He then says that the hint of winters wake in a world transformed into spring? Or will sleep is coming on. In fact, sleep is mentioned he wake tomorrow morning, refreshed, as he nor- six times in the poem, and it is also referred to in mally would? This query, too, speaks to the terms of tiredness, drowsiness, and dreaming on uncertainty that mortality places upon all living three additional occasions.
Notably, of the six beings. While one knows that the end is inevita- references to sleep, four occur in the final five ble, one does not know when or how it will hap- lines of the poem. Indeed, this is a sleepy poem. Notably, the speaker mentions it and his tiredness when he is most awake, that is, at the beginning Change and end of the poem.
Furthermore, the poems Mortality in and of itself is a change, an ending, midsection, where sleep is not mentioned, is and the poem also speaks to other changes. In largely comprised of a dream of apple picking. Apples varying line lengths and almost randomly distrib- are picked in the fall, but now the harvest is uted end rhymes, also underscore the speakers almost over, and the speaker skimmed ice from exhaustion.
In the case of After Apple Picking, each lines enjambment is often used to create a seem- ingly independent statement that is then qualified or expanded upon in the following line. Rhythm Aside from the rhyme, the rhythm in this poem is its most remarkable technical aspect.
It is written entirely in iambic meter, meaning that alternating syllables are in turn unstressed and stressed. The effect of this meter allows for a slightly elevated and poetic tone. Furthermore, the poem is largely written in iambic pentameter, meaning that most lines are composed of ten syllables or five feet, with each foot containing the paired unstressed and stressed syllables that make the iamb.
Twenty-six of the poems forty-two lines are writ- ten in iambic pentameter. Were the entire poem written in pentameter, it would take on a more elevated and formal poetic tone. By breaking up this rhythm, the poem becomes somewhat more informal and conversational. The breaks in rhythm further indicate the narrators fatigue. They also have a similar effect to the enjambment, changing and altering emphasis and meaning.
For instance, aside from the opening couplet, the lines Apples in an orchard Image copyright Tomo Jesenicnik, They become less and less structured toward the poems conclusion. One could inter- pret this to mean that the speaker is sure of himself at the poems outset, and less so by its end. This is STYLE bolstered by the fact that the poem ends in literal uncertainty; the speaker does not know the type of Enjambment sleep he is about to embark upon.
Enjambment addresses how lines of poetry end and begin. The way that each lines ending is Rhyme arranged changes how a poem is read and how Like the rhythm in After Apple Picking the end it is interpreted. Each line break causes the eye to rhymes simultaneously serve to alternately slow before it drops down and moves on to the heighten and undermine poetic effect, as well as next line. This changes the pace of the words as the poems emphasis and meaning. The poem is they are read, creating one aspect of a poems formal, but it is not rigid.
Also, much like the rhythm. It can also change a poems perceived pentameter, the poem begins with a more reliable meaning. For example, the longest pause first assume that the speaker has gone on a long between end rhymes occurs at the end, with six journey. The next line reveals that the reader has lines separating the final lines rhyme from its pre- made an error. This confusion would not have ceding partner. In fact, for the most part, every six occurred if the line had read, I went away, but lines in the poem up until the last twelve contain a only to the store.
By removing the line break, the set of three rhymes. Additionally, directly repeat- possibility for misinterpretation is also removed. They do not within a single poem almost simultaneously. This occur at all in the last ten lines. Though the United States, begins in According to the U. Today: A prominent poetic movement is census, The movement entails a in urban centers. Projections for the return to more traditional poetic forms and census indicate that this percentage will con- structures.
Notably, the experimental forms of expression. Artists also movement reached its peak during the s and questioned the meaning of life in an increasingly s, Frosts most productive years. The style mechanized world. The advent of new technolo- largely originated in Europe, although many of gies in the early twentieth century was changing the poets at its forefront were American. The the way people lived and how they interacted style was initially met with resistance in the with one another.
Writers and artists of the day United States, and many American poets, like sought to explore new forms and themes as a Frost, found European critics and publishers to means of addressing the changing human expe- be more open-minded and receptive to the mod- rience. The movement was also fueled by the ernist style. They traveled there to do their work. The first major war to Frost was unable to get a collection of his poetry be fought with advanced technologies, World published in the United States. His first two War I accordingly led to a colossal number of collections were published in England after he deaths.
The high number of casualties was moved there, and he achieved fame in the United shocking, and it caused artists to question the States only after establishing his reputation in cost of patriotism, that is, of placing country England. While in England, Frost befriended before the individual. The work of psychologists Sigmund Freud literature and the visual arts.
Cultural changes at and Carl Jung, as well philosophers Friedrich the turn of the twentieth century were largely Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre, had a great deal responsible for the movement. For instance, of influence on modernist writers and artists. Modernism saw the emergence of the I as a predominant voice in poetry, a style that Frost became well known for.
Furthermore, the idea of the subconscious mind, as set forward by Freud, led to an increased interest in dreams and surreal imagery. Both themes can be found in After Apple Picking. Similar influences can also be found in the prose of the day by means of the stream-of-consciousness writing style made pop- ular by such writers as Gertrude Stein and Wil- liam Faulkner. Notably, while Frost is considered a modernist poet, his work tended to be more conservative and formal than that of his more experimental peers. Notably, when North of Boston the collection in which After Apple Picking first appeared was released in England to great acclaim, Frost was finally able to secure his career as a poet.
Furthermore, the poem reflects on the end of a known era and the begin- ning of an unknown one. Used under War I functioned as just such a catalyst agent license from Shutterstock. It was the first modern, mechanized war, and the first global conflict of the modern age. The wars impact on the twentieth century, politically and culturally, was undeniable.
An North of Boston was Frosts second book of poems but the first to reveal his full dramatic estimated ten million soldiers were killed, and power and moral awareness. It was also the civilian casualties came to almost seven million. These changes are more than evident in the modernist aesthetic of Sanders also explains that the collection which After Apple Picking is part.
Notably, the col- always near and survival never assured. The book not only established his reputa- Commenting on the initial critical reception of tion but also shaped it, setting forth the stylistic the collection in the Dictionary of Literary Biogra- and thematic hallmarks for which Frost would phy, Donald J. Greiner notes that although today become renowned. David Sanders, in the Journal North of Boston is considered Frosts strongest of Modern Literature, states, overall collection, it is the book that puzzled.
Greiner explains that this is because fact, that he continues to feel and hear his labors it straddled the intersection between traditional as if they are still occurring. His foot retains the and modernist forms. Nevertheless, Greiner ghostly imprint of the ladders rung as if he is still praises After Apple Picking, calling it perhaps standing on it. He can imagine the thunderous Frosts finest poem and a key lyric in his second sound of the apples as they tumble into the bin. Greiner declares this is true because in the The poem is entirely descriptive; it not only haunting After Apple-Picking, [Frost] unifies details the apple picking and its after effects, technique and theme to illustrate how confusion but it also addresses the late fall and the coming confronts man despite his very best effort to con- winter.
