grip down and begin to awaken

-Spring and All (in whole)

The pure products of America / go crazy – / mountain folk from Kentucky
or the ribbed north end of / Jersey / with its isolate lakes and
valleys, its deaf-mutes, thieves / old names / and promiscuity between
devil-may-care men who have taken / to railroading / out of sheer lust of adventure –
and young slatterns, bathed / in filth / from Monday to Sunday
to be tricked out that night / with gauds / from imaginations which have no
peasant traditions to give them / character / but flutter and flaunt
sheer rags – succumbing without / emotion / save numbed terror
under some hedge of choke-cherry / or viburnum – / which they cannot express –
Unless it be that marriage / perhaps / with a dash of Indian blood
will throw up a girl so desolate / so hemmed round / with disease or murder
that she’ll be rescued by an / agent – / reared by the state and
sent out at fifteen to work in / some hard-pressed / house in the suburbs –
some doctor’s family, some Elsie – / voluptuous water / expressing with broken
brain the truth about us – / her great / ungainly hips and flopping breasts
addressed to cheap / jewelry / and rich young men with fine eyes
as if the earth under our feet / were / an excrement of some sky
and we degraded prisoners / destined / to hunger until we eat filth
while the imagination strains / after deer / going by fields of goldenrod in
the stifling heat of September / Somehow / it seems to destroy us
It is only in isolate flecks that / something / is given off
No one / to witness / and adjust, no one to drive the car

-To Elsie (in whole)

The character of ‘Elsie’ is based on a mentally challenged domestic worker hired by the Williams family from the state orphanage

Gertrude Stein

November 29, 2006


Born to a German-Jewish immigrant family in Allegheny, Pennsylvania
Youngest of seven children
By the time she was 17, both of her parents were dead
Became the favorite student of William James while at Harvard: supposedly Stein wrote on an exam, “I’m sorry Professor James, I do not feel like taking an exam today” and James wrote on the top, “I understand perfectly. A.”
One of the first women to be admitted to John Hopkins medical school but just before graduating she lost interest in medicine (my book says because of an unhappy love affair with another woman, although I don’t see a connection)
Left with her brother Leo for Paris and began to build on eof the most remarkable and forward-looking art collections of the time
By 1910 Leo moved out and Alice B. Toklas moved in: Toklas was Stein’s devoted companion and lover for the rest of her life
Stein devoted herself to what she called ‘portraits’ prose poems about friends and artists
Wrote more conventional looking oems years before WWI
During WWI, Stein and Toklas labored as volunteers for relief to the troops and became famous for their literary salon
Became a well-known celebrity and spoke to sold-out auditoriums across the nation: had tea with Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House
Headed south when France fell to the Nazis in 1940 because both were in jeopardy of being transported to death camps
Died in 1946 of cancer
Before she was wheeled into the operation from which she never recovered consciousness she whispered to Toklas

“What is the answer?”
When Toklas was unable to respond, Stein smilingly asked
“In that case, what is the question?”


What Do I See.

A very little snail. / A medium sized turkey. / A small band of sheep. / A fair orange tree. / All nice wives are like that. / Listen to them from here. / Oh. / You did not have to answer. / Here. / Yes.

Why Do You Feel Differently.

Why do you feel differently about a very little snail and a big one. / Why do you feel differently about a medium sized turkey and a very large one. / Why do you feel differently about a small band of sheep and several sheep that are riding. / Why do you feel differently about a fair orange tree and one that has blossoms as well. / Oh very well. All nice wives are like that.
To Be / No Please. / To Be / They can please / Not to be / Do they please. / Not to be / Do they not please / Yes please. / Do they please / No please. / Please. / If you please. / And if you please. / And if they please. / And they please. / To be pleased. / Not to be pleased. / Not to be dispelased. / To be pleased and to please.

Bundles For Them.
A History of Giving Bundles.

We were able to notice that each one in a way carried a bundle, they were not a trouble to them nor were they all bundles as some of them were chickens some of them pheasants some of them sheep and some of them bundles, they were not a trouble to them and then indeed we learned that it was the principal recreation and they were so arranged that they were not given away, and to-day they were given away.
I will not look at them again. / They will not look for them again. / They have not seen them here again. / They are in there and we hear them again. / In which way are stars brighter than they are. When we have collie to this decision. We mention many thousands of buds. And whne I close my eyes I see them. / If you hear her snore / It is not before you love her / You love her so that to be her beau is very lovely / She is sweetly there and her curly hair is very lovely / She is sweetly here and I am very near and that is very lovely. / She is my tender sweet and her little feet are stretched out well which is a treat and very lovely / Her little tender nose is between her little eyes which close and are very lovely / She is very lovely and mine which is very lovely.

