Final Notation by Adrienne Rich

Introduction and Theme
Final Notations is thematically an ambiguous poem. The poem is not understood because of the flowing imagery or stylistically presented issues, but because of the reader’s individual perception of the poem. We can say that unlike Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers, which has a few fixed themes and issues, Final Notations is infinite in its interpretations.

Final Notation is a cultural, political and personally emotional poem which has been written in a simple and neat style with careful economy of words. The poet is experiencing new lifestyles, sexual issues, motherhood tensions, friendship or even doctor patient relationship. Final notations shows the last message of the poet or the New World Order of a colonial power when it has controlled a territory or is coming to control it.

In short, we can say that Final Notation shows us things which are difficult at first become easy, things which are strange at one time, become familiar at another, things which may seem painful, but become joyful and pleasant which encountered and things which people apparently looking disgusting in the first impressions, later become our heart and soul with the passage of time.

A Critique of Final Notations
This is a fine, simple and little piece of poetry. The speaker is taken to be a lover and the addressee is the beloved. The lover is telling the beloved how to make love. The relationship between man and woman is very complex and this is the point to which the poem alludes.

The poem also shows a pregnant woman who is going to be operated on by her doctor and the doctor is giving instructions to the patients on how to react in this operation or is trying to reassuring the patient so that the seemingly difficult operation for the patient should be completed without any complication.

The poem has layers of meanings and open to various interpretations and the reader should be feel at large to interpret the poem at whatever level he wants. However, the approach suggested for the reader is three-fold. The first is male-female relationship, doctor-patient relationship and the policy of the colonial powers with the poor nations. Though some people might not agree, the poem does have imperialistic allusions in it structure and the American dominating attitude towards the world at large.

The poem is structurally simple, but thematically complex. The language is neat and no difficult word used, but the use of structure is ambiguous.

Development of Thought

Doctor-Patient relationship
The only complete analogy and supposition found in the poem is that a pregnant woman is lying before the doctor, may be to be delivered or her first visit to the doctor regarding her pregnancy. When the doctor is giving her instructions about the new experience. Though it looks difficult, yet

It will touch through your ribs, it will take all your heart
It will not be long, it will occupy your thought

The procedure is not long. Normally, it takes a few minutes unless complications arise. The child seemingly so disturbing and troubling in the belly of the mother after a short time and struggle on part of the woman will be delivered. As she says,

It will be short, it will take all your breath

The procedure may be difficult for some women who are taking this first experience, but it is very simple if it taken to be so. The few months of pregnancy are touching and delicate, special care needs to be taken, the overall trouble becomes a reward for the mother. As the doctor is says,

It will be simple; it will become your will.

The disturbing child in the belly ironically becomes the passion, will and the centre of full attention for the mother. The wants to get rid of the child during the delivery, but after the child is born, it becomes the most important thing of the world for her.

Lover and beloved relationship

It will not be simple, it will not be long
It will take little time, it will take all your thought
It will take all your heart, it will take all your breath.
It will be short, it will not be simple.

A young girl, running towards teens, feels a number of strange romantic and ideal desires, looks for partners and once finding a partner becomes terrified at the idea of physical relationship. As the woman, however bold or open-hearted, is naturally shy and repressed, is unable to understand the nature of the first physical union.   Ultimately the responsibility is left to the lover who in a small and brief style tries to explain the importance and process of this newfound physical relationship. The nature of this relationship is not simple, but once experienced, it will bring abundance of joys in the life the partner. This physical relationship may be the first one in the life of unmarried woman or may be the first on the first marriage night in which the lover is trying to make physical contacts. Thus things seemingly looking dangerous or troubling are sometimes sweet in actual experience.

Sexual Harassment in the Final Notations

It will touch through your ribs, it will take all your heart
It will not be long, it will occupy your thought
It a city occupied, as a bed is occupied
It will take all your flesh, it will not be simple

The modern world is the age of harassment especially for women. The young girls let loose for various experiences in the name of freedom and modernity or broadmindedness fall a prey to such harassment where studs try to encourage these young modern girls into such physical activities. These studs gradually make women slave to their own appetites; they occupy their bed like a ruler occupies a city. They leave them no options but be ruled and controlled by their passions.  The studs use various tactics to convince their new prey of the physical contact. The newborn and uncontrolled desires in women ultimately lead them astray without proper management or responsibility of their parents.

Theme of Eagerness and Oneness in Love

It will be short, it will take all your breath
It will be simple, it will become your will

Final Notations can also be taken to be a pure love poem in which the poet wants to achieve pure love regardless of the metaphysical speculations of Donne or casualness of Surrey-Wyatt in a concise and simple language. The most important point in lovemaking is eagerness and wilfulness. It is not difficult to achieve this state if sure determination and seriousness is show. This seriousness leads to oneness of the lovers when love becomes a passion or will of the two.

Unfaithfulness of the lover

You are coming into us who cannot withstand you
You are coming into us who never wanted to withstand you
You are taking parts of us into places never planned
You are going far away with pieces of our lives

The lover has left her beloved and went on to establish relations with some other woman and as a result he leaves a note behind giving her instructions that she should forget him. The above lines are an ample proof of this interpretation. The beloved outbursts into the above lines. The repetition of ‘coming into’ reinforces the idea of establishing relation with the beloved first and the phrase ‘pieces of life’ symbolises faithlessness and quit love on part of the lover. The love once developed in the beloved by the lover is disintegrating and those pieces are being shared by the lover with some body else.

