African and African-American Poetry Essay

Pages: 2 (732 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Literature

African/African-American Poetry

Poetry Analysis of Baraka and Soyinka

Amiri Baraka and Wole Soyinka are both voices of the black experience, but their differences in background, philosophy, and motive highlight the extreme separation of the black experience in the United States and in Africa. Baraka's poetry is punctuated, both in content and in style, by the angry forcefulness of someone who participated in the difficult birth of civil rights in America, while Soyinka's poetry is pervaded by the sadness and quiet patience of someone who has watched his country turn upon itself with deadly consequences.

In Baraka's poem "Fresh Zombies," the sharpness and bitterness for which he is known comes through not only in the content, but in his edgy use of syncopated rhythms, alliterative word play, and aggressive diction. His disgust with the younger generation is introduced with a litany of strong verbs that land like punches on the psyche of the reader: "Stink… Lie… Betray… Assassinate" (1-3). This is followed by an indictment in the form of a series of complicated double-entendres and near-homophones: "Not old toms / but New Toms, Double Toms / a Tom Macoute" (3-5). In addition to bringing in connotations of Uncle Tom ("New Toms") and the notorious death squads of Papa Doc in Haiti ("Tom Macoute"), the passage reiterates the rapid, punching rhythm with which the poem started. The stark violence of this rhythm is reinforced with the repetition of the passage at the end of the poem.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Essay on African and African-American Poetry Assignment

In contrast, Soyinka's "In the Small Hours" uses repetitive rhythms, diction, and alliteration to create an entrancing atmosphere that melts around the edges and never quite becomes concrete. Like "Fresh Zombies," "In the Small Hours" contains a series of verbs in its first few lines, but unlike Baraka's brutal strikes, these verbs land softly and fade: "Mutes…wreathes…Dims" (3-4). Soyinka's use of sibilant syllables intensifies this mesmerizing effect. In the second stanza, he describes "Applause…steeped in lassitude, / Tangled in webs of lovers' whispers" (12-13). In these lines, the shifting sibilance of the words, the sticky metaphor of the web, and the image of applause drenched in languidness combine to evoke the stupor of the bar and its patrons. Where Baraka used poetic… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "African and African-American Poetry" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

African and African-American Poetry.  (2010, May 20).  Retrieved April 4, 2020, from

MLA Format

"African and African-American Poetry."  20 May 2010.  Web.  4 April 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"African and African-American Poetry."  May 20, 2010.  Accessed April 4, 2020.