Let Us Describe

Let us describe how they went. It was a very windy night and the road although in excellent condition and extremely well graded has many turnings and although the curves are not sharp the rise is considerable. It was a very windy night and some of the larger vehicles found it more prudent not to venture. In consequence some of those who had planned to go were unable to do so. Many others did go and there was a sacrifice, of what shall we, a sheep, a hen, a cock, a village, a ruin, and all that and then that having been blessed let us bless it.

-Idem the Same

Idem is Latin for “the same”
The poem is a dual valentine intended for Toklas and their good friend Sherwood Anderson

A carafe, that is a blind glass.
A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt col.or and an arrangement in a system to pointing. All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading.

A box.
Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle. So then the order is that a white way of being round is something suggesting a pin and is it disappointing, it is not, it is so rudimentary to be analyzed and see a fine substance strangely, it is so earnest to have a green point not to red but to point again.

A long dress.
What is the current that makes machinery, that makes it crackle, what is the current that presents a long line and a necessary waits. What is this current.
What is the wind, what is it.
Where is the serene length, it is there and a dark place is not a dark place, only a white and red are black, only a yellow and green are blue, a pink is scarlet, a bow is every color. A line distinguishes it. A line just distinguishes it.

A white hunter.
A white hunter is nearly crazy.


Custard is this. It has aches, aches when. Not to be. Not to be narrowly.
This makes a whole little hill.
It is better than a little thing that has mellow real mellow. It is better than lakes whole lakes, it is better than seeding.

Asparagus in a lean in a lean to hot. This makes it art and it is wet wet weather wet weather wet.

Orange in.
Go lack go lack use to her.
Cocoa and clear soup and oranges and oat-meal.
Whist bottom whist close, whist clothes, woodling.
Cocoa and clear soup and oranges and oat-meal.
Pain soup, suppose it is question, suppose it is butter, real is, real is only, only excreate, only excreate a no since.
A no, a no since, a no since when, a no since when since, a no since when since a no since when since, a no since, a no since when since, a no since, a no, a no since a no since, a no since, a no since.


-Tender Buttons

Tender Buttons is a sequence of interrelated poems which evokes an enigmatic but mostly happy domestic world of objects, food, and rooms

Mina Loy

November 28, 2006


Praised for sharp satirical intelligence, talent for the engagingly brash gesture, film-star good looks, and highly original poetic eye
Born in London
As a young girl she showed, according to Roger L. Conover

“remarkable physical beauty and resistance to conventional codes of femininity”

Married English artist and photographer Stephen Haweis
Had a passionate affair with the leading figure of Italian futurism, Filippo Marinetti and another affair with Giovanni Papini
Remained painfully shy and felt socially isolated and tied down by domestic responsibilities
Authorized a “Feminist Manifesto” in response to Marinetti’s masculinist assumptions of Italian futurism
Became involved with dadaist poet and boxer Arthur Cravan, a nephew of Oscar Wilde, and the couple lived in poverty until he died
Uses unsettling beauty in imagery, startling imaginative leaps, and complex wordplay which pose difficulties in understanding


Curie / of the laboratory / of vocabulary / she crushed / the tonnage / of consciousness / congealed to phrases / to extract / a radium of the word

-Gertrude Stein (in whole)

Loy equates Stein’s clinical isolation of the active meaning of words with Madame Curie’s discovery of the highly radioactive element radium

The toy / become the aesthetic archetype
As if / some patient peasant God / had rubbed and rubbed / the Alpha and Omega / of Form / into a lump of metal
A naked orientation / unwinged   unplumed / the ultimate rhythm / has lopped the extremities / of crest and claw / from / the nucleus of flight
The absolute act / of art / conformed / to continent sculpture / -bare and the brow of Osiris- / this breast of revelation
an incandescent curve / licked by chromatic flames / in labyrinths of reflections
This gong / of polished hyperaesthesia / shrills with brass / as the aggressive light / strikes / its significance
The immaculate / conception / of the inaudible bird / occurs / in gorgeous reticence