The speaker uses the sheet of ice on the tain it. Greiner adds: North of Boston is full of water trough to segue into his dream of apple such considerations. However, in a somewhat picking. The poem is also highly allusive and ambivalent review of the poem in the Explicator, metaphorical. Its genius, however, lies in the Mike OConnell remarks upon its volatility: Up fact that the exact metaphor remains elusive and down we go throughout the shambling poem, just out of reach , even upon multiple readings.
Fur- meanings and various interpretations. Among thermore, OConnell praises the poem while critics, there are three main interpretations, simultaneously poking fun at the half-hearted none of which are mutually exclusive. That is, attempts at farming that Frost made throughout all three interpretations can exist simultaneously his life, stating The exhausted apple picker. The first and most apparent interpretation Applauding After Apple Picking in Amer- relates to themes addressing mortality.
The ican Literature, Priscilla M. Paton finds that it poem as a meditation on mortality could also result[s] in oblique, graceful revelations of truth, be simply described as resignation to the passing knowledge, and love. Paton also states that the of time. The ladder is left lying out, the few poems final line sounds ordinary as apples, apples remaining on the branch, the unfilled though it may also hint at death. We could barrelall are signs of a task half-complete. Reed observes that [Henry] Longfellows son- The changing seasons are also a visible marker of net Sleep [is] a highly probable source for the passage of time, a stark reminder of the Frosts After Apple Picking.
Reed comments, speakers mortality. Regardless, the speaker is So similar in theme, structure and tone are they exhausted, and he welcomes the excuse to cease that Frosts artistic conception for his poem his labors. He is drowsy, and just this morning he could not have been merely coincidental. Looking through it has distorted his vision, and he has been unable to shake off the strangeness it inspired. The plentiful harvest he wished for Tieger is a freelance writer and editor. In the fol- has exhausted him.
His exhaustion can also be lowing essay, she discusses the numerous possible seen in the poems rhyme and rhythm, which interpretations of Frosts After Apple Picking. This decline can also be seen as a ing is a poem about a person who has just sign of the sleep perhaps a deathly sleep as it finished taking in the apple harvest.
The winter approaches. Sleep is mentioned four times in the is coming on and the speaker is exhausted by the final five lines of After Apple Picking. In these completion of his great task.
He is so tired, in lines, the speaker wonders at the type of sleep. Appro- famous poems by one of Americas most priate for high school literature students, the famous poets, much can be gained by reading anthology includes work by modernist poets it as part of Frosts work as a whole. A edited by Edward Connery Lathem. First pub- biographical profile of each poet is also lished in , the original edition remains in included in the volume, as well as introduc- print, attesting to the lasting popularity of tions to each era and style of poetry over the Frosts work.
Never collected the United States. Her work also exhibits a in his lifetime, these pieces have since been clarity and simplicity of verse similar to that published in The Collected Prose of Robert of Frosts. Her work has been widely trans- Frost, edited by Mark Richardson. The lated in English, and the publication of volume features several previously unpub- The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova, lished writings as well as additional commen- edited by Roberta Reeder, is an excellent tary by Richardson. The brief work is a history written exhaustion brought on by the act of harvest- specifically for young adults, and it is mainly ing apples.
For more information about life comprised of photographs depicting battles, in an apple orchard, read Bruce Foxwor- weapons, and soldiers. Will it be a lengthy slumber, or the trials and travails and frustrations of writing. The In it are effort, loss, notes American Literature former possibility carries connotations of death, writer Priscilla M. The effort undertaken emphasizing the interpretation of the poem as a in the poem is clear the harvest , and the loss mediation on mortality.
Even more A second interpretation of After Apple Pick- so, it can be seen as the apples that have fallen to ing looks at the unfinished nature of the tasks at the ground and have been subsequently relegated hand. Specifically, some critics observe that these to the cider heap. Where the unpicked apples can unfinished tasks are incomplete, unworthy, or be viewed as poems that have never been written, unpublished poems.
They read After Apple Pick- those that have been set aside after failing or ing as a poem about writing, specifically about falling as the apples do so from the tree can be. Given this interpreta- expulsion from Eden, but one of the enduring tion, the successful harvest in the poem represents pleasures of the poem is that neither speaker nor a flourishing or productive writing career.
How- reader is certain how far the association should be pursued. Instead, he devotes his attention to the effort he Frosts light touch in the poem, his creation has set forth in making that achievement, and of uncertainty, and his refusal to align himself even more so to the fatigue that has followed.
He with one meaning over another all serve to fill also focuses a great deal on the poems that are the poem with possibility. As Greiner points out, unwritten and will remain so the unpicked if the Edenic reference apples and the failed efforts the fallen apples. This interpretation of may reach for his rest in peace. But he cannot be sure; and if the mythological allusions to After Apple Picking also makes the endings Eden carry meaning, then the speaker has fin- uncertainty more intriguing. The speaker, having ished a lifes work only to be uncertain about achieved his ends, does not know what will come whether finality or rebirth is at stake.
Its possible metaphorical meanings are as unsure as the speaker himself. This theory is underscored by Mike OConnell the poems dreamy imagery and halting rhythm, as In the following review, OConnell argues that what well as its questioning conclusion. The speakers makes After Apple Picking unique is its rare peculiar vision, brought on by his looking through glimpse of Frost completing a full days work, one the ice in the water trough that morning, confirms a that just about kills him.
The speakers vision has been altered by the act, and he admits that it has not yet When it came to early twentieth-century returned to normal by evening. This indecision, farm work, rugged New Englander Robert then, also extends to the third interpretation of Frost was not afraid of itin fact, he could lie After Apple Picking, that of the poem as a song down right next to it or run away from it. During of exile from Eden.
This interpretation is most the New England spring-mud season he was often cited by critics; the apples are seen as a clear known to check his family into a New York reference to the Garden of Eden and the fruit of the hotel; during the hay feverish southern Vermont tree of knowledge in the Book of Genesis in the summers, Frost vacationed farther north in New Bible. Although forbidden by God to eat from the Hampshire, leaving the garden weeding and hay- tree of knowledge, Eve ate from it and gave some of making and cow-milking to hired help, or to no the fruit to Adam.
As punishment, God banished one at all. After Christmas each winter, he high- Adam and Eve from Eden. One image from the tailed it to Florida with his wife, and after her poem that is often mentioned in support of this death, with his secretary Kathleen Morrison.
