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Poems by G. Brooks, E. Housman, L. Clifton and M. Swenson Essay


This paper will focus on incorporating the analysis of four poems which are: “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks, “To an Athlete Dying Young” by E. Housman, “Homage to my hips” by Lucille Clifton, and “The universe” by May Swenson.

We real cool by Gwendolyn Brooks

This poem has a length of eight lines which give a list of thoughts of young people playing a pool game at “The Golden Shovel” pool house (Baker 56). The poem has a powerful message with the author illustrating how troubled teenagers suffer in their lives as a result of adaption of the street lifestyle. Here, the teenagers are portrayed as people who do not like school thus skip classes to play pool.

They do not care about education; all they do is drink, sing, and play. This poem is intended to give the reader a “life learning message.” The message passed is: to drop out of school to roam the streets is not really “cool” (Baker 58). This message is passed through ironically; the first sight of the title “we real cool” makes the reader assume that the poem will be about individuals who are leading a flamboyant lifestyle.

The poem is done on the first person principle allowing the boys to speak or communicate by themselves. Some lines of the poem do not have verbs, for example, the title “we real cool” lacks the verb “are” (Taylor 116) The language used here demonstrates the speakers’ lack of education. Imagery and symbolism are used to communicate the author’s theme.

For example, “Golden Shovel” symbolizes the golden lifestyle the players are seeking which will at the end cost them their lives (Taylor 122). This is to mean that in the end, they will be “shoveled” to their graves. The author uses alliteration to emphasize the theme; this is seen in sounds like (l) in lurk late and (j) in jazz June.

Rhymes have been used in the entire poem, for example, school, cool, gin, and sin. The rhymes compliment s the poem’s theme because it is directed to a young audience. The poem has “an up-tempo” just like in raps; this is a strategy of attracting young readers.

The irony is seen at the beginning where the players say “we real cool” but in the last line they say “we die soon.” This poem is meant to express the author’s concerns on the issue of dropping out of school (Taylor 128).

To an athlete dying young by E, Housman

In his poem, Housman employs the lyrical strategy to put across the meaning of the poem; that is to praise an athlete who has died at a young age. The poem explains that even though dying at a young age is considered “a misfortune, those who do not outlive their fame and glory are truly the lucky ones” (Housman and Michael 94).

The imagery in this poem depicts contentment hence bringing to life the emotional side of the text. The main message passed in this poem is that people should not consider premature deaths a burden; rather it should be considered a blessing. In the poem, the speaker is a friend of the deceased as seen in line 6, “shoulder-high, we bring you home” (Housman and Michael 102).

The author uses irony as seen in the speaker’s view on death; according to him, dying early will serve as an escape from people forgetting his accomplishments. Symbolism and imagery are sued to stress the poem’s theme that, even in death youth, glory, and fame will always remain. Rhyme and meter have been used in this poem to make it more appealing to the reader.

The rhymes are done in “AA” and “BB” format giving the reader a past and a future feeling (Leggett 326). The meter is demonstrated by eight syllables in each line which set a pace for the reader. Personification can be seen in the line “eyes the shady night has shut;” the earth cannot shut (Leggett 329). The author has also used an apostrophe in this poem, especially in the opening stanza.

The speaker talks of the deceased or rather the runner as if he is still living. He seems to reminisce on the life of the young runner emphasizing the advantage of dying young. The reader can connect the feelings of the speaker and his friend who has died.

Homage to my hips by Lucille Clifton

This poem by Lucille celebrates the female body and the power it possesses. The poem is done on the first persona with narrator demonstrating the pride she has in her hips as conveyed by the repetition “these hips” (Holladay 282). The repetition implies ownership asserting the speaker’s selfhood expression and at the same time showing that the hips are a special possession.

The author employs rhythmic progression to convey hips as “swaying proudly” and being “magic and mighty” (Holladay 286). This poem has a deeper meaning than just the beauty of hips; “hips” in this case are used as a metaphor to represent the author’s characteristics.

She is African and American, but she is independent and cannot be enslaved by people of other races. She wants more freedom to go out there rather than remain confined in limited spaces. Lucille employs rhyme and meter in this poem to emphasize the main theme; the language she uses is also straight.

The language does not have excessive adjectives or phrases thus illustrating the image she wants to present. The repetition of key phrases gives the poem a good mantra to emphasize the themes of appearances, femininity, and sexual identity (Kriner 78).

The universe by May Swenson

In her poems, May demonstrates strong uses of images to portray eroticism; she wrote her poems with love on her mind. In the poem the universe, May talks about the great spectacles of nature as something that we should truly behold. This poem may seem formless, but the author does employ experimentation of form.

The poem is written in four embedded columns containing information on “what,” “about,” “the universe” and“we think” (Swenson 56). This kind of poem is known as “a free-verse poem” but unlike the rest where the beginning of the line is created in a straight line with left vertical margins, this poem does not have a “meaningful left margin” (Swenson 56).

The poem consists of questions about the universe, and most of the questions can be literary answered. The first three lines evidence wordplay as used by the author to emphasize the universe “what/is it about/the universe?” This leads the reader to make unstated assumptions about the universe (Ostriker 35). This line calls for the reader to understand the universe, what it is, and what it entails.

The poem requires readers to use their mental prowess to answer these questions about the universe. Symbolism is seen in the line “the universe about us stretching out” to mean that the universe is expanding (Ostriker 37). Generally, the author wants the reader to think about the universe and the laws that govern it.

Works Cited

Baker, Hill. The Achievement of Gwendolyn Brooks. USA: College Language Association, 1972. Print.

Holladay, Hillary. Song of herself: Lucille Clifton’s poems about womanhood. The furious flowering of African American poetry 3. 21 (1999): 281-297. Print.

Housman, A E, and Michael Irwin. The Works of A.e. Housman. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions, 2005. Print.

Kriner, Tiffany. Conjuring Hope in a Body: Lucille Clifton’s Eschatology. Journal article by Tiffany Eberle Kriner; Christianity and Literature 54. 4 (2005): 78. Print.

Leggett, Bill. The Poetry of Insight: Persona and Point of View in Housman. Victorian Poetry 12. 4 (1996): 325-339. Print.

Ostriker, Ann. May Swenson and the Shapes of Speculation. The American Poetry Review 7. 2 (1998): 35-38. Print.

Swenson, May. The Universe. To Mix with Time 1. 1 (1962): 56. Print.

Taylor, Hays. Gwendolyn Brooks: An Essential Sanity. The Kenyon Review 13. 4 (1991): 115-131. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, March 14). Poems by G. Brooks, E. Housman, L. Clifton and M. Swenson. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/poems-by-g-brooks-e-housman-l-clifton-and-m-swenson/

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"Poems by G. Brooks, E. Housman, L. Clifton and M. Swenson." IvyPanda, 14 Mar. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/poems-by-g-brooks-e-housman-l-clifton-and-m-swenson/.

1. IvyPanda. "Poems by G. Brooks, E. Housman, L. Clifton and M. Swenson." March 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/poems-by-g-brooks-e-housman-l-clifton-and-m-swenson/.


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IvyPanda. "Poems by G. Brooks, E. Housman, L. Clifton and M. Swenson." March 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/poems-by-g-brooks-e-housman-l-clifton-and-m-swenson/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Poems by G. Brooks, E. Housman, L. Clifton and M. Swenson." March 14, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/poems-by-g-brooks-e-housman-l-clifton-and-m-swenson/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Poems by G. Brooks, E. Housman, L. Clifton and M. Swenson'. 14 March.

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