Style, Imagery, Symbolism and Technique

The style of the poem is simple. There is no stylistic ambiguity. The only ambiguity lies in the nature of theme or the message of the speaker and also the identity of the speaker and the addressee needs to be resolved by different speculations from the reader. The themes of the poem range from personal to social, medical, psychological, political and emotional.
The repetition of different lines and words show intensity and importance of the theme (though theme is not directly addressed by the poet, it is to be explicated by the reader on the strength of his speculation. The lines are erratic which symbolise the complexity of the theme, again whatever it may be.
The title has been made ambitious. Does it related to music, dictation or what? In short, the poem is not rich in great images or symbols. The only thing important about the poem is complexity and that is what it is rich in.

Cutting the long story short, we can say that the poem depends on the experience of the reader for various interpretations. The complexity of the poem is also caused by the extreme subjectivity in the poem. The poem is too personal to understand in its true perspective. This complexity is the typical characteristic of modern American poetry which is based on confessional and experimental nature of their artists.

>Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers


Introduction and theme

Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers is a poem fully representing Adrienne Rich’s feminist ideas as well as her concept of art. This is also an autobiographical poem that reflects the deep recesses of Adrienne Rich’s mind and also the social mould in which she was thrown as a result of which she gives full vent to her feminist feelings in Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers. 
First, important theme to be running in the poem is the male-dominated society which leaves women with no choice but marry and be resigned to her fate whatever it is and wants woman to be hush regarding her rights. Women are taken as nothing but commodity to be possessed by others. They are projected to be having no emotions of their own  and so they must be dominated by the supreme authority of man. The poem also shows the urge of woman to break away the above shackles laid down by society for her and fulfil her desires of freedom. The tigers also represent art, which has permanent value as compared to the short-lived life of the artist who dies but whose art remains in the world. Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers is a fine example of feminist poetry, which holds a banner of protest against the patriarchal society.

A Critique of Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers 

Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers is a fine example of feminist poetry with imperialistic and psychological tensions of the 20th century in which especially women find themselves as insecure and afraid of the Patriarchal social authorities. This is also a visionary poem, which dreams of a happy and fearless life free of male domination, which may give equal and parallel opportunities to the womankind so that they can progress without being hampered by the social male constraints. Aunt Jennifer appears as a symbol of the oppressed women and also the nations dominated by imperialistic powers.
Poem also shows the routine life of a woman any where in the world. Jennifer like any woman is sitting embroidering her screen may be for her marriage is thinking about her future and the household duties followed by it. Her end of life is also similar and reminiscent of a woman’s common lot.
The poem is packed with a number of themes, images symbols and various stylistic merits, which we may discuss as under:

Development of Thought
Fight for the Rights
They do not fear the men beneath the tree;
They pace in sleek chivalric certainty

Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers is also ironical because most of the women issues emerge not mainly because of male domination, but because of their own urge to get themselves free. Though male domination over women is a factor yet it is their desire to forget their feministic features and behave like men or become like men. Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers is a fight for the equal rights. Aunt Jennifer wishes for a tiger’s life free of jungle law where she may define the law and lay restrictions and scope for the womankind. She breaks away from the 20th century traditions in which woman is nothing but a sex symbol. Her prancing tigers exhibit her desire to let loose her ambitions and materialise them.
Women, be they American or Pakistani, are propagating against men and want to break away from the (secure) circles they have laid about them, but I fail to understand what equal rights these women are striving to find because they already possess the rights they must have. I personally believe that most of the tensions for women are not created by men but by themselves. It is the woman who wants to play the role of man, they have forgotten their sense of womanhood, they don’t know it means to be a woman, they think they can replace men, but they don’t try to understand that God didn’t create man and woman equal. They are physically, emotionally, domestically and socially as different as two poles of the world. God created women equal in terms of their reverence, status and importance, but the problem is that women don’t want to excel in second priority of divine creation rather they want to improve in the former aspect that is where they are mistaken and this is what destroys them in society and it is unnatural desire. It is actually that women themselves are responsible for their sense of inferiority and male domination.

Dark Aspect of Married Life

The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’ hand

When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.

Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers paints a decidedly dark portrait of a married woman’s life in the domestic sphere. Patriarchal society, oppression and female helplessness are all delicately chided in this powerful poem. By examining the way Rich uses metaphor to further her purpose, we will unearth the deeper and multi-layered implications of this well known piece.
In the first stanza, we are introduced to the sympathetic protagonist of the poem, Aunt Jennifer. Instead of describing her, however, Rich chooses to establish Aunt Jennifer’s ownership of Tigers and continues to describe them. The tigers are vivacious and vividly portrayed. The tigers are colorfully described as “bright” and seeming full of energy; they happily “prance across the screen.

Aunt Jennifer is described as conducting needle work with a piece of wool. ” We then realize that this menial, domestic task is made difficult by the “massive weight” of the wedding ring that Aunt Jennifer is wearing. ” This is a particularly daunting notion as usually we thing of death as although tragic in many senses, ultimately a liberator. ” Completely free and fearless of the men below them, the tigers “pace in sleek chivalric certainty. Where the first stanza serves as a medium to explain what the tigers represent, the second stanza tells us who Aunt Jennifer is, and what she represents. So in order to create something to stand up against the patriarchal society in which she lived, Aunt Jennifer decided on masculine creatures. Aunt Jennifer and her tigers are in fact polar opposites, her tigers are everything that she isn’t and wishes to be. ”

In a possibly subconscious attempt to live vicariously through free and happy beings, Rich’s protagonist, Aunt Jennifer, has created tigers. However, under the oppressive world that she lives in, even this relatively symbol embroidery seems somewhat of a daunting task, for “even the ivory needle is hard to pull. However, Aunt Jennifer’s oppression is so extreme that not even death will grant her freedom. ” As the poem unravels, we realize these tigers serve as a sharp contrast to the psyche of Aunt Jennifer. In a very bittersweet closing couplet, the tigers are described as eternal beings, having the freedom to forever “go on prancing, proud, and unafraid. In short, she says that even in death, she will be oppressed by patriarchal society, or “ringed with the ordeals she was mastered by. Here, we begin to really appreciate the juxtaposition between Aunt Jennifer and her tigers. Sedentary and listless, Aunt Jennifer represents an oppressed housewife lacking the ability to stand up for herself.

