An Analysis of the Poem, The Black Art by Amira Baraka and Its Effects on the Audience
Poetry like any other form of creative work is there to express the authors thoughts, opinions and feelings to their audience. There are vast strategies that can be applied to help readers make sense of it. Which method you use relies heavily on the poem you are reading. Different poems call on different aspects of poetry, ways of reading, and the relationships between feelings, images and meaning. It is the purpose of this essay is to discuss elements of analysis that are designed to help readers identify the way poetry makes its meaning. Looking at the poem The Black Art, we will discuss how the piece achieves its effects for the audience. To begin reading a poem, I believe that it is imperative to identify major indicators of meaning, this includes aspects of setting and topic, as well as the voice of the person dominating or directing your reading. This can be achieved by looking for a clue as to the identity of the narrator, is it coming from a feminine or masculine point of view? The Black Art comes from a feminine point of view, the narrator is clearly female. The first stanza refers to women, a woman who writes feels too much, this stanza is ended with the key line Dear love, I am that girl. The use of singular prose I tells the reader the author is speaking of herself. As a female reader the author has established a common ground with the opening line. Women are commonly referred to, as emotional beings while men are rational. Therefore as women we would naturally all have material to write about. For myself this allows me to identify with the author. The words used in a poem and their literal meanings are not the only way to decipher what the poem is about. The diction, intonation and nuance of the phrases in the stanzas can convey to the reader the attitudes to its subject. A reader can take the words for face value or take a closer look to see if the author has meant these words to have a different connotation. The literal meaning of this poem could be taken as a women confessing simply how she feels about her relationship with the male subject of stanza two and three (e.g. Dear love, I am that girl & Never loving ourselvesWe love each other, precious, precious). However when we take a closer look at the addition of the words as if and wasnt never enough and the repetitive pattern of their inclusion before the phrases, cycles and children and islands and erections and congress and products, the tone of commentary appears sarcastic. The similar shape of stanza one and two (e.g. line length, spoken rhythm of the poem), serves to emphasize the continuing satirical nature of the piece when switching from talking about herself to talking about the male subject. In the first stanza, I believe the author is trying to suggest that although women have important roles as mothers, and caregivers, it is only a small part of our identity as a person.
Another example of the satirical nature of the poem is in the line she thinks she can warn the stars. The reference to the stars is the author making fun at the sheer possibility of women being ambitious (reaching for new height). The author is using a poetic technique called imagery, to allow the reader to create a vivid picture of exactly how far away we are from the stars, emphasizing her point. There is an overwhelming feeling that the author sees women as dangerously giving, even to the peril of their own hearts. This would make sense of the line, A writer is a spy and a spy puts their own life on the line to complete missions for others. The author has used the word spy as a rhetorical figure, using word play to produce an unanticipated effect without actually changing the meaning of the word used. In stanza two the author switches from talking about herself to talking about the male subject, Dear Love, you are that man. We are able to make a clear distinction between the topics of the two stanzas by paying attention to some key terms of the poem. In stanza one the word cycle perhaps refers to the female menstrual cycle and to the feminine point of view, while the word erection pertaining to a mans genitals, highlights the switch to talking about the masculine perspective. As in stanza one, I believe the author has used sarcasm to comment on her belief that even though men possess a majority of power in world (e.g.as if machines & galleons and wars were never enough), they still crave more, to achieve the impossible (with used furniture he makes a tree.). For myself, it is clear from the line A writer is essentially a crook., the author is again using rhetorical figures to describe the male subject as a thief taking self-esteem and capability away from her. This comments on the inequity of power within the relationship. I enjoyed Reading the poem The Black Art , as I derived quite a strong feeling of familiarity with the content of the poem. The author established a firm identification with the female audience. I dislike that women are often plunged into roles of mother and wife, with out consideration given to our many other talents as individuals. I think the lack of figurative language in the poem attracted me. I find metaphors, similes and so forth distracting sometimes to the true meaning of the poem. However the play on such words as spy and crook in the The Black Art cleverly comments on the power struggle between the giving nature of women and the taking temperament of men.