-Brancusi’s Golden Bird (in whole)

Jean Toomer

October 31, 2006


Born to racially mixed parents: his father left soon after his birth and his mother died when he was 15, after which he lived with his grandparents
Grew up in Washington, D.C. and New Rochelle, New York
His light-skinned appearance allowed him to live alternately as a black and a white person
Attended five different colleges after high school and never received a degree
Wrote experimental poetry that was indebted to imagism, urbanism, and East Asian poetic forms
Protested against fallacious racial stereotypes
Wrote one of the classic books of American literature with “Cane”: alternates lyric poems with prose pieces and combines features of the Harlem Renaissance and the modernist movement
Many of his poems’ speakers bear witness to the difficult and often heroic struggles of an oppressed people sustained by their culture and community
After “Cane”, Toomer abandoned his racial subject matter and commenced a spiritual quest that would occupy him for the rest of his life
Became a follower of the European mysic George Gurdjieff who advocated a personal transofmation into heightened awareness
In the mid-1930’s Toomer and his wife and daughter turn from Gurdjieff to the Quaker Society of Friends
For 15 years he wrote religious treatises, autobiographies and unpublished poems


A cow-hoof imprint / pressed against the under-asphalt of / Fifth Avenue, sustains it
The osseous teat of an inverted cow / spurts s k y s c r a p e r s / against a cloud / racing to / dusk, / and / it / sprays / in / num / er / ab / le / blunk peaks against / the milky-way.

-Skyline (in whole)

Hair – braided chestnut, / Coiled like a lyncher’s rope / Eyes – fagots, / Lips – old scars, or the first red blisters, / Breath – the last weet scent of cane, / And her slim body, white as the ash / Of black flesh after flame.

-Portrait in Georgia (in whole)


October 30, 2006


Hilda Doolittle
First poet to publish a poem that was identified as “imagist”
Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to an upper-middle class family: father was a professor of astronomy and mother was an artist who taught painting and music
Belonged to the Moravian faith, a Protestant denomination that seeks to recapture the original vitality of Christianity by strictly adhering to the word of the Bible: H.D. did not practice as an adult, but its mysticism effected her poetic career
Attended Bryn Mawr for three terms but left without a degree: became friends with William Carlos Williams and dated Ezra Pound
Became briefly engaged to Pound, who remained a lifelong friend
Left for Europe in 1911 with her then lover, Frances Gregg, and remained in Europe for the rest of her life
Published three poems in “Poetry” that simultaneously established her literary identity as “H.D.” and founded the imagist movement: Pound created the title “Imagiste” to attract attention to Doolittle’s work and unintentionally began the poetry movement
Married Richard Aldington, a British poet and imagist: separated from him and had an affair with Cecil Gray which produced her only child; Perdita: met Bryher who became her companion for 28 years
Poetry takes an interest in the world of antiquity and myths: wrote narrative poems that revised Greek, Egyptian, and biblical stories in a mystical, feminist way
Strove to find a new beauty
Following her separation from Bryher, Doolittle broke down and was hospitalized in a Swiss clinic
Remained in Switzerland and Italy until the end of her life: spent her last years in hotel rooms
Her gravestone lies flat in Nisky Hill Cemetary, Bethlehem, Penn., and usually has sea shells on it, left in tribute: it bears lines from her poem “Epitaph:”

“So you may say, / Greek flower; Greek ecstasy / reclaims forever / one who died / following intricate song’s / lost measure.”


Rose, harsh rose, / marred and with stint of petals, / meagre flower, thin, / sparse of leaf,
more precious / than a wet rose, / single on a stem- / you are caught in the drift.
Stunted, with small leaf, / you are flung on the sand, / you are lifted / in the crisp sand / that drives in the wind.
Can the spice-rose / drip such acrid fragrance / hardened in a leaf?

-Sea Rose (in whole)

All Greece hates / the still eyes in the white face, / the lustre as of olives / where she stands, / and the white hands.
All Greece reviles / the wan face when she smiles, / hating it deeper still / when it grows wan and white, / remembering past enchantments / and past ills.
Greece sees unmoved, / God’s daughter, born of love, / the beauty of cool feet / and slenderest knees, / could love indeed he maid, / only if she were laid, / white as amid funereal cypresses.