A interpretation is the ladder, which is described in man is rich in proportion to the number of things After Apple Picking as pointing heavenward. By he can let go, wrote Thoreau, who in this regard connecting the apples to Eden and the ladder to had no truer disciple than Frost. After being outed by Maine poet Edwin Kenneth Lincoln, writing in the Southwest Review, Arlington Robinson as something less than a describes the poem as an exploration of what real farmer, Frost insisted he had claimed to be happens to an aged Adam after apple-picking in no such thing.
In his poems, we see him casually the fall of the Fall, that is, post-Edenically when he involved in some outdoor fooling, working up begins to question eternity anew for real. Greiner also discusses the Edenic allu- have to follow later to make the hay. One of sions in After Apple Picking.
Greiner finds that the things that sets After Apple Picking apart both speaker and reader are aware of the invit- is its rare glimpse of Frost completing a full days ing association between apples and humanitys work, one that just about kills him. As with his indoor scribbling, the chroni- cally lazy Frost was occasionally capable of a reluctant, redemptive, outdoor stretch run. The rumbling sound of load on load of bleary-eyed, konked-out Frost can think of apples coming in tells us that the poet has had once he gets his poem put to bed is to crash, plenty of anonymous help, but his aching arches perchance to dream.
We need not equate sleep the poems most brilliant sensory cue are con- with death here. Old Man Frost lived another vincing evidence that he has spent long hours fifty-seven years after he stepped off the ladder ascending and descending the round rungs of the to write this at the age of thirty. Even if the post- tall ladders himself. As usual, there is no we in harvest nap turns out to be the long sleep of the story: the word I is used fifteen times in the woodchuck, that subterranean rodent will forty-two lines. One who would attempt to sep- wake to chuck another day.
And so will the arate the egocentric speaker in a Frost poem exhausted apple picker, who has plucked from from the egocentric Robert Frost labors in vain. Although Frost magnifies his physical lifting David Sanders down accomplishment, claiming an impossible In the following excerpt, Sanders considers how the personal harvest of ten thousand thousand poems of North of Boston, including After Apple fruit, he admits to his characteristic laxity and Picking, reflect the character of rural New England.
His bushel North of Boston was Robert Frosts second basket runneth over; he is too tired to tidy up out- book of poems but the first to reveal his full side or to submit to the rigors of poetic form at his dramatic power and moral awareness. It was writing board in the house. As he drowses off, his also the first to explore the culture of rural New line lengths vary widely, his rhyming is haphazard, England in which these poetic powers had grown his reader is confused and captivated.
But in Frost there is the sense New York. Holt, buying the American rights of too many apples having fallen on his head. Marvells immortal midsummer rev- ing what had been, for him, two decades of elry is in contrast to Frosts autumnal sense of obscurity at home. Reviewed by Amy Lowell in mortalitysomething like what he describes else- The New Republic the very week of Frosts return where as winter and evening coming on together.
At least a trip to the tavern. But all the he would soon be widely known. Presenting earthy char- Ezra Pounds review in Poetry the following acters mainly in blank-verse narrative and dia- month had carried a greater sting. Although he logue, it takes us into the lives of working had helped to promote Frosts name, Pound had people in Frosts early twentieth-century New made the mistake, as Frost would soon com- England. Even the volumes first-person lyrics plain to John Bartlett, of assuming that my Mending Wall, After Apple-Picking, and simplicity is that of the untutored child.
Little The Wood-Pilecontain strong narrative and as he had ever trusted Pound, Frost must still dramatic elements. Structuring the book through have felt betrayed by so cavalier an assessment their strategic placement, they sound a keynote from one who styled himself Frosts champion. But perhaps more their emphasis on traditional skills and labor in a unsettling was Frosts own realization of how life in which winter is always near and survival well-concealed his artistry could remain, even never assured. If such readers could miss so much in A Boys All of the sixteen poems that comprise North Will, he feared what they would make of this of Boston underwent final revision in England next book, which took naturalness so much fur- during the summer and fall of , when the ther, more obviously transgressing conventional Frosts occupied a rented cottage in the London boundaries between poetic language and ordi- suburb of Beaconsfield.
Yet the creative sources nary speech. Frost, having explains the vigorous discussion of poetic pro- left college a second time and suffering worri- sody that Frost developed over the following some chest ailments, had, with money from his year with the English poets Frank Flint and T. Hulme and with Sidney Cox and John Bartlett and teaching that he already knew to try poultry back home. Frost hints at the value of this farming, which promised to leave him time to exchange when, early in July, a few days after write while supporting his family in a healthy the first of their specially arranged meetings, he rural environment.
While the Derry years never thanks Flint, saying, My ideas got just the rub quite made Frost either a farmer or a living, they they needed last week. In a letter to Bartlett shaped the poet he had determined to become, three days later, Frost is more expansive. That will tran- would make his poetic tongue. In doing so, the spire presently Letters, p. In fact, for much of the latter half of stony soil, would define a moral center for , when he was shaping North of Boston as a Frosts poetic world. One in the year leading to the books publication can imagine something like Wordsworths Pref- focus so thoroughly on matters of technique.
The public response to A experiments. In the end, Frost, who disliked Boys Will had raised doubts whether the artistry writing prose, did not write the essay, perhaps of his seemingly natural style would be under- trusting that the principles needed to appreciate stood by the audience, including the reviewers, his work were well enough understood by a few of the volume in preparation, which Frost saw as of the books likely reviewers.
Or perhaps he pivotal to his career. In April , for example, found that, in bolstering his own confidence, the Times Literary Supplement had described the the important work was already done. Frost may also have felt that the poems, like the growing belief in his own poetic futuresets him- people in them and the language they spoke, self not only against the worn out prosodies of would be diminished by any effort to explain established contemporaries such as Robert them and could only distance him from a world Bridges, but also against the cultural pretensions of values that the poems had made his own.
In this sense, just sons for stressing poetic technique are hard to as Frosts concern with technique reveals itself as disentangle from the moral aims embodied in more than defensive, so it is more than technical. I stress the connection because, unlike When he says that An ear and an appetite for his two most prominent models, Wordsworth these sounds of sense is the first qualification of a and Emerson, Frost admits to these moral corol- writer Letters, p.
It is true that over nal writer only catches them fresh from talk the longer span of the books development, Letters, p. Granted, too, that for an unpro- felt, had too often set poetry apart. In doing so, he ven poet measuring himself against both tradi- challenges an imbedded view of culture that gives tional and modernist rivals, technical mastery precedence to the written word.
Just a few years had a natural priority.
