Wednesday, March 30, 2011

American Poet


I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind,

And did He stoop to quibble could tell why

The little buried mole continues blind,

Why flesh that mirrors Him must someday die,

Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus

Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare

If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus

To struggle up a never-ending stair.

Inscrutable His ways are, and immune

To catechism by a mind too strewn

With petty cares to slightly understand

What awful brain compels His awful hand.

Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:

To make a poet black, and bid him sing!

The above poem was written in 1925 when Cullen was 22 years of age. He was one of America's most recognized and honored poets of his time; and though his writings fell out of publication following his death, there has been a renewed interest in his work in recent years, especially in the realm of academia. I first became acquainted with this poet's work in the 1950s about a decade after his death.

I have read several analyses of this poem by different critics. It is evident to me that criticism consists of the application of one's own biases and belief-system to the work being analyzed, coating it with the lacquer of self that is the critic. The intent of the author is thus obfuscated to the point that it is difficult for one to determine what that meaning was at penning. It is the case that the poem can speak to you. Do not let the prejudices of others determine for you what is being said.

Countee Cullen, March 30, 1903 –January 9, 1946 RIP


Modern American Poetry, see esp. Fetrow


Vee said...

I like this poem - much feeling and depth in the writing. A poet I can appreciate!

Secondary Roads said...

What insight for a soul that perished while so young.

Sharkbytes said...

I think we have similar tastes in poetry - I was not familiar with Cullen.

vanilla said...

Vee, he was very expressive.

Chuck, I believe he saw clearly.

Shark, happy to have made the introduction.