Aunt Jennifer – a symbolic character

Who is Aunt Jennifer? Does she even exist? I had to ask myself these questions before even going further into the poem. The answers opened the door to a deeper meaning behind Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers. Based on Adrienne Rich’s background I believe Aunt Jennifer did exist. However, Aunt Jennifer was not Rich’s aunt. Aunt Jennifer represented women all over the world, particularly women in American, who were caught under the oppressive hand of a patriarchal society. Adrienne Rich was perhaps one of those women. Rich, one of the most influential poets of her time, dealt with controversial issues such as sexuality, race, language, power, and women’s culture. Her passion in this area forced her to look and challenge the standard and the norm. The popular cliché that refers to marriage as that old “ball and chain” takes on a more serious meaning with Rich as she reveals, through the simple lines of Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers, a woman’s struggles with expression, rebellion, and a society where power is defined as masculine. This poem  tells of “Aunt Jennifer”, who is the symbol of feminism in this particular poem. This poem offers an image of power revealed and restrained by domestic arts. This is shown in the case that she is restrained by her husband’s wedding band, thus revealing that she Aunt Jennifer was expected to be a devoted and domesticated wife. Aunt Jennifer living her part in a man’s world is forcing her into a role that she does not fit naturally. Aunt Jennifer symbolises oppressed women, imperialistically dominated nations and weakness.

Feminist conflict
According to Deborah Pope, the poem shows a conflict in the feminist mind. The fearful, gloomy woman waiting inside her darkening room for the emotional and meteorological devastation to hit could be Aunt Jennifer, who is similarly passive and terrified, overwhelmed by events that eclipsed her small strength. “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” is, however, an even clearer statement of conflict in women, specifically between the impulse to freedom and imagination (her tapestry of prancing tigers) and the “massive weight” of gender roles and expectations, signified by “Uncle’s wedding band.” Although separated through the use of the third person and a different generation, neither Aunt Jennifer in her ignorance nor Rich as a poet recognizes the fundamental implications of the division between imagination and duty, power and passivity.

Oppression, Rebellion and Immortality

When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.
The tigers in the panel that she made
Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid.

According to Thomas B. Byars, Rich’s own remarks on this poem, in “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision” , are an important starting place; she discusses how even in a formal and consciously distanced poem of her early period, she can discover clear (if latent) feminist concerns.

Perhaps most interesting, however, is the fact that the needlework tigers, like Rich’s poem itself, are ineffectual as rebellion, because the very means of their rebellion are inscribed in the oppressor’s language, and thus reveal an unhealed split in the psyche of the oppressed.
The tigers display in art the values that Aunt Jennifer must repress or displace in life: strength, assertion, fearlessness, fluidity of motion. And the poem’s conclusion celebrates the animal images as a kind of triumph, transcending the limited conditions of their maker’s life. Accepting the doctrine of “ars longa, vita brevis,” Rich finds in her character’s art both persistence and compensation; she sees the creations as immortalizing the hand that made them, despite the contrary force of the oppressive structure of Aunt Jennifer’s conventional marriage, as signified by the ring that binds her to her husband. This doctrine is utterly consonant with what was, according to Rich, “a recurrent theme in much poetry I read [in those days]. . . the indestructibility of poetry, the poem as vehicle for personal immortality” (Blood 168). And this more or less explicit connection helps show how deeply implicated Rich herself was in Aunt Jennifer’s situation and her achievement, despite the “asbestos gloves” of a distancing formalism that “allowed me to handle materials I couldn’t pick up barehanded” (Lies 40-41).

The problem, however, is that the tigers are clearly masculine figures–and not only masculine, but heroic figures of one of the most role-bound of all the substructures of patriarchy: chivalry. Their “chivalric certainty” is a representation by Aunt Jennifer of her own envisioned power, but it is essentially a suturing image, at once stitching up and reasserting the rift between her actual social status an her vision. Aunt’s name, after all, echoes with the sound of Queen Guinevere’s; her place in chivalry is clear. Her tigers are only Lancelots, attractive because illicit, but finally seducing her to another submission to the male. So long as power can be envisioned only in terms that are culturally determined as masculine, the revolutionary content of the vision, which was all confined to a highly mediated and symbolic plane in any case, will remain insufficient. Indeed, the fact that assertion against the patriarchy is here imagined only in terms set by the patriarchs may be seen as this poem’s version of the tigers’ “fearful symmetry.” And the “Immortal hand or eye” that framed their symmetry is not Aunt Jennifer’s framing her needlework, but patriarchy’s, framing Aunt Jennifer.

Symbolism in Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers

The poem is packed with symbolism from the first to the last. Introduction of the tigers, how they are prancing across a screen  symbolizes Aunt Jennifer, roaming in a world freely; although it is telling of a screen she crafted. The tigers are bright topaz denizens because they are different in the world, and are not just plain, (green), like everyone else. This symbolizes Aunt Jennifer’s individual thinking, and how she is different. The tigers don’t fear the men beneath the tree because Aunt Jennifer did not fear men at first and was living as an independent individual with her own mind.

