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Poetry Analysis of "Common Grounds"

By preachxelectric Apr 27, 2010 654 Words
It seemed somewhat difficult to read through a poem and try to “get” how a poem got a tone from its diction and imagery. It sounded easy to think about, but the hard part got to be articulating how it worked and what made me actually feel a certain way over a poem. For that battle, I read “Common Ground” by Judith Ortiz Cofer. At first, I read the title and thought it’d be something for pro-equality and how people are essentially created equal. By the second stanza, with the line, “when I look in the mirror I see my grandmother’s stern lips,” it was clear that it wasn’t a poem about being created equal, but about how people do share that “common ground” with people they may not have wanted to grow up like. The title “Common Ground” clearly indicates that there is a common bond between people. The deeper meaning would be that people are all connected by their blood and their family ties, and the purpose of this poem is to express that for the reader. There’s a saying that we all end up like our parents, and that it’s unavoidable, and I think this poem goes along with that saying. The first stanza gives out a general idea that all of our blood keeps us pumping; it’s the reason why we live and why we have a story to tell or parents to grow up after. We all have bones that “speak in the language of death” because we are all eventually going to decay. All of our flesh “thins with age” and becomes wrinkled. Then Cofer does something strange and mentions, “through your pores rises the stuff of your origin.” Our origins are what’s inside of us, and eventually it is all going to come back out, and it’s going to be the same with everybody. The second stanza narrows down the author’s meaning to her own experiences. She now has her grandmother’s mouth, that speaks “of pain and deprivation” that she has never herself known. While both stanzas have a calmer and more serious tone, I think the second one is what really makes the reader think and creates a darker atmosphere, because it ends with the lines, “like arrows pointing downward to our common ground,” which indicates that we are all going to eventually die, and we will all go through that, no matter what. This poem definitely makes me feel connected, especially in the first stanza, with the common ground that I already see in myself with my grandparents. The tone, as I already said, is more serious and almost dark. I get the mental image of an aging woman in front of the mirror, pulling and poking at her face and wondering who gave her what gene, and whether or not she approves of it. I can’t really tell if the speaker is angry about these common grounds or just upset, but she does sound somewhat content with knowing what’s ahead in her future. That imagery works with the diction to create that gray-ish tone. Words and phrases like “arching in disdain” and “speaking in parenthesis at the corners of my mouth of pain and deprivation” just sound depressing and don’t create a very positive mood for aging. “Common Ground” definitely is a gloomy sounding poem that reminds the reader of what we have to look forward to, and how a lot of people take it more negatively than others. Some people welcome growing older and embrace these common grounds, and other people sit in front of the mirror and try to figure out how it happened. The speaker of this poem went from knowing what would happen herself to actually experiencing it and realizing how growing older would bring her to more things, like older age and death.

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