Use of Imagery and Figurative Language in “Facing It” by Yusef Komunyakaa
In his poem, “Facing It”, Yusef Komunyakaa describes his ambivalent emotions towards the Vietnam War of which he was a veteran. Reflecting on his experiences, Yusef expresses his conflicting feelings about the Vietnam War and his feelings about how racism has played a part in America’s history. By using visual imagery and metaphoric language throughout the poem, Yusef is able to reflect the sad and confused emotions he felt while visiting the Vietnam memorial. Yusef begins the poem by using visual imagery to describe his face reflecting in the memorial wall. He uses the specific words “black face fades” to tell us a few things (line 1). One thing it tells us is that the speaker is African American. But the other, more important, thing it tells us is that he understands that, as his face faces into the dark granite, he wasn’t the only person affected by the war. The poet also has some anger and ambivalence about surviving the war. His emotions are seemingly hard for him to bottle up as we see from more visual imagery “Dammit: Not tears” (line 4). He then uses some metaphors to help describe his struggle to compose himself. The metaphors “I’m stone. I’m flesh”, show how the speaker is split on how he feels (line 5). The speaker says he is stone, almost as if the he is talking to himself and coaxing himself along not to cry. But, then admits he is flesh by stating that he is human. He is vulnerable to feelings of sadness. Then, by using more visual imagery and some personification of the stone memorial wall, the speaker describes how he is a prisoner to the wall and that his only escape from it is to turn away from it. Yusef writes, “I turn/this way-the stone lets me go./I turn that way-I’m inside” (lines 8-10). No matter which way he turns, his reflection is unavoidable. This could also be used as a metaphor for the speaker’s life. It doesn’t matter which direction
Cited: Komunyakaa, Yusef. “Facing It.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Sixth Edition. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. California: Longman, 2009. “Yusef Komunyakaa.” Poetryfoundation.org. Facing it by Yusef Komunyakaa, 2011. Web. 17 April 2011.