The tigers are slowly walking elegantly, showing that they are confident and ‘chivalric’ (gentlemanly)—this may show that Aunt Jennifer knows she is fine without having to be married. This line is telling of Aunt Jen’s fingers ‘fluttering’ through her wool–this is just an allusion using an activity she likes to do, to tell of how she was roaming freely and happily before marriage. The ivory needle is a symbol for how hard it is to keep yourself independent and essentially a free-thinker when you are married. Uncle’s wedding band on her finger is massive because he is strict towards how she should be a domesticated wife and not a free soul. It “sits heavily upon her hand” because her marriage has taken a toll on her, and she can feel it heavily on her heart and soul. When Aunt Jen dies, she will die as a lonely and depressed woman, and her hands are terrified because they never got to be free again.

Jen’s hands stand as a symbol of her body, in that she was tired and sick from the ordeals (being a housewife) that she was mastered by [her husband–making her act this way] The tigers are a symbol of what will be left of Aunt Jen’s existence after her death, in that she never got to “prance” as proud and unafraid when she was married and was constrained by what women were expected.

Style and Imagery
Visual imagery predominates in the first stanza. We learn that the speaker is a niece or nephew from the title and the first line, but we actually learn very little about Aunt Jennifer herself. Instead we see the tapestry that she is weaving and the tigers that “prance”across it. The two action verbs “pace”and “prance emphasize the strength of these animals, while the vividness oftheir “topaz”color draws attention to their striking presence. The aabb rhyme scheme mimics the rhythm of their movement. The word “denizens”has a negative connotation that links with the dark picture of “Uncle”in the second stanza.

In the second picture we shift to a visual picture of Aunt Jennifer. The alliteration “fingers fluttering”suggests her physical weakness; she is so feeble that she has trouble manipulating the needle “through her wool.”In the last part of the stanza we find out that her troubled marriage has had something to do with her condition. The words “massive weight suggest oppression, as do the words “Sits heavily.”The end rhymes “band”and “hand”also indicate that being married has kept this woman down. The point of view here would seem to be that of a woman, indicating that the speaker is the niece rather than Aunt Jennifer’s nephew.
In the third stanza, the speaker projects into the future, and suggests that once she is dead, Aunt Jennifer will continue to be encumbered by her earthly marriage. Her hands will still be “terrified,”suggesting that “Uncle has been so abusive that his reach will exceed human limitations. The word “ringed”has a double connotation—indicating not only the ring that “sits heavily”on her hand, but the difficulties in her life that will continue to surround her. The“tigers in the panel”will also go on forever, but by contrast they will continue into infinity as fierce, arrogant beings. The alliteration in the last line of “prancing”and “proud”heightens our sense of the irony in this poem, because they are so much stronger than the woman who created them.
It is difficult to depict a primary poetic technique within this poem. The reason being that, many devices are used to bring forth the message that Rich has embedded within it. However, symbolism is the most prominent. The poem is set in a traditional format, using simple rhyme and meter to give the reader a sense of formality. Adrienne Rich’s “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”, depicts an audacious woman trapped within a timid and suppressed life. Marriage and the culture that supports it have effected the character in this poem greatly. Reality seems inescapable because of the ring that “sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand”. The tapestry that Aunt Jennifer is creating in the poem, is very symbolic of her potential. When you picture a tiger, the words power, fluidity, nobility, and strength may accompany that image. Those same words accompany the hidden life of Aunt Jennifer.
The first stanza opens the poem with a truly bold image of tigers as “They pace in sleek chivalric certainty”. The tigers obviously have a very significant symbolic purpose in this poem. They portray the fearlessness, assertion and power, that Aunt Jennifer displaces in order to lead her conventional life

Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers is a fabulous poem may also be serving a wife of a colonial officer (Uncle) and being repressed because of his hard attitude. Though Jennifer is unable to change the patriarchal system, she, to some extent, contributes to the rebellion against this system which leaves women but no options to perform in society. The poem is remarkable for its style technique, imagery, symbolism and theme – a typical quality of Adrienne Rich as a modern poet.  Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers being a rebellious in nature is an autobiographical poem at the same time because the repressed and dominated personality of Jennifer parallels Adrienne Rich’s. In short, the poem is to be understood at so many different levels that its single interpretation is not possible.

>Major Characteristics of American Female Poetry


The field of communication for a long time has been dominated by the white male Anglo-Saxon Protestant voice. The voices of African, Asian, Latino, Jewish Americans have too long been marginalized. Increasingly, there is nowadays an interest in the cultural insights of experts from other traditions and culture. An attempt is made at reconciling a wide range of cultures and communities in a democratic set-up.

This article seeks a refreshing insight into the vision and position of African American Women’s Poetry since the 1970s as they reach out to a dream yet unfulfilled. The need for highlighting minority voices (here those of African American Women poets) is more compelling than ever before because their speech communication had been silenced far too long. Efforts to build bridges and opportunities have not borne the desired results. Necessarily, these voices will present a perspective different from the majority perspective.