And so, with an extrava- later, in distinguishing between our everyday gance noted by William Pritchard and John speech. For Frost, who had one of the few artists writing. When, for North of Boston, Frost insight. Consider, for example, his new defini- avoided the singing harmonies of Tennyson and tion of a sentence, which he announces to Bar- Swinburne that remained part of A Boys Will, he tlett in February as a sound in itself on was rejecting an estheticism largely English and which other sounds called words may be strung upper-class in favor of a poetry that would speak Letters, p.
With a sound in itself Frost to Americans, and for them, in a language that puts grammar and logic aside for the moment to Americans spoke. It was a language of labor and de-familiarize the written sentence. And, with use by which a literary culture could affirm the these other sounds called words, he even values of an oral, vernacular one, placing cultiva- sneaks a backward glance toward the nature tion of the soil at least on a par with the cultiva- and origin of language itselfto the expressive- tion of the drawing room.
At the same time, Frost engages with his poetic investment in England paying us visually, asking us to imagine some fact on well, Frost is more direct about the human and which these abstracted sounds may be strung, social dimensions of his book. Finding North of only in the next moment showing us why: You Boston actively promoted by Henry Holt and may string words together without a sentence himself courted by editors who had ignored his hypersound to string them on just as you may work for a decade, Frost may have felt less com- tie clothes together.
After Letters, p. Thus he writes in March The language is appropriate to the virtues I to William Stanley Braithwaite of the Bos- celebrate: this unqualified assertion stands def- ton Evening Transcript, giving him material for inite and tall amidst Frosts more calculated his weekly poetry column: postures I trust. I think. At least I am It would seem absurd to say it and you mustnt sure and underlines the importance which he quote me as saying it but I suppose.
Flint written earlier that July, after speechin what I used to call their sentence their first discussion of sentence sounds. There came a day about ten years ago when I. Letters, p. Did I give drafted the earliest North of Boston poems, Frost you the feeling of and for the independent- makes it a cornerstone of the volume itself. Later dependence of the kind of people I like to he would say that the realization that I was after write about[?
The John Kline who lost his poetry that talked had changed the whole housekeeper and went down like a felled ox was just the person I have described and I never course of my writing and would even call it knew a man I liked better. Writing, p. Aided by so weighty a term, Frost implies that, since any vernacular is rooted A more pregnant comment on the kind of in its culture, a poetry that talked could never people whom Frost liked to write aboutand be a purely technical achievement. A poetry that on the way that character enacts itself through talked would not only sound like conversa- languagesurfaces in the letter to Sidney Cox tion.
It would really say somethingsomething written in September , after a family trip to human, basic, and significant. Seeking a poetry Scotland. The passage is notable partly for that talked in the accents of his Derry neighbors Frosts first mention of the local stone walls gave Frost a way both to test and to convey such that would soon prompt the writing of Mend- realities. In addition to evoking a specific culture ing Wall. More remarkable still is the way it in which to ground the human conflicts which he associates various facets of Frosts lifehis wished to explore, the search gave Frost a lan- experience of England and New England, his guage free of false refinements in which anything early exposure to Scots writers by his mother, inauthentic would prove weak or untrue.
He human and moral dimension of his poems after writes: his return from England, these concerns reveal The best of the adventure was the time in King- themselves even before his exit from obscurity. The common people in the south shaping the book for publication, Frost conveys of England I dont like to have around me. They dont know how to meet you man to this interest to Thomas Mosher, an American man.
The people in the north are more like collector and publisher, when he describes the Americans. I wonder whether they made volume of blank verse. Feigning apology the north: I liked those. My mother was from for having dropped into an everyday level of Edinburgh. I used to hear her speak of the diction that even Wordsworth kept above, Castle and Arthurs seat, more when I was young than in later years.
I had some interest Frost tries at once to tweak and reassure, prompt in seeing those places. Letters, pp. I think I have made poetry. The language is appropriate to the vir- that the Americans whom Frost has in mind are tues I celebrate. At least I am sure that I can those in the poems that he is readying for pub- count on you to give me credit for knowing licationanother common people who know what I am about. Equally revealing is Frosts comment the pole, so that, even before we have read the about Robert Burns, another poet of democratic book, North of Boston suggests the fortitude of and vernacular impulse whom Belle Frost had its people by hinting at the cold and emptiness read to her son from early childhood and whose that they face.
And, by the time we have finished Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect had its poems about failed and failing farms and the also asserted the worth of a rural people and families who have left or will be leaving them, we their language. In the alchemy of Frosts mem- see that their traditional way of life takes defini- ory and imaginationwith thoughts of home tion and value in opposition to the urban wealth stirred by the Scottish hills and people, and the and power to which it literally loses ground whole process aided by his Scots mother and her each year.
With just a little the help from his literary legacyFrost merges Burnss people dedication, Frosts title trusts the poems to with his own and, implicitly, himself with bring his people to our notice, just as he has Burns. Perhaps most striking is Frosts surmise trusted their language to shape his poetic voice, about the mutual act of making between ones and just as the poems, with their sparing narra- poems and ones culture. When we realize how tion, trust so largely to the speech of the charac- suddenly Burnss volume brought this ters themselves.
Reed ing him home to Boston and New York, just as In the following article, Reed identifies Henry Burnss second book had taken him to literary Wadsworth Longfellows sonnet Sleep as a pos- Edinburgh; that if they did so, these poems sible source for After Apple Picking. As a contribution to that some part of their disappearing world. The understanding, one might well begin by examin- poems might even show them some of their ing Longfellows sonnet Sleep as a own substance and value, which Frost had seen highly probable source for Frosts After Apple- and tried to capture in his poems.
So similar in theme, structure and tone are they that Frosts artistic conception for his Frosts concern for his human subjects and poem could not have been merely coincidental. This narrators world-weariness, his physical and spi- Book of Peopleand by the other titles that ritual fatigue and his desire for sleep as the only he considered for the volume: New Englanders, balm for his lassitude. Each narrator suggests, New England Hill Folk, or the one originally moreover, that the sleep to which he refers is listed by his London publisher M.
Nutt, death. Longfellow makes that association in his Farm Servants and Other People. Like the books language, the words north of Boston say something about its Frost, with his dark essence of winter sleep people not only by pointing to the region and and his long sleep, unmistakably conveys the culture that have shaped their lives, but by mak- same impression, though in more suggestive and ing clear what they are not. Posed against Bos- guarded terms. The falling apples and the con- ton, with its history and urbanity, what lies clusion of the autumn harvest both reinforce the north is simply out there, provincial and death suggestion.
Although Frosts poem has precisely three Greiner, Donald J. Long- 3rd ser. Both speakers use eye Liebman, Sheldon W. Longfellow cites the hun- Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. Both speakers refer to their physical pain. Frosts complains of the ache and pressure of Marshall, S. In the Longfellow poem it Worldwide, Whitworth, Michael, Modernism, Wiley-Blackwell, Source: Kenneth T. Census Population Statistics: U. Population Liv- For a look at modernist prose, this novel is ing in Urban vs. Rural Areas, in U.
