The title of Soto’s “Black Hair” is very ordinary. The image that forms from the color “black” serving as an adjective to describe the common noun “hair” paints a mundane picture that does not allow for any analysis beneath this concrete image. But in cases where the title is not an attention getter, the content of the poem is usually more of a challenge and Soto’s “Black Hair” is a perfect example. As the title suggests, there are many concrete images and figures presented throughout the poem, but after a close reading it is apparent that the underlying themes of family and culture lay beneath these tangible images through the poetic elements of the metonymy, the metaphor, color imagery, and the pun.
The poem begins by introducing the main figure in the poem, a naturally talented baseball player named Hector Moreno. To the narrator, the game of baseball is more than just a simple game, “it [is] a figure – Hector Moreno” (6). Describing Hector Moreno initially as a figure closely associated with the game of baseball shows just how revered a person Hector is in the narrator’s mind. This image of Hector Moreno is quite concrete, but as the poem continues, the narrator expresses to the reader that his father died sometime during his childhood, as “his [father’s] face no longer [hangs] over the table” (18). Suddenly the image of Hector Moreno is not as concrete as it first appears, especially through the lines leading up to Moreno’s first appearance on the baseball field “in the lengthening shade” (4-5). The shadow of the narrator’s father over the dinner table when he was a boy has now taken the form of Moreno’s figure in the shade over the baseball field since the narrator’s father has died. This initial me...
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...se, watching Moreno touch home plate is like the narrator being welcomed into the arms of the “brown people” (30). Because of his difficult home life, the narrator finds comfort and love in the midst of baseball and his Mexican culture.
Soto’s “Black Hair” is a perfect example of a poem that is effective through close analysis of certain concrete images which hold the key to the foundation of the poem and its underlying themes. In this poem, the universal themes of family and culture are hidden under the figure of Hector Moreno, the image of the narrator’s hair, as well as the extended baseball metaphor about culture. Although the title may seem ordinary at first glance, the challenge that the poem presents through its connection of concrete images and themes is very intriguing, and the themes are made clear through the effective use of certain poetic elements.
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