Form in “Song for a Dark Girl”

“Song for a Dark Girl” elicited confusion from two parts of it’s form. The first part concerned the parentheses surrounding the second line of each stanza. I wondered if these parentheses were meant to be a reinforcing echo or a side-note to Hughes himself (like in Bishop’s “One Art”). Neither one of those options made sense in context. I searched the term “Way Down South in Dixie” and it resulted in songs that describe the glory and cultural allure of the south in the late 1800’s. However, these were very clearly extensions of white culture and made no mention of the foundation of slavery the culture thrived on. Based on that, I now see the parentheses used ironically, as a side-note to the reader. Hughes makes the first stanza of each line an expression of southern greatness and then follows it with an almost shocking sense of sadness (“bruised body high in air”). I think he does this to echo the way slavery was viewed in the South. It was cruel, but well-known and simply ignored because it was necessary to sustain Southern “glory”. The entire business of slavery was “in parentheses”; black voices weren’t heard because they were an optional side-read.

The second issue concerned the way Hughes arranged the poem. His use of indention seemed strange until I realized he was using a hanging indent, which may be a play on the subject matter of the poem. The use of selected indention may also emphasize those lines that jut out or draw attention to the alternative rhyme scheme. I’m just not sure what significance those other points would hold.

 

How Parenthetical Lines Function in “Song for a Dark Girl”

Something that made me think from this week’s passages was three lines from Langston Hughes’ “Song for a Dark Girl.” The second lines of each stanza are in parentheses, which made me pay close attention to them and continually come back to them. Usually, when something is in parentheses, it’s meant to be an “afterthought;” something that isn’t essential to the piece but provides some extra information for the audience. However, in the case of this Hughes poem, it seems that the function of the parenthetical lines is different.

They stand out in the overall form of the poem, which immediately draws the reader’s attention to them. “Break the heart of me” is repeated in the first and third stanza—a refrain in the poem—which calls even more attention to these words. This makes sense: the poem is about the speaker, a young black girl from the Dixie south who has just witnessed the lynching of her lover. So this leads me back to my original thought: why is the second line of each stanza in parentheses, rather than just being spoken outright? The fact that her heart is broken (stanzas 1 and 3), as well as the bruised body of her lover that hangs gruesomely in the air (stanza 2), don’t seem like non-essential thoughts. In fact, these two lines seem absolutely necessary in explaining how the speaker feels about the horrific murder. Hughes might have used the parentheses to signal the fact that the speaker’s broken heart, as well as the hanging bruised body, has caused so much pain that it is almost impossible to explain outright. In this sense, the girl might be reflecting on the immense and inexplicable pain caused by the lynching of her lover; thus, the parentheses signal that these thoughts act in retrospect as absolutely crucial to the speaker’s song.

Richard Wright, What is Right?

Through the last couple of class lectures, I realized that poetry does not need rhymes to be considered poetry. Personally, I feel that a majority of society has the misconception that poetry needs to have every line rhyming with the one before or after it. I was also a part of this majority.

However, Richard Wright’s poem is the perfect example of why poetry does not need to contain rhymes. Wright had me completely confused. There is no prevalent rhyme scheme nor is there any meter in from Haiku: This Other World. I read the poem once, twice, and over again, but did not see any connection between the stanzas. The flow of the poem was, honestly, awkward because the stanzas are independent of each other.

However, this is why this poem stood out to me. Each stanza does not flow into the next one. While reading the poem over and over again, I tried to picture the poem in my head. I started to picture six different picture frames all happening simultaneously. I pictured a short film in my head of different places across the world, with the scenes described in the stanzas acting as the basis for the shorts. This made me realize, if one pictures the poem as a moving picture, comprehending the poem becomes easier and less intimidating. Of course, this cannot be done with all poems. However, I