-Helen (in whole)

Helen was the daughter of Zeus who appeared in the guise of a swan to the mortal woman Leda and impregnated her

I have had enough. / I gasp for breath.
Every way ends, / every road, every foot-path leads at last / to the hill-crest- / then you retrace your steps, / or find the same slope on the other side, / precipitate.
I have had enough- / border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies, / herbs, sweet-cress.
O for some sharp swish of a branch – / there is no scent of resin / in this place, / no taste of bark, of coarse weeds, / aromatic, astringent – / only border on border of scented pinks.
Have you seen fruit under cover / that wanted light – / pears wadded in cloth, / protected from the frost, / melons, almost ripe, / smothered in straw?
Why not let the pears cling / to the empty branch? / All your coaxing will only make / a bitter fruit – / let them cling, ripen of themselves, / test their own worth, / nipped, shrivelled by the frost, / to fall at last but fair / with a russet coat.
Or the melon – / let it bleach yellow / in the winter light, / even tart to the taste – / it is better to taste of frost – / the exquisite frost – / than of wadding and of dead grass.
For this beauty, / beauty without strength, / chokes out life. / I want wind to break, / scatter these pink-stalks, / snap off their spiced heads, / fling them about with dead leaves – / spread the paths with twigs, / limbs broken off, / trail great pine branches, / hurled from some far wood / right across the melon-patch, / break pear and quince – / leave half-trees, torn, twisted / but showing the fight was valiant.
O to blot out this garden / to forget, to find a new beauty / in some terrible wind-tortured place.

-Sheltered Garden (in whole)

I know not what to do, / my mind is reft: / is song’s gift best? / is love’s gift loveliest? / I know not what to do, / now sleep has pressed / weight on your eyelids.
Shall I break your rest, / devouring, eager? / is love’s gift best? / nay, song’s the loveliest: / yet were you lost, / what rapture / could I take from song? / what song were left?

-Fragment Thirty-six

Walter Arensberg

October 24, 2006


Major Dadaist figure
Majored in English and philosophy at Harvard University
Arensberg and his wife, Louise, were wealthy art collectors who purchased most of the works of the avant-garde French artist Marcel Duchamp
Thought poetry should appeal to

“all those alive without formula”

Described Dada poems as being representative of

“all that is young, alive, sporting”


Ing? Is it possible to mean ing? / Suppose / for the termination in g / a disoriented / series / of simple fractures / in sleep / Soporific / has accordingly a value for soap / so present to / sew pieces. / And p says: Peace is. / And suppose the i / to be bing in ing / As Beginning / Then Ing is to ing / as aloud / accompanied by times / and the meaning is apossibility / of ralsis.

-Ing (in whole)

Displays Arensberg’s exuberant and inconoclastic wordplay
puns, phonic repetitions, homophones, and invented words

Else von Freytag-Loringhoven

October 24, 2006


Leading Dadaist figure
Born on Polish-German border under a different, less regal name, the abused child of a stonemason
Arrived in the US. in 1909 after having lived a life filled with name changes, job changes, husbands, and lovers
Assumed her title of baroness through marriage to a man who soon left her
Lived in Greenwhich Village, New York working menial jobs, modeling for artists, and committing petty crimes
Arrived at parties wearing a birdcage or a bustle with a taillights
Produced art objects out of garbage
Improvised poems out of the words and images that chanced her way
Returned to Europe and became involved during this time in a bisexual affair with novelist Djuna Barnes, and she idolized Barnes for the remainder of her lifetime
Died in Paris when someone (it is suggested that it was a previous lover) snuck into her room and turned on the gas
Referred to in Pound’s Cantos as a woman living by

“the principle of non-acquiescence”

Mary Anne Caws describes her as

“the author of texts as bizarre as her outfits”


City stir- -wind on eardrum- – / dancewind : herbstained – – / flowerstained- -silken- -rustling- – / tripping- -swishing- -frolicking- – / courtesing- -careening- -brushing- – / flowing- -lying down- -bending- – / teasing- -kissing : treearms- -grass- – / limbs- -lips. / City stir on eardrum- -. / In night lonely / peers- -: / moon- -riding ! / pale- -with beauty aghast- – / too exalted to share ! / in space blue- -rides she away from mine chest- – / illumined strangely- – / appalling sister !
Herbstained- -flowerstained- – / shellscented- -seafaring- – / foresthunting- -junglewise- – / desert gazing- – / rides heart from chest- – / lashing with beauty- – / afleet- – / across chimney- – / tinfoil river- – / to meet- – / another’s dark heart- –
Bless mine feet !

