Examining Cullen

Topics: Meaning of life, Harlem Renaissance, Human skin color Pages: 3 (937 words) Published: December 3, 2013
Literature has long been difficult to understand, an author’s use of rhetoric can be analyzed to have many different significances as well as meanings. Poetry is particularly difficult to analyze, thus many writers and critics have created their own arguments for the meaning of different pieces. As literary critics and scholars ourselves, we in this English 100W class must determine what arguments we find valid, and which arguments give us deeper insight on pieces that we read and study.

One of such works is Countee Cullen’s Yet Do I Marvel, Cullen’s poem, though simple and short, contains in it masterfully used rhetoric that many have tried to derive meaning from. Critics who have analyzed the poem comment both on its use as a commentary on race as well as religion, others express that it is his lament of being “a poet and black” while some other critics insist that his implied irony expresses his blessing as a black poet. The true analysis, however, is how all of those different ideas come together to form the poem’s complete meaning.

Let us begin with the theme of race consciousness, generally derived by the last couplet in Cullen’s poem stating: “Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!”
Countee Cullen, as an author of the Harlem renaissance, wrote particularly on the idea of race and color, one of his books has even been titled Color and contains in it such poems as: “To a Brown Girl,” “To a Brown Boy,” “Black Magadalens,” “A Brown Girl Dead, “Bread and Wine,” “Wisdom Cometh with the Years,” “Threnody for a Brown Girl,” and “The Shroud of Color.” All of which pays tribute to the author’s awareness of color and the difference it made in America (Reimherr, 1963). Reimherr states that “There was a tension between Cullen's desire to be purely a lyric poet and his feelings of race-consciousness.” Thus, this idea insists the poem “Yet Do I Marvel” and its earlier presented lines to express the meaning: “When one is...

Bibliography: Web. 6 Mar. 2013.
Reimherr, Beulah. "Race Consciousness in Countee Cullen 's Poetry." Susquehanna University Studies 7.2 (June 1963): 65-82. Rpt. in Poetry Criticism. Ed. Carol T. Gaffke. Vol. 20. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998. Literature Resource Center. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.
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