The Work of Countee Cullen

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Countee Cullen's poetry was extremely motivated by race. He produced poetry that celebrates his African American Heritage, dramatizes black heroism, and reveals the reality of being black in a hostile world. In "Harlem Wine," Cullen reveals how blacks overcome their pain and rebellious inclinations through the medium of music (Shields 907). James Weldon Johnson said that Cullen was always seeking to free himself and his art from these bonds (Shields 905). In "Yet Do I Marvel," Cullen raises questions about the motivation God might have had in making a poet black in bidding him sing in a world that is fundamentally racist and that does not readily accept the creative work of African Americans (Shackleford 1013). Poems such as "Heritage," "The Black Christ," The Shroud of Color," "The Litany of the Dark People," and "Pagan Prayer" are the product of a writer who cannot reconcile his blackness (Early 170-171). Cullen also used a lot of lyricism in his poetry to express his emotions. In his scholarly book of 1937, Negro Poetry and Drama, Sterling A. Brown, whose poems and essays continue to exert formidable influence on the black American culture, remarked that Countee Cullen's poetry is "the most polished lyricism of modern Negro Poetry." "Yet Do I Marvel," displays the poet during one of his most intensely lyrical, personal moments (Shields 905). There is certain simplicity in the lyricism of Cullen, showing his indebtedness to William Wordsworth's "language of the common man." Darwin Turner has commented that "Heritage" concerns the lyric cry of a civilized mind which cannot silence the memories of Africa that thrill the blood, of a heart which responds to rain (Shackleford 1014). Many of Cullen's most conventional lyrics also ta... ... middle of paper ... ...r," Cullen describes the relationship a boy had with his parents and how they degraded him, not realizing their own faults. In another poem, "Saturday's Child," the tone is sad but serious as well. It's about a child who is born into poverty and how he contrasts his life with a person who has grown up with nice things. The poem "Loss of Love," has a serious tone because it conveys the feelings that you get when you've lost a loved one. It goes into elaboration of how different his life is without his true love. The solemn and serious tones in Cullen's literature help the reader feel the emotion of the situation being presented. Countee Cullen was an excellent poet who deserves merit and honor for his great writings during the Harlem Renaissance. His poetry incorporates classicism and English Romanticism to affirm his black heritage and the black American experience.
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