Gonzalez, Houston and Chen (1997) hold the theoretical view that race, culture, gender, class, and ethnicity are not “external variables but rather inherent features in an ongoing process of constructing how we understand and participate in the larger social, cultural, and political discourse” (Essays in Culture, Ethnicity, and Communication, p.x). America in the 1990s has seen debate on immigration policies, inter-racial conflicts, anxiety over influx of new immigrants, and the greater visibility of minority groups. The year 1997 saw President Clinton initiating a series of debates on race relations but the disparate voices have not to date come out with anything tangible and workable, in fact, there is a hardening of stances. America seems to be more of a mosaic than a melting pot, more colourful and polyphonic with rich cultural diversity and pluralism. It is in this light that we see African American Women’s voices. There is now more than ever before a felt need for more space for diverse cultural voices and perspectives, and a stress on the value of diversity.

It must be understood, however, that minority/ethnic voices not only express criticism of discrimination and injustice but also express a culture to celebrate. It is a culture richly soaked in tradition, maybe not expressed boldly before but now revived with an awareness of its intrinsic qualities, for instance, the notion that Black is beautiful and unique. What they are creating is an awareness of the ills of the society and an environment of tolerance for diversity so that people could work together to achieve a common goal. It is also a legitimate claim for dignity and equal opportunities. The cultural significance of these expressions changes from time to time within the changing social and political contexts. But artists with their imaginative power transform and bring home these strengths. It is important to realise that the direction of definitions of race, culture, and ethnicity is ever shifting. Also, my point of view about another ethnic group’s expression might be different from the mainstream Anglo-Saxon tradition.

It is possible to get lost in the maze of implications concerning culture, ethnicity, and race. Shuter (1990) notes that “most inter-cultural research is essentially directed toward “theory validation” and fails to describe how people actually live and interact “….The challenge for inter-cultural communication in the 1990s … is to develop a research direction and teaching agenda that returns culture to pre-eminence…”(The Centrality of Culture, p. 238). Christian(1988), another cultural expert, observes that “People of colour have always theorised – but in forms quite different from the Western form of abstract logic….[O]ur theorising… is often in narrative forms, in the stories we create, in riddle and proverbs, in the play with language, because dynamic rather than fixed ideas seem more to our liking” (The Race for Theory, p. 68). Some theoretical question raised by cultural experts are: Why does one ethnic group seek to dominate another group? What are the structures, psychologies, and languages of domination? How do women, especially Black women, fight these forces of domination? How do we reach out to a better future, realising the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.? By reading and interpreting the rich voices in poetry, stories, and experiences told by African American Women Writers, I believe, we can have a better understanding of their position and their cultural practices. My approach is more a complement to the theory-oriented approaches to literary study.

Can poetry be political, didactic and art?
Can poetry be political, didactic and art? This is the question that has to be addressed in the context of post 1960s African American Women’s Poetry, since it was viewed as merely social and political. The answer, of course, is that it is possible and is more effectively proved in the poetry of Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez, Rita Dove and others. Clarence Major cites the more recent poetry of African American women poets as being good example of how it is possible to reconcile both the political, the didactic, and art.

Among recent African-American poets, Audre Lorde, I think, proved that it can. Sonia Sanchez, with her haiku-like style, in her exploration of self in exchange and conflict with community, in her probing of the personal self’s relation to the public self, in her search for the higher public self, in her search for the higher public good in that public self, in her constant redefining of those selves, especially as female body and spirit, proves that it is possible….Joyne Cortez, with her improvisational free form, in her struggle to define the black female in the context of family, class, body, spirit, and moral self, proves that it’s possible to focus on these social issues – as well as drug addiction, persecution, rape, war, sexism, racism – and create poems that stand on their own as works of solid art. (The Garden Thrives : Twentieth-Century African-American Poetry, 1996, p.xxviii-xxix).
African American women since the 1970s have proved that black poets can write works of art with pure creative energy.

For several reasons I have taken for study the post 1970s African American Women’s Poetry. The 1960s poetry marks the change in attitude and takes a militant posture with the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement and the Black Arts Movement that brought in cultural nationalism. For many it seemed that poetry written during this period was purely political and social. The poetry written by African American women that followed in the 1970s and thereafter (influenced by the Feminist Movement) proved that Black poetry could be both didactic and political, and art as well. It is inevitable, to a certain degree, that it will be political and social, until the playing field of opportunities is level. The post 1970s poetry is remarkably rich in variety of expression drawing on different styles and cultural traditions. These women writers may well affect society through their message that it alters perceptions and minds. They are not pure propaganda as it has been sometimes made out for reasons other than merely literary. Many of these poems are original, organic, vibrant and pregnant with a message at the same time. It is now diverse and most often brilliant poetry. It is musical, the voice of the people expressing in what they are good at, a race of people gifted and artistic. Maya Angelou states, “We are a tongued folk. A race of singers. Our lips shape words and rhythms which elevate our spirits and quicken our blood…I have spent over fifty years listening to my people.”(Mari Evans, ed., 1984, p. 3). Sonia Sanchez confesses “I had to wash my ego in the needs/aspirations of my people.” (Mari Evans, ed., 1984, p. 415). The autobiographical statement is central to African American women’s poetry expressing their sufferings, pain, and their deferred dreams. It is a means of getting at the truth behind their experience. Selwyn R. Cudjoe (1984) notes that “The practice of the autobiographical statement until the contemporary era, remains the quintessential literary genre for capturing the cadence of the Afro-American being, revealing its deepest aspirations and tracing the evolution of the Afro-American psyche under the impact of slavery and modern U.S. imperialism.”