Census Bureau, exemplary. The volume is essen- Frost was a great fan of Longfellows work, tial reading for all who wish to delve more and a study of Frost is not complete with- deeply into Frosts life and work. Many of the states that had belonged to the Confederacy during the Civil War sixty years earlier had laws that still reflected the slave-holding culture of the South, keeping races separated under a spurious separate but equal doctrine that did little to promote, much less enforce, equality.
In the North, inequality between blacks and whites was not permitted by law, but social attitudes enabled an unofficial form of segregation to flourish. During the mids Bontemps lived in Harlem, a section of New York City that was famous worldwide as a center of black American culture. During the s and s it was also known as the meeting place of notable black intellectuals, artists, and writers who started a movement called the Harlem Renaissance.
Novel Poem Drama Short story Novella. All of the attached cited related client Once gave the treatment. This stylistic tendency is often a source of trouble and vexation for non-Scottish readers, who have to slow down their reading with frequent trips to the glossary or dictionary, but it has cemented his eternal popularity among Scots. He might be too infatuated with her to understand whether he is in love or not, or he might be working just a little too hard to convince her of his love. Include data citation:.
Bontemps and other Harlem artists became characterized as members of this group, also known as the New Negro Movement. The poem uses a refined, graceful poetic cadence to capture the strong sense of tradition but ultimate sense of futility facing black Americans at a time when the accomplishments of their culture were frequently ignored.
A Black Man Talks of. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. While teaching at the Har- lem Academy, he became acquainted with writers and artists often associated with the Harlem Ren- aissance, such as poet and novelist Langston Hughes, with whom Bontemps formed a close, lifelong friendship, and the poet Countee Cullen, who later worked with him in adapting Bontempss novel God Sends Sunday to a play.
In Harlem, Bontemps met and married Alberta Johnson, with whom he would eventually raise six children. In the Harlem Academy closed, and Bontemps returned to the South, where many of his literary works were set. After moving to Alabama, he began writing childrens literature, which he continued to write throughout his life. He left Oakwood Reaping, one of Bontempss most famous and Junior College in and taught in Chicago, frequently anthologized poems, was published Illinois, for three years. After the publication of along with several of Bontempss other poems his most famous work, the novel Black Thun- from the s in the collection Personals.
For a year, he The poem has been anthologized in several books, worked for the Illinois Writers Project, and then including the collection The Columbia Anthol- he gave up teaching entirely, living briefly in the ogy of American Poetry, edited by Jay Parini. Caribbean, an experience that gave him material for his novel Drums at Dusk, published in In , Bontemps earned a master of library sciences degree from the University of Chicago. Three years later, ture and collaborating on several anthologies his family moved to Los Angeles, California, to of black literature. He died of a heart attack in escape the racial prejudice that was common Nashville on June 4, , while working on his across the Deep South at that time.
His mother, autobiography. Maria Carolina Pembroke Bontemps, was a school teacher, and encouraged his love of books.
Bontemps attended I planted deep, within my heart the fear the school from to and then went to That wind or fowl would take the grain away. Pacific Union College, graduating in I planted safe against this stark, lean year. But for my reaping only what the hand Can hold at once is all that I can show. Yet what I sowed and what the orchard yields My brothers sons are gathering stalk and root, 10 Small wonder then my children glean in fields They have not sown, and feed on bitter fruit. The poem makes this clear in its recording titled Arna Wendell Bontemps opening line, where the speaker does not talk Reading his Poems, with Comment, at Radio about working beside some or many waters, Station WPLN, Nashville Public Library, but instead refers to having been beside all of May 22, This recording includes a read- them.
In addition to setting a mythical tone, the poems first line also establishes its ongoing pat- tern of nature imagery. Water is a universal image, not be susceptible to wind or birds. On a symbolic familiar to every culture. Combining it with the level, Bontemps implies that black people have, poems main image of farming helps to make this over the years, learned to guard their accomplish- poem relevant to people who might not under- ments against elements in their surroundings that stand specific cultural references.
When the poem mentions that the current year is harsh, it refers to the changes in Line 2 weather that are a constant concern for farmers. The second line continues the imagery of farming The reference is more applicable to the ever chang- that began in the poems title, referring to the ing situation of farmers than to the constant planting of seeds that starts the process that ends oppression that black Americans had faced since with reaping.
Line 2 ends with the mention of the the end of the Civil War in Line 5 In this line the speaker refers to the farmers need Line 3 to plant an adequate amount of seeds, which in a In line 3, the speaker refers to every farmers con- way makes up for those that will inevitably be lost stant fear of seeing the planted seeds swept away, to wind or birds. The poem also reminds readers either by birds or by wind, before they have a of how much of the constructive labor across the chance to take root.
The wind is often used to country was done by black Americans, using the represent the random elements of chance, as in planting metaphor to indicate all of the hard work the common expression the winds of change, should be expected to bring social growth. Line 6 Line 6 expands on the point made in line 5. Line 4 Although the poem started with a universal refer- In spite of the threats to the crops growth, the ence to all the waters in the world, these lines speaker has taken steps to assure that his labor will narrow the writers scope down to the experience not be done in vain.
In a literal sense, planting the of the United States, focusing on events that seeds deeply in the soil will ensure that they will occur in this country. Bontemps makes a point. The implication is that the black gather the worst parts of the harvest. The stalks Americans have worked just as carefully as white and roots of the plant are usually what is left over Americans in order to ensure a better future.
In lines 7 and 8, the poet discusses the reaping announced in its title. Reaping of grain is generally Line 11 done with a scythe a farming tool with a long To glean means literally to gather what is left on curved blade or machine, cutting down wide col- the ground after reapers have taken away umns of grain stalks with each pass. The fact that the important parts of the harvest. Figuratively, the reaping has been so limited here is indicative of the word is often used to indicate that someone the way black Americans were held back, so that slowly comes to an awareness of a situation after lengthy observation of the available details.
In the poems speaker has only been able to mow his the situation described here, the children of the crops down one handful at a time. After laboring speaker have access only to what is left on the for decades to help build their country from one ground after some unnamed force, presumably shore to the other, black Americans were only able the might of more privileged races, has reaped to partake in minimal rewards.
There was no law the important parts of the crop. There is very little or organization that could act as the social equiv- that is worthwhile left for the speakers children alent of what the scythe or the harvester does for and descendents, and that dilemma is slowly farming, expanding beyond the power of any one becoming undeniable to those affected by it. Although the collective labor of black Americans was used to build the country, Line 12 they had not been given the means to benefit from The poem ends with an ominous note.
