English 11 Honors: a collection of Harlem Renaissance poetry



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English 11 Honors: A collection of Harlem Renaissance poetry
As you analyze each poem, focus your notations on the following literary devices: diction, imagery, figurative language, syntax, repetition, symbolism, and any others that may be appropriate for a given poem. As has been the case in the past, these poems, in and of themselves will be analyzed (in writing) as well as used as material for future comparative literary analysis.
Prompt:

A poet has many literary devices at his disposal when crafting a poem


In as well-organized essay, explain how the poet uses a specific type of literary device to enhance the overall meaning of the poem.


America (Claude McKay) 1
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

If We Must Die (Claude McKay) 2
If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
Portrait in Georgia by Jean Toomer 3

Hair--braided chestnut,


    coiled like a lyncher's rope,
Eyes--fagots,
Lips--old scars, or the first red blisters,
Breath--the last sweet scent of cane,
And her slim body, white as the ash
    of black flesh after flame.

We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar 4

WE wear the mask that grins and lies,


 It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
 This debt we pay to human guile;
 With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
 And mouth with myriad subtleties.

 Why should the world be over-wise,


 In counting all our tears and sighs?
 Nay, let them only see us, while
            We wear the mask.

 We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries


 To thee from tortured souls arise.
 We sing, but oh the clay is vile
 Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
 But let the world dream otherwise,
            We wear the mask!
Yet Do I Marvel by Countee Cullen 5
I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind
And did He stoop to quibble could tell why
The little buried mole continues blind,
Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die,
Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus
Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus
To struggle up a never-ending stair.
Inscrutable His ways are, and immune
To catechism by a mind too strewn
With petty cares to slightly understand
What awful brain compels His awful hand.
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!
From the Dark Tower

By Countee Cullen 6

We shall not always plant while others reap


The golden increment of bursting fruit,
Not always countenance, abject and mute
That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap;
Not everlastingly while others sleep
Shall we beguile their limbs with mellow flute,
Not always bend to some more subtle brute;
We were not made eternally to weep.

The night whose sable breast relieves the stark


White stars is no less lovely being dark,
And there are buds that cannot bloom at all
In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall;
So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,
And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.

Georgia Dusk by Jean Toomer 7

The sky, lazily disdaining to pursue

The setting sun, too indolent to hold

A lengthened tournament for flashing gold,

Passively darkens for night's barbecue,


A feast of moon and men and barking hounds,

An orgy for some genius of the South

With blood-hot eyes and cane-lipped scented mouth,

Surprised in making folk-songs from soul sounds.


The sawmill blows its whistle, buzz-saws stop,

And silence breaks the bud of knoll and hill,

Soft settling pollen where plowed lands fulfill

Their early promise of a bumper crop.


Smoke from the pyramidal sawdust pile

Curls up, blue ghosts of trees, tarrying low

Where only chips and stumps are left to show

The solid proof of former domicile.


Meanwhile, the men, with vestiges of pomp,

Race memories of king and caravan,

High-priests, an ostrich, and a juju-man,

Go singing through the footpaths of the swamp.


Their voices rise . . the pine trees are guitars,

Strumming, pine-needles fall like sheets of rain . .

Their voices rise . . the chorus of the cane

Is caroling a vesper to the stars .


O singers, resinous and soft your songs

Above the sacred whisper of the pines,

Give virgin lips to cornfield concubines,

Bring dreams of Christ to dusky cane-lipped throngs.


“Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes 8
The instructor said,
Go home and write

a page tonight.

And let that page come out of you--

Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it's that simple?

I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.

I went to school there, then Durham, then here

to this college on the hill above Harlem.

I am the only colored student in my class.

The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,

through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,

Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,

the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator

up to my room, sit down, and write this page:


It's not easy to know what is true for you or me

at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what

I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:

hear you, hear me--we two--you, me, talk on this page.

(I hear New York, too.) Me--who?

Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.

I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.

I like a pipe for a Christmas present,

or records--Bessie, bop, or Bach.

I guess being colored doesn't make me not like

the same things other folks like who are other races.

So will my page be colored that I write?


Being me, it will not be white.

But it will be

a part of you, instructor.

You are white--

yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.

That's American.

Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.

Nor do I often want to be a part of you.

But we are, that's true!

As I learn from you,

I guess you learn from me--

although you're older--and white--

and somewhat more free.
This is my page for English B.

Me and the Mule by Langston Hughes 9

My old mule,
He's gotta grin on his face.
He's been a mule so long
He's forgotten about his race.

I'm like that old mule --


Black -- and don't give a damn!
You got to take me
Like I am.


The Negro Speaks of Rivers (to W. E. B. DuBois) by Langston Hughes 10

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow
  of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.


I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went
  down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy bosom turn
  all golden in the sunset.



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