Poetry Essay

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Life is for the Living
Have you ever been through a rough time and wanted to give up on everything? You might have even wished you were never born in the first place. Some try to commit suicide or just live life in a daze, uninspired and unemotional. The seasons come and go, yet life has not changed any. You may think how long can this last? Why is this happening to me? When can I give up for good? The truth is that everyone encounters rough times throughout their lifespan. However, living things are on Earth to do just that- live. No matter how bad things get, we can overcome it and even adapt to thrive in unfavorable conditions. This is a theme seen in poetry. The poems “Life is Fine” by Langston Hughes, “What the Living do” by Marie Howe, and “Root Cellar” by Theodore Roethke, all tell a message that life is meant to be lived no matter what the conditions are. In each of these poems imagery is the main element, but the situations described are unique. Langston Hughes wrote during the Harlem Renaissance, a time period when black life and culture began to flourish. However, a lack of rights, discrimination, a low quality of life, and hate crimes were still a part of everyday life for minorities living in America. Hughes writing shows that death is perceived to be a permanent solution to problems. People in tough situations generally think that death is a quick and simple way to run from the struggles that life creates. However, “Life is Fine” reveals an opposite side; it is actually harder to give up on life than to keep moving forward. Hughes creates a picture of how a man struggles with forcing himself to die and through two failing attempts at suicide; he becomes more conscious of what he has been given. This introduces the concepts of life being fine and how people should appreciate it instead of easily giving it away (“Poetry Analysis- Life Is Fine”). People should fight back, thrive, adapt, and do the best they can in life. Hughes says, “Though you may hear me holler,/And you may see me cry--/I'll be dogged, sweet baby,/If you gonna see me die” (Lines 23-26). Life is tough, it was never meant to be easy. Langston Hughes shows this message through imagery. In the poem “Life is Fine”, a man is contemplating committing suicide. First he tries to drown in a river, and then he tries to jump off of a sixteen story building. The river was too cold to sink and then the building was too high to jump. The first stanza appeals to the sense of touch and hearing. As he describes jumping into the water, one can imagine being numbed by the feeling of cold water. The river bank is rushing, waiting to engulf the person who jumped, but they keep coming up for air. They scream and cry, not fully wanting to die. They look for a way to struggle and hold on to life. In this moment of panic for the person who wanted to die, the reader can hear the sounds of this situation- crying, screaming, and water splashing. The third and fourth stanzas also contain a lot of imagery that appeals to the sense of hearing and sight. The man is standing on the ledge of a building about to jump and breaks into tears and screams. One can imagine him backing away from the ledge very slowly and picture the height of the building. As a reader, one can also hear the sounds and feel sorry for him. Later on in the poem it says, “So since I'm still here livin',/I guess I will live on” (Lines 19-20). After reading these lines, a person can visualize someone else living life and participating in everyday activities. This poem has a clear message about life that can be seen through imagery (“Poetry Analysis- Life Is Fine”). Marie Howe wrote a poem titled, “What the Living do”. Howe had a brother named Johnny that died of AIDS in 1989. Johnny grew up with Marie, they were best friends and she even said, “John’s living and dying changed my aesthetic completely” (“Marie Howe”). Howe starts “What the Living do”, by talking to Johnny. She says,” Johnny, the kitchen...
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