The up-and- cultural and economic growth in the same way coming generation of black Americans, the speaker that white Americans were. The fields that they do not Line 9 own and have not cultivated are symbolic of the In line 9, Bontemps returns to the idea of method- way that black Americans were denied property ical patience stressed earlier in the poem. Through- ownership in the past. The way that American out the previous lines, the speaker discusses his society refused to allow their participation made many accomplishments, especially the care that many of them bitter.
Bontemps shows that those he has put into sowing the fields. There is a sense who have been given a bitter situation will often of futility in lines 7 and 8, however, as the poet respond with bitterness, implying that the rage of the disenfranchised black Americans is likely to be shows, the hard work done has led to little reward reflected back toward mainstream American for black Americans. In line 9, the speakers work society. Although the speaker does not derive that much benefit from his work, the poems wording in line 9 betrays a THEMES true pride for what little he has gained.
Black Identity Bontemps tells of one individuals experiences in Line 10 A Black Man Talks of Reaping, but he also In line 10, the speaker refers to extended relations, makes it clear that the situation described in the not his direct descendents. Readers can assume poem is meant to reflect the experiences of all that brother is meant in the broadest sense, as a black Americans. The first sign that he is describ- reference to all of humanity. Referencing the title ing more than just one person can be found in the of the poem, it is likely that its suggestion might phrasing of the poems title.
Using the words a be limited to other black people. If this is so, man might have been open to interpretation brothers children can be read as meaning the about whether the poet was talking about one subsequent generation that will follow those who individual or all of humanity, including women, have cultivated the soil so carefully. Instead and mankind. By specifying that the speaker is. Myerss novel Monster about for the poem. Afterwards, lead a discussion a sixteen-year-old boy who goes to jail for about how the rhythm of the poem can be murder.
Myerss protagonist shows social paired with music. Follow Myerss model and write gress passed the Civil Rights Act of Americans gain equal social footing. Research poem. Then determine which provisions modern agribusiness techniques to come up would apply to something in your life cur- with five planting strategies that are used by rently.
Use the results to write a letter to the large corporate farms, where hand-seeding is speaker of A Black Man Talks of Reaping, not used. Make a PowerPoint presentation telling him what you two have in common. Set it to music in two styles. In Head about farming in southern Africa. Have your classmates vote on which and write an explanation that compares and type of music they think is more appropriate contrasts the two situations.
The situation are common to all black people. It would be impossible for any person to have been everywhere in one Fatalism lifetime, of course. This statement makes perfect The speaker of this poem describes a grim and sense, though, if he is speaking as a representa- hopeless situation. He has worked hard, he says, tive for his race, which quite likely has had using the metaphor of planting seeds to represent all members in all areas of the world. Most obvious, though, is the way that the It is the course of nature that seeds will grow into poems symbolism fits the experience of African beneficial crops, especially when they have been Americans in general.
Bontemps tells of a worker planted with the care that this speaker has used: who has not been allowed to benefit from the hard he plants his seeds in straight rows, pushing them work he has done, who has been left to survive on deep into the soil for protection. Despite the care. In fact, he is the less and to feed off of the bitterness of inequality.
This is the generation of his children to suffer, he does show way things have been all of his life, and he does not a sense that someone in the future will eventually expect anything more. He is fatalistically resigned feel that they have suffered enough, and when to the misery of his life, recognizing it as a terrible that happens, he implies, there are bound to be situation that may never end.
Anger The only sign that this speaker has not entirely lost Generations all hope in his life, that he is not completely bereft of In this poem, Bontemps mentions the coming gen- spirit, appears at the end of the poem. He does not eration twice, indicating two different sets of expect- develop hope for a better life that pulls his world- ations about what will happen. In line 10 he view back from bleak fatalism; instead, he finds mentions the sons of his brothers, who are related comfort in knowing that some time, probably not to him but not of direct lineage.
Their lives are in his own lifetime, the oppression that his race has predicted to be the scrabble for survival by gather- been forced to suffer will make people angry ing whatever has been left on the ground, deemed enough to fight. The poems controlled tone does useless after the harvest. These nephews appear to not show the speakers anger, but it is hinted at be of a different age than the speakers children,. The action of standing up for rights.
For instance, the differences in the situations from the children of speaker in the poem is a black man; at the time, one brother to the children of another could be many black Americans were farm laborers, and explained by reading Bontempss reference to my they experienced oppression. Another similarity children broadly. The speaker might not be refer- that links farming to coming vengeance is the ring to his own children in this phrase, but to his image of sowing or planting, which may have origi- childrens children, and all of his descendents, nated in farm work but can easily be viewed as thereby implicating the future of all African anything that will lead to its inevitable consequen- Americans.
Finally, and most obviously, is the idea of reaping, which literally means the end STYLE result of farming but can easily be understood as the act of gathering up what one has earned; in this Heroic Stanza poem, it implies possible violence from those who The form of this poem is a traditional one.
Each have been oppressed. When one comparison line except the first one has ten syllables and is between two situations is implied, it is a metaphor. An iamb consists of When several comparisons between the same two two syllables, the first one unstressed and the situations are examined, it is an extended metaphor. Since there are five of these units per line, the meter is considered iambic pentameter penta- is a prefix from the ancient Greek word for five. Historians were contracted to Ive, identifies this poem as dubbed this period the Harlem Renaissance, after being predominantly iambic pentameter.
The rhyme scheme of this poem is a consistent abab pattern: the syllable ending the third line of Black Americans had been moving in great each stanza sounds like the syllable ending the first numbers from the formerly slave-holding southern line of that stanza, and the syllable ending the states to the North for decades, with a steady fourth line of each stanza resembles the syllable migration that had begun at the end of slavery in ending the second. Each stanza is a quatrain, and surging as black workers moved to follow which means that it has four lines. The designation the industrial jobs that became available during for a quatrain written in iambic pentameter, with World War I, from This migration an abab rhyme scheme, is a heroic stanza, a term led to growing populations in the large urban cen- that derives from poetry composed with a dramatic ters across the North, notably Chicago, Illinois; mood, usually orally, to tell of the accomplish- Detroit, Michigan; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and ments of great warriors.
In this case, the use of Cleveland, Ohio. At the time, New York City was the heroic stanza helps to establish the talent and the intellectual and media center of the country, nobility of the speaker of the poem, even though he and many writers, poets, painters, and musicians is socially considered a member of the lower class. A metaphor is a comparison that draws attention Significant organizations dedicated to improv- to similarities between two dissimilar entities with- ing the conditions of black Americans were head- out stating the comparison. It is, for example, quartered in New York City, too, including the metaphoric to refer to an airplane as a bird, since National Urban League, the United Negro they both share the common element of flying with Improvement Association, and the National Asso- wings, though they are clearly two different items.