In 1977 Barbara Smith in “Towards a Black Feminist Criticism” called on Black women to create a body of literature that “embodies the realisation that the politics of sex as well as the politics of race and class are interlocking factors.” (Gloria Hull et al. ed., 1982,). There came a shift in African American women’s writing which raised critical issues about the nature of sexism in America. Thus, they focused on themselves as women and as Blacks. Since the 1970s African American women have explored a variety of themes and expressed their genius in different forms. Doors that had been traditionally closed in the academy (dominated by white and male) began to open with the proliferation and quality of writing by women writers. From the 1970s through the mid-nineties African American poetry, and women’s poetry in particular, continued to gain in richness, universality of theme, and technical maturity.
Robert Frost-Langston Hughes and Adrienne Rich
The wide gauntlet of American literature in poems can best be represented by the three great authors, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes and Adrienne Rich. The poems reflect the themes of a growing nation that introduces new technology, freedoms and the outpouring of women’s voices that once were kept silent. These poems capture the energy of pioneering America, emancipation, and the growing liberation of women.
To capture the true atmosphere of the changing face of American literature, no course would be complete without students experiencing the undulating power and portrayal of America‘s rise to economic greatness, as conveyed through the vespered mind of its naturalist writer, Robert Frost. Robert Frost’s  poem,   “The Line Gang ”  theme portrays the energy of advancing civilization, while capturing the feeling of excitement of the unknown, an exitement, which acts as a type of catalyst for the advancing Line Gang.  The lonely cable, strung high above the homes, hangs on silent tracks, propelling its own soundless tune of hidden words. Formed words from random sparks of lifeless energy, transformed  by the harnessing of lightning and mechanical taps: codes deciphered through the be-speckled eyes of the ever vigilant telegraph officer. The dead trees are resurrected through the threading of a magic cord,  as a Rumplestiltskin type of magic transforms dead wood and golden cord into a Republican instrument played on the   wide expanses of America‘s isolated sounding boards. The new instruments path remains unnoticed, selves by the occasional glance of a Bald eagles gaze. 
Even at first glance this poem should be included in any course, as it really covers some of the most important themes of thought for that time period. It echoes the energy and advancement of  a new force, unleashed on the  open forests of America. It captures the pioneering spirit of small isolated pioneering communities brought to life, if but for the moment by magic of the melting pots of American commerce. The criteria I used for determining this poems adequacy, was the way it performed as a unique type of time capsule. This poem served to highlight the period when the Western territories, with all its wide expanses of land, are bridged through a new form of mass media. The spirit of liberty and free speech are interwoven with the fortitude of comradely work ethics captured in the wild forest towns of the unspoiled west. Bridging  the gulf of communication with strangers and sourjouers, made one through  their conquering of savage mountainous forest, the Line gang is just another type of great pioneer hidden behind the scenes. Like the men Lewis and Clark. They explored the wide swatches of land and rivers, leaving a new language in the  expanses of western frontier, still just as Important as Lewis and Clark.
In Langston Hughes, ” The Negro Speaks of Rivers”,  he is able to capture the feeling of the ageless flow of rivers that are older than man himself. “…I’ve known rivers :I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins…” (Lauter, lines 1-3). He eludes to the fact that by his association with these four rivers , his soul has been marked and enlarged by its caress. “…My soul has grown deep like the rivers…”(Lauter, line 13). Yet Hughes prose has a method whose tempo beats like a African drum, sounding out the evolution of man from his beginning at the fertile crescent on the banks of the Euphrates . His poetic sojourn carries you away to the Congo huts, where his forebears developed their early democracy. Finally, the framing of all he is stems from the banks on the Nile, A place where Moses song of freedom is finally repeated on the Mississippi river, by Abe Lincoln’s journey to New Orleans. “…I heard the singing of the Mississippi river when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans…” (Lauter, lines 8-9).Hughes Poem covers one of the most important themes of that period, the embodiment of our love for humanity with the beginnings of a just and noble society . His poems takes you back to his cultural roots, possibly at the site of creation itself. By employing a type of spiritual preeminence, full of hope and joy , he has found a way to bring hope to his race as well as our nation as a whole. This poem a represents a uniquely new idea on the controversies of that that time by employing the themes of   Language , music and emotions of the common people of the area’s Harlem, New York. His use of rythm and beat in this poem served o celebrate his enjoyment and pride of being a black man.
In Adrienne Rich’s poem, “Coast to Coast”, the theme centers around the a women narrator trapped in a silent regime of daily repetitious tasks. “…In grief and fury blending to the accustomed tasks the vacuum cleaner plowing realms of dust…” (Rich, lines 3-5). The protector and the protected have been covered with a type of dust that gathered and fogged their relationship. “…realms of dust the mirror scoured grey webs behind framed photographs…” (Rich, lines 5-6). Her marriage has swallowed her creative identity. The rainbow of light which guides her understanding, motivates her to send out this warning to her fellow traveler in suffrage. “If you can read and understand this poem send something back: a burning strand of hair a still-warm, still-liquid drop of blood a shell thickened from being battered year on year send something back…” (Rich ,line 37-42). I liked this poem because it points to a common problem even in today’s marriages, the lack of continued communication after tying the knot. Sharing in each others personnel endeavors helps to cement the relationship into a bond that can not be broken.
This Poems ought to be included in any American Literature course ,as it endeavors to covers some of the most important themes of women’s thought for that time period.  It shows women’s struggle to conform to domestic chores while embracing their clear power intellectual  skills. Skills that often had to remain dormant in fear of arousing suspicion and the reprisals of a society that had not yet come to terms with the idea of a educated women equal to her spouse in everyway.  This poems represents another uniquely new idea and focuses on  controversies for that time.   She employs her knowledge of complex poetic meter and rhythm schemes through her love of the lyrical as well as rhythmic .  This poem helps to chronicle the evolutionary  thoughts of feminism of her time. Her poem’s are unique in that they do not clash with the  Democratic/Puritan vision of the “City On the Hill” , which goes through the extremes of doing away with the concept of marriage.  Rather she seeks to explore a women’s inner struggle through the incorporation of politics being part of the inner women’s day to day life. She is the fabric of what makes up our entire social institution. There is no way to separate the social and economic and political state of womanhood without unbalancing the system. She conveys the feelings of the educated women of her time that clearly see the reality of equality in every aspect of “The City On The Hill” be a shared endeavor.

