Anne Spencer Deonna Hayes
Anne Spencer writes of love, friendship, self-actualization, and the injustices of oppression that block it. Some of her poetry is directly inspired by personal relationships, but much forms a controlled, metaphorical, and seldom overtly angry statement of the value of those who have been oppressed (Johnston). Spencer never wrote a book of poems, and her poems were published in the anthologies of African Americans (Johnston). Many of Spencer’s poems employ biblical and mythical themes in combinations with images of her beloved garden; others address the oppression of women (Green 640). Beauty in the midst of death and decay and desire for immorality are another theme that runs throughout her work (Green 640). “Despite this strong statement of racial identity, Spencer went on to say that she reacted ‘to life more as a human being than as a Negro being,’ and she usually avoided writing the kind of protest poetry popular during the Harlem Renaissance,” says Dean. But she deals with the difficulties faced by the black community in the poem “White Things”.
Most things are colorful things-the sky, earth, and sea. Black men are most men; but the white are free!
White things are rare things; so rare, so rare
They stole from out a silvered world-somewhere.
Finding earth-plains fair plains, save greenly grassed,
They strewed white feathers of cowardice, as they passed; The golden stars with lances fine The hills all red and darkened pine,
They blanched with their wand of power;
And turned the blood in a ruby rose
To a poor white poppy-flower.
They pyred a race of black, black men,
And burned them to ashes white; then,
Laughing, a young one claimed a skull.
For the skull of a black is white, not dull, But a glistening awful thing; Made, it seems, for this ghoul to swing
In the face of God with all his might,
And swear by the hell that sired him: “Man-maker, make
Cited: Dean, Sharon G. "Anne Spencer." Gale Cengage Learning. Ed. Peter Quartermain, 1987. Web. 13 Sept. 2009.. Disheroon-Green, Suzanne. Voices of the American South. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005. Johnston, Sara A. "Poetry Criticism." Gale. American Women Writers, 2000. Web. 12 Sept. 2009..