Today: National laws regulating civil rights s: Awareness of the inherent injustice of have led to a counter-migration of African segregation is growing, with attention drawn Americans back to the American South, to the treatment of black Americans by though people moving to the South tend such notable events as the Montgomery Bus to settle in urban areas such as Jackson, Mis- Boycott of in Montgomery, Alabama, sissippi; Atlanta, Georgia; and Birmingham, and the violence surrounding the desegrega- Alabama.
Magazines such as Opportunity, Crisis, and Book of American Negro Poetry, providing a the Messenger focused on issues affecting black worldwide forum for some of the writers who had Americans and attracted black writers, who all come to New York and encouraging more, like lived, at least some of the time, in the relatively Arna Bontemps, to come to Harlem to work with narrow confines of the Harlem neighborhood.
One milestone in the history of the Harlem arts During the Harlem Renaissance, as with any boom was white writer Ridgely Torrences Three intellectual movement, success and growth led Plays for a Negro Theater, produced in , people to align themselves with various schools presenting for the first time black characters who of thought.
For instance, older writers such as were fully realized as human beings, countering the W. Du Bois, most famous for his work traditional stereotypes. This work opened the door The Souls of Black Folks, openly questioned the to the musical Shuffle Away, a celebration of morality in the works of the new guard, such as black creativity that was written by blacks for Jamaican immigrant Claude McKay.
Other artists black performers, introducing many white audien- rejected the title Harlem Renaissance altogether ces to black artistry for the first time. In James and did what they could to assert their independ- Weldon Johnson published the anthology The ence from any perceived movement. There was also. After the that Africa was the wellspring of inspiration publication of his novel God Sends Sunday in , for the black artist, while poet Countee Cullen though, he seldom wrote poetry, concentrating maintained that the history that connected black instead on fiction, plays, childrens literature, and Americans to Africa should not be allowed to over- history.
Today, he is mostly remembered for his shadow acting in the present. During the Great Depression, which began in , all artistic movements in America suffered, One of the few reviewers to directly address the and the Harlem Renaissance was no exception. Davis, whose book From the Dark still gathered in Harlem, but fewer of them, Tower: Afro-American Writers indicates and for shorter stays.
Some artists completed just a faint sense of protest in Bontempss words. Social protest was that time.
In general, however, the concept of the implied obliquely rather than openly, which Davis Harlem Renaissance dissipated. There is a In the s, when A Black Man Talks of Reap- modern obscurity in these verses, and the so- ing was first published, Bontemps was considered called meaning often eludes the reader. Their a major poet of the Harlem Renaissance. He was craftsmanship, however, is impressive.
After Bontempss death in , white Ameri- can writer Jack Conroy, who had collaborated with him during the s, reminisced about reading the poems in Bontempss collection Personals. Bontemps shows the pressure building for Kelly is a writer and instructor of creative writing equality, and he also mentions the natural relation- and literature. In this essay, he uses A Black Man ship between reaping and sowing, making it clear Talks of Reaping to discuss the ways in which that black Americans were forbidden participation Bontemps establishes the injustice of his society in the actual reaping of benefits of their work.
Readers cannot help drawing the direct conclusion that the natural balance between reaping and sow- It is quite likely that the ultimate inspiration ing, which Paul in his letter to the Galatians attrib- for Arna Bontempss poem A Black Man Talks utes to Gods will, is being violated in a way that of Reaping is to be found in the New Testament must be corrected by any means, even if eventual of the Bible, in the letter of Paul to the Galatians.
There, Paul admonishes a people who he sees as drifting away from their religious faith, telling The text of the poem subtly provides a per- them, Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, suasive argument against some of the most for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. The image Paul uses, whether originated by him or For example, it states that the problems foisted not, is so potent that the phrase you reap what onto the race of a people who originated in Africa you sow is still a commonly-used expression to cannot be ignored as a simply regional issue, as this day, long after the United States completed the northern whites might have been inclined to do.
When Bontemps begins his poem by having his narrator Bontempss poem was written in the s, the note that he has sown seeds beside all waters, country was in the middle of the shift from an drawing attention to the universality of the black agrarian culture to an industrial society. Since experience. This might not seem to be the most then, the U.
The inclusive all makes clear that segregation is However, there is a telling difference: Paul seems not just a southern problem or even just an to be implying a more direct relationship between American problem, that racial injustice is behaviors and consequences than Bontemps bound to have global implications. While in A Black Man Talks of Reaping Once it has established that the situation Bontemps warns readers that a particular behavior faced by blacks is not just limited to the American will bring specific results, he also adds an extra South, the poem addresses two other excuses that step, shrouded in mystery.
The way this poem were commonly used to justify unequal treatment. Renaissance movement. It was reprinted by the her familys history. This volume concerns University of Missouri Press in Hughes, contains the same theme that this Both poems attempt to capture the suffering poem implies: that suppression of genera- of African Americans who have been forced tion after generation of African Americans is to hold their silence while being treated as bound to result in explosive consequences.
Cullens poem is often anthologized Hughes published the poem in , as the and is available in Caroling Dusk: An Anthol- civil rights movement was just starting to ogy of Verse by Black Poets of the Twenties, organize. Man Talks of Reaping. It struggle played out across the country. Raising would be difficult, if not outright impossible, for crops like this is not something that could be any reasonable reader of this poem to ignore the accomplished by people who were not diligent. Bontemps captures, in evidence of the black workers diligence. Bontemps estab- fruit given to the coming generation to feed on will lishes the wit of the poems narrator and his people only lead to resentment, then resistance.
Injustice by showing solid knowledge of successful farming can only be tolerated for so long before it boils procedures and skillful poetry. In this poem, black over. For a writer working in the s, when farmers provide smart responses to the troubles even the threat of violence was something any that nature throws at them, adapting to wind black American knew could put him or her in erosion and predators that want to feed off of danger, it is quite understandable that Bontemps their fresh-planted seeds by protecting the seeds would not say openly that there was an inevitable with deeper layers of dirt.
They plant their seeds in clash of cultures to come. He could not speak as rows to counter the problems of soil erosion. These freely as, say, his friend Langston Hughes put it farmers may not be educated in the traditional decades later in his poem Harlem A Dream sense, having been locked out of formal education Deferred. Though Bontemps was not in a posi- by laws and social mores, but Bontemps steers past tion to explicitly address the anger and frustration education as a measure of intelligence, putting the building up among black Americans, he was able focus on forms of intelligence that are even more to show social injustice powerfully enough to make important for what they are trying to accomplish.