Heart of Darkness: Significance of Title

The phrase “Heart of Darkness” has two meanings. Literally, the title refers to the dark continent of Africa known as the Congo. “Heart of Darkness” is an appropriate title for the novel because Marlow describes his experiences of the interior region of the continent which was known as Congo. The events at the beginning and at the close of the novel occur outside Congo but the major and the most significant events of the story take place in the Congo and on the river Congo. The savages really belong to the heart of darkness.

 There are other features of the novel too, justifying the title “Heart of Darkness”. One such feature is the description of the wild scenery of the thick, impenetrable jungle, and the suggestive picture of the natives not fully visible to the white men sailing over the river Congo. At one point in the novel Marlow says that sailing up the river Congo was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world. He then refers to the great silence of the impenetrable forests where the air was warm, thick, heavy and sluggish. Marlow perceived no joy in the brilliance of the sunshine in that region. The long stretches of the water-way ran on into a mob of wooded islands. One could lose one’s way on that river as one might lose one’s way in a desert. The stillness prevailing there was not the stillness of peace but of a relentless force brooding over some mysterious purpose. Now, a description of this kind occurs later when Marlow tells us that the night came suddenly and seemed to strike him blind. Then, about three in the morning, Marlow heard a loud splash as though a gun had been fired. When the sun rose, there was a white fog, very warm and damp, and more blinding than the night. The fog remained there like something solid. A little later in the morning the fog lifted as a shutter lifts. Marlow then had a glimpse of the towering multitude of trees, of the immense jungle, and of the blazing little ball of the sun hanging over it, all perfectly still. And then the white fog came down again. There are other descriptive passages of the same kind in the book, too.

The barbarism of the natives reinforces the effect of these descriptive passages and intensifies the atmosphere of mystery and fear. Reading about the natives, we get an even stronger impression that we are in the midst of darkness. On one occasion, the natives, seeing Marlow’s steamer sailing up the river, draw near the river-bank in order to launch an attack upon the intruders. Marlow on this occasion hears a muffled rattle, then a very loud cry, as of infinite desolation. This cry gives rise to a feeling of terror in the hearts of all the white men. Then the attack by the natives actually begins. The white men then hit back by firing their rifles. In the fighting, the helmsman of the steamer is killed with a spear hurled at him by a native. It is the backwardness and the ignorance of the natives which creates the effect of darkness. The natives have merely attacked the steamer because they have received instructions to do so from their supremo, Mr. Kurtz. The personality of Mr. Kurtz is very important because it is he who sums up the whole essence of the barbarism and the savagery of the natives. Marlow has conveyed to us the demonic character of Mr. Kurtz by the use of highly suggestive phrases. Instead of civilizing the natives, Mr. Kurtz has himself become barbarian. Mr. Kurtz has begun to identify himself with the savages. He has been presiding over their midnight dances which always end with “unspeakable rites”. In Marlow’s opinion, Mr. Kurtz has taken a high place among the devils of the land. He has been experiencing “abominable satisfaction”, and he has been gratifying without restraint his “various lust”. In short, Mr. Kurtz has become part of the darkness of the Congo.

The phrase “Heart of Darkness” has yet another meaning. It also stands for an exploration of the depths of Marlow’s own mind or soul. The human mind may also be regarded as a kind of Dark Continent whose exploration is even more difficult than the exploration of Congo. The book called “Heart of Darkness” may be treated as a journey by Marlow into his own sub-conscious mind or into the sub-conscious mind of all mankind. Marlow’s journey into the Congo is metaphorically a psychological and anthropological might-journey. The book called “Heart of Darkness” is symbolically the story of an essentially solitary journey involving a profound spiritual change in the voyager. Marlow prepares us for such a journey at the very outset. But it is, at the same time, a psychological and mystical journey. Marlow also tells us indirectly that, by paying close attention to the surface reality of the story and its external details, we would be able to arrive at an inner meaning. Thus Conrad is here able to blend morality and adventure in a unique manner, as he has done in some of his other novels as well.

There are many passages in the course of Marlow’s narration in which he gives us glimpses of his own mind. At one point he tells us in explicit terms that he has always hated and detested lies because he has always found a taint of death and a flavour of mortality in lies. In the same context, Marlow also says that it is not possible for any man to convey to others the life-sensation of any period of all existence. He says:

“We live, as we dream – alone.”

At another point Marlow says that the mind of man is capable of anything because everything is in it. In order to endure the stark realities of human life, a man should possess an inner strength. What a man needs is a deliberate belief, at yet another point in the novel, Marlow tells us of the effect on his own mind of the savage sight of human skulls hanging from the tops of the posts fixed to the ground outside Mr. Kurtz’s residence. Later, Marlow tells us of the effect on his mind of Mr. Kurtz’s arguments defending his action in slipping away from the ship’s cabin into the jungle. Towards the end of the novel, Marlow tells us the working of his own mind when several persons come to him, one after the other, claiming the packet or papers and the photograph which, Mr. Kurtz had given him for safe custody; and he also reveals to us the working of his mind when he goes the meet Mr. Kurtz’s Intended. In all these cases, Marlow tells us not about his conscious thoughts but also tries to probe his sub-conscious mind. This subconscious mind is also the heart of darkness which Marlow or Conrad tries to explore.