-Appalling Heart (in whole)

Kaleidoscopic text suggests a scene both urban and natural, and an interior life marked by psychic mobility

It is- -is it- – ? / heart white sheet ! / kiss it / flame beat ! / in chest midst / print teeth / bite- –  – –   – –  / this green / ponderous night.

-Is It? (in whole)

Langston Hughes

October 17, 2006


Major American poet, leading name in Harlem Renaissance poetry, premier poet of political left, international poet
Born in Joplin, Missouri in a racially segregated society where lynching was a growing problem
Wrote more than 20 poems on lynching alone
Descended from a distinguished abolitionist African-American family
Held long term same-sex relationships
Strongly influenced by a diverse range of poets: Edgar Lee Masters, Vachel Lindsay, Amy Lowell, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman
Captivated by African-American singers more than any writer
Attended columbia University for one year, but spent the time exploring the world of Harlem
Unlike most poets, was able to support himself through writing
Traveled as a journalist to Spain during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39
Notably inventive in his use of culural styles and materials in poetry: adapted blues and jazz forms as well as oral traditions
Paired poetry with illustrations to tell stories more vividly
Relied on performing arts and drama to create a multi-voiced poetry
Investigated by FBI because of campaigns against lynching and leftist affiliations during the Cold War: not permitted to assume position of Poet Laureate
Forced to tone down politics in poetry and could not travel outside the country until 1960
Became the image of a poet who combines artistic innovation and vitality with joyful humor and humanity and the effective expression of social justice


Oh, silver tree! / Oh, shining rivers of the soul!
In a Harlem cabaret / Six long-headed jazzers play. / A dancing girl whose eyes are bold / Lifts high a dress of silken gold.
Oh, singing tree! / Oh, shining rivers of the soul!
Were Eve’s eyes / In the first garden / Just a bit too bold? / Was Cleaopatra gorgeous / In a gown of gold?
Oh, shining tree! / Oh, silver rivers of the soul!
In a whirling cabaret / Sing long-headed jazzers play.

-Jazzonia (in whole)

An attempt to adapt jazz to poetry

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, / Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon, / I heard a Negro play. / Down on Lenox Avenue the other night / By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light / He did a lazy sway … / He did a lazy sway … / To the tune o’ those Weary Blues. / With his ebony hands on each ivory key / He made that poor piano moan with melody. / O Blues! / Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool / He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool. / Sweet Blues! / Coming from a black man’s soul. / O Blues!
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone / I head that Negro sing, that old piano moan – / ‘Ain’t got nobody in all this world, / Ain’t got nobody but ma self. / I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’ / And put ma troubles on the shelf.’ / Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor. / He played a few chords then he sang some more – / ‘I got the Weary Blues / And I can’t be satisfied. / God the Weary Blues / And can’t be satisfied – / I ain’t happy no mo’ / And I wish that I had died.’ / And far into the night he crooned that tune. / The stars went out and so did the moon. / The singer stopped playing and went to bed / While the Weary Blues echoed through his head. / He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.

-The Weary Blues (in whole)
See Poetry Speaks

Transformation of isolated pain into solace, art, and human connection

I’ve known rivers: / I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.
My sould has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. / I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. / I looked upon the Nile and Raised the pyramids above it. / I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down th New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
I’ve known rivers: / Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

-The Negro Speaks of Rivers (in whole)
See Poetry Speaks

One of Hughes’ first poems, written in high school

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,’ / Then.
Besides, / They’ll see how beautiful we are / And be ashamed-
I, too, am America.