The implication is Intelligence is also established here by the clear: such injustice, if left unaddressed for gener- poets solid, understated skill. This poem is a tour ation after generation, can only lead to a forced de force for Bontemps, a showpiece for his talent change. The poets another. And let us not grow weary in well- intelligence is present in every line, though, like the doing, Paul writes, for in due season we shall intelligence of the farmers who are the poems sub- reap, if we do not lose heart.
She truly stands alone as an object of extensive, rich, and ongoing study. I will divide my comments into two sections, the first speculating on reasons that might lie behind the lack of work on colonial poetry, and the second moving into possible trends for the future. In Bill Clinton's January State of the Union address, crafted of course for the new millenium which at long last is now finally here, he made the following statement: "After years, the American Revolution continues. We remain a new nation. As long as our dreams outweigh our memories, America will be forever young.
That is our destiny. And this is our moment. The North American paradise, the new territory upon which to inscribe dreams of power and prosperity, still operates as a seductive call in this electronic age, even if the frontiers are now virtual ones. Memory ages us, while dreams make us forever young. While this repeats the well-worn United States credo of endless possibility, of having it all, right now, I think there is much here for Latin American Colonial studies to consider also. As Walter Mignolo has demonstrated so convincingly in The Darker Side of the Renaissance , the destruction of Amerindian memory in Spanish America took many forms, and while none of them succeeded entirely in their devastation, the damage done was violent, ravaging, and lasting.
That basic truth is what we, as students of the colonial period, always confront in our work. This has been recognized for a while now; and I would point to Rolena Adorno's essay, still much-quoted today, on "Nuevas perspectivas en los estudios literarios coloniales hispanoamericanos," as a landmark that made quite clear the need to include the Amerindian presence in any analysis of colonial discourse, which is but a western monologue without it.
Dreams and memories, it would seem, form an essential part of colonial Spanish American discourse, which is the discourse of empire--especially of the Atlantic empire. I submit, then, that the place of poetry in that discourse is more difficult to define than that of narrative, and that in our effort to recast the field of Colonial studies along inclusive, interdisciplinary and anti-hegemonic lines, poetry and poetic language have often been left out.
After all, critics and theorists have our dreams too; our field is young, and perhaps we would like it to stay that way. Perhaps poetry is the memory of a literary language we would rather forget and shed like an old skin. Yet to study colonial culture without studying poetry is absurd. Whether we speak of Amerindian, criollo , Spanish or mestizo voices, what dominates, what is silenced, or what is in-between, poetry stands as a significant and essential element of colonial life.
Poetry, as an oral as well as a written form, may in fact be the one expression common to all sectors of colonial society. Amerindian memory and African culture survived in poetry; baroque criollos found themselves in poetry; a whole colonial society of spectacle and excess relied on poetry, if we expand poetry to mean theater also, for collective celebration and public ritual.
Nevertheless, the dearth of recent work on Balbuena, with only a few exceptions such as that of Daniel Torres , attests to the difficulty of knowing what to say about the poem. Nor is this a case where access to the text can be claimed as an obstacle; there are very good modern editions of Balbuena. This dream of the perfect criollo city, built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan's wrecked memories, waits for an extensive new study.
Perhaps, then, resistance to studying colonial poetry--and here I speak just of poetry written in Spanish--lies with its traditional roots in Spanish Golden Age poetics. We cannot speak of hybridity in poetry in the same way we do regarding the narrative; what is new, what is more than derivative, is much more elusive in poetry, even much baroque poetry, which is, of course, the one area where a great deal of attention has been successfully focused. Sometimes, in fact, the only thing obviously new is the location of the poet on American soil, and as we know by now, making too much of mere geography results in simplistic readings.
To find something new in traditional poetry, one must master the tradition and work with it, and life is short. Nevertheless, I would argue, colonial discourse and colonial poetics are inseparable. Because colonial writers often wrote both poetry and prose, those of us studying the period would do well to follow suit by rethinking our critical object. Abandoning or ignoring the poetry written during the colonial period, and its relationship, or lack of relationship to the poetry sung or recited at the same time, impoverishes the work we do.
In , in celebration of its twentieth anniversary, Latin American Literary Review invited two dozen or so critics to reflect on the future of the field. On the Future of Colonial Studies" which discussed why contemporary critics and writers can enjoy the pleasure of the text in historical documents of the colonial period, as opposed to poetry or other texts written for aesthetic reasons, where presumably the source of pleasure would usually be more obvious.
According to her formulation,. The key to the pleasure of our reading of colonial literature is in discovering the distance between historical reality and the image of that same reality constructed by words. We are talking, then, of the contriving of lies, which is what fictionalization--or the distance between words and things, as Foucault would have it--is all about, and without which literature would not be possible.
Although the field has since moved far away from the old dichotomizing mode of searching out fictional passages in colonial texts, toward a discursive model encompassing all kinds of textual and non-textual elements in our reading, I think the role of pleasure and lies in Colonial studies is worth reconsidering.
For unless we assume that pleasure never enters the picture and we all just toil at this for material gain, what becomes clear is that all those non-aesthetic documents have been and continue to be a source of pleasure for many of us, even if we no longer need to call chronicles "novels" to make it so. Most of the supposedly aesthetic creations, on the other hand, again with the great exception of Sor Juana's corpus, leave us cold, so cold we just don't seem to care. In the past it would have been said that we find no truth in them.
Could it be, however, that the problem for critics today is that the lies those poems tell just aren't big enough? That the distance between words and things shrinks in poetry, which is more about language itself to begin with? And that without a good lie, the pleasure doesn't follow?
Some of the most successful recent examples of work on colonial poetry delve precisely into this fissure of historical reality and words. I am going to take up two examples here, drawn from very different periods and types of poetic composition. First will be the epic poetry of the late sixteenth century, as it emerges in recent studies by James Nicolopulos and others.
Foremost among them figures the Petrarchan practice of those criollo poets, as filtered through their reading of metropolitan Spanish poetry from a position at the periphery of empire. Coupled with the literary debates of the era is the one between royalists and encomenderos concerning the future fate of Amerindian subjects. Nicolopulos skillfully shows how all these factors must be considered together to read in a new way Ercilla's inclusion of Amerindian characters in La Araucana , both male and female, and their later echoes in other poets' works.
Through the centuries, the author tells us, the amorous passages of La Araucana in particular have inspired varied responses:. This enthusiastic reception in the Iberian Peninsula was not always echoed in the New World, where during the same decade of the s these representations of indigenous lovers were to have a powerful, although much more negative and complex, impact on some colonial readers.
It is my contention that these colonial responses can shed considerable light on some of the on-going critical questions about the nature and function of these amorous passages that have so delighted, bedeviled and perplexed readers of the Araucana over the years.