A critic, commenting upon the title of the novel, says that the “darkness” here is many things: it is the unknown; it is the subconscious; it is also a moral darkness; it is evil which swallows up Mr. Kurtz and it is the spiritual emptiness which he sees at the centre of existence; but above all it is mystery itself, the mysteriousness of man’s spiritual life.

>Chaucer’s Style and Versification


J.M. Manly avers in the Cambridge History of English Literature, ‘Fourteenth century was a dark epoch in the history of English’. This statement is both historically and linguistically correct when applied to the medieval period. The English Language was in infancy and required the hands of a craftsman and the mind of a genius to reach its maturity. This task was left to no other than Chaucer because other notable writers of the age namely Wycliffe, William Langland and Gower wrote little in English. Even Shakespeare felt doubtful about the future of English in sixteenth century when much had already been accomplished, but it was Chaucer who adopted a distinct style in writing in English. Literature and language were in the process of formation, which were established on firm foundations by Chaucer. That is why Dryden hails Chaucer as ‘Father of English literature’.
English is linguistically divided into three periods: Old English dating from 5th to 14th century, Middle English from 14 to 18 century and the Modern English from 18 century to present day. Chaucer was born in what is called the Age of Middle English. His style and contribution to the English Language are remarkable. That is why David Daiches avers, “with Chaucer English language matured”. The remark is true as earlier writers like King Alfred used English as it was and made no significant changes.

The Prologue is Chaucer’s most celebrated and established work in which he uses a narrative style to express his viewpoint. He uses several poetic devices to liven up his style. Chaucer followed the rhetorical principles laid down by Gaufred de Vinsauf in his “Nova Poetria. These principles are description and narration. His descriptive and narrative technique is nowhere so visible as in the Canterbury Tales. In the prologue, he uses mainly the descriptive style and in the Tales, he employs the narrative style. The most remarkable thing is that he consummates the his style as averred by Robert P. Miller, “Chaucer subtly adapted language and perspectives to his individual tellers and thus established a model for Shakespeare and the Elizabethan dramatists” Why Robert Miller or David Daiches credit Chaucer can be best understood by examining the salient characteristics of his style.

Firstly, Chaucer’s style is marked by lucidity of expression, joyous originality and easiness free of ambiguities and direct philosophical maxims. In describing nearly all his characters, he uses colloquial language easy to understand for a common man. For example, Chaucer says, Knight was as meeke as maide or Prioress leete no morsel falle from his lippes. His similes and metaphors are befittingly employed throughout the Prologue. Secondly, his style is not bookish or crammed. His style is rather cultivated and tailored as much to the intellectuals as to the laymen. This is the reason The Prologue has been popular with men of all levels of understanding. Thirdly, style is humorous and ironical. His style is not pointed like that of Juvenal or Swift, he does criticize society, in fact his Prologue is a criticism of life in the words of Matthew Arnold as literature should be, but he passes from character to character with a smile and uses irony as his weapon to attack the follies of society rather than satire. His ironical remarks about Monk are worth quoting, What sholde he studie and make hymselven wood and further Chaucer remarks Lat Austyn have his swynk to hym reserved. Chaucer ironically remarks about Monk, I seyde his opinioun was good. His light ironical style places his with Horace. Fourthly, Chaucer takes up the description of his characters from the positive traits and jumps to the negative ones to startle the reader. Squire, Prioress and Wife of Bath are good characters in the first few lines, it is just after a few remarks, that we come to understand their real nature. Fifthly, his style is not ostentatious. He doesn’t exhibit his art through his style. We simply see the picture of society and not the technique through which it was drawn. So Chaucer believes in the words of Swift that real art lies in the concealment of art.

His style is narrative, descriptive and reflective and has all qualities of speech. His sentences are short and simple in their structure. His stylistic qualities and poetic genius contributed to English what no other did before his time as ascertained by David Daiches with Chaucer, the English language and literature grew at a bound to full maturity. No other Middle English writer has his skill, his range, his complexity and his large humane outlook. His light humor and ironical pieces have rendered such services to English, which can only be compared to those of Emperor Augustus in Ancient Rome who found Rome as brick and left it as marble. An apt remark from Lowell will finely conclude the topic that Chaucer found English in dialect and left it a language. (Words: 816)

>Character-Sketch "Rebel" by D.J. Enright

>The title of the poem looks very startling; but when we read the poem, we find no fights, revolution or conflcits; typically expected of the presencen of a rebel. Here the word ‘rebel’ does not refer to a political activist or non-conformist; but a person who is socially a misfit. 

He has no political aims; but has only personal urge to expose himself before others. “The Rebel“ is a lightly expressed poem written in a casual style free of any bitterness or critcism. The poet shows the charater of rebel. One who does not conform to the norms of society and has a contradictory attitude based on self-assertion. This is not typically a political rebel who wants a revolution in the country; but this is a common adolecent boy who, for his inexperience, exhibits himself so as to draw attention. The conceopt of rebel is wrapped up in each and every line of the poem. Our expected is dazzled when we find such contradictory statements as ‘long hair’ and ‘short hair’, We do have such rebels in society. The title of the poem is not imaginaty; but realistic.