-I, too (in whole)
See Poetry Archive

Compare to Walt Whitman’s “I Hear American Singing”

Oh, wash-woman / Arms elbow-deep in white suds, / Soul washed clean, Clothes washed clean, / I have many songs to sing you / Could I but find the words.
Was it four o’clock or six o’clock on a winter afternoon, I saw you wringing out the last shirt in Miss White Lady’s kitchen? Was it four o’clock or six o’clock? I don’t remember.
But I know, at seven one spring morning you were on Vermont Street with a bundle in your arms going to wash clothes. / And I know I’ve seen you in the New York subway in the late afternoon coming home from washing clothes.
Yes, I know you, wash-woman.
I know how you send your children to school, and high-school, and even college. / I know how you work to help your man when times are hard. / I know how you build your house up from the washtub and call it home. / And how you raise your churches from white suds for the service of the Holy God.
I’ve seen you winging, wash-woman. Out in the backyard garden under the apple trees, singing, hanging white clothes on long lines in the sunshine. / And I’ve seen you in church on Sunday morning singing, praising your Jesus because some day you’re going to sit on the right hand side of the Son of God and forget you ever were a wash-woman. And the aching back and the bundles of clothes will be unremembered then.
Yes, I’ve seen you singing.
So for you, O singing wash-woman, / For you, singing little brown woman, / Singing strong black woman, / Singing tall yellow woman, / Arms deep in white suds, / Soul washed clean, / Clothes washed clean, / For you I have / Many songs to sing / Could I but find the words.

-Song to a Negro Wash-Woman (in whole)

Jessie Redmon Fauset

October 16, 2006


Best known for literary editorship of the NAACP publication The Crisis
Discovered and promoted Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay
One of the Harlem Renaissance’s most prolific novelists
Mentored women writers thorough literary salons in her home and developed a poetic voice described as the New Negro Woman’s voice
Born in a Philadelphia suburb, was the only African American in her high school and college classes
First African American at Cornell University
Denied teaching position in Philadelphia because of her race, moved to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. to teach
Poetry focuses on African-American middle-class life as seen through the eyes of the New Negro Woman


How did it happen that we quarreled? / We two who loved each other so! / Only the moment before we were one, / Using language that lovers know. / And then of a sudden, a word, a phrase, / That struck at the heart like a poignard’s blow. / And you went berserk, and I saw red, / And love lay between us, bleeding and dead! / Dead! When we’d loved each other so!
How could it happen that we quarreled! / Think of the things we used to say! / ‘What does it matter, dear, what you do? / Love such as ours has to last for aye!; / – ‘Try me! I long to endure your test!’ / – ‘Love, we shall always love, come what may!’ / What are the words the apostle saith? / ‘In the power of the tongue are Life and Death!’ / Think of the
things we used to say!

-Words! Words! (in whole)

Dear, when we sit in that high, placid room, / ‘Loving’ and ‘doving’ as all lovers do, / Laughing and leaning so close in the gloom,-
What is the change that creeps sharp over you? / Just as you raise your fine hand to my hair, / Bringing that glance of mixed wonder and rue?
‘Black hair,’ you murmur, ‘so lustrious and rare, / Beautiful too, like a raven’s smooth wing; / Surely no gold locks were ever more fair.’
Why do you say every night that same thing? / Turning your mind to some old constant theme, / Half meditating and half murmuring?
Tell me, that girl of your young manhood’s dream, / Her you loved first in that dim long ago- / Had she blue eyes? Did her hair goldly gleam?
Does she come back to you softly and slow, / Stepping wraith-wise from the depths of the past? / Quickened and fired by the warmth of our glow?
There, I’ve divined it! My wit holds you fast. / Nay, no excuses; ’tis little I care, / I knew a lad in my own girlhood’s past, – / Blue eyes he had and such waving gold hair!

-Touche (in whole)

Touche is a French fencing term, meaning here “I’ve got you”
African-American poets are forced to redefine metaphor: black can no longer mean evil, white good
The man in the poem has no words, weak description of her hair, she understands and forgives him
Both have a traditional view of a fairy prince, or princess

On summer afternoons I sit / Quiescent by you in the park, / And idly watch the sunbeams gild / And tint the ash-trees’ bark.
Or else I watch the squirrels frisk / And chaffer in the grassy lane; / And all the while I mark your voice / Breaking with love and pain.
I know a woman who would give / Her chance of heaven to take my place; / To see the love-light in your eyes, / The love-glow on your face!
And there’s a man whose lightest word / Can set my chilly blood afire; / Fulfillment of his least behest / Defines my life’s desire.
But he will none of me. Nor I / Of you. Nor you of her. ‘Tis said / The world is full of jests like these. – / I wish that I were dead.

-L Vie C’est la Vie (in whole)

The French expression la vie c’est la vie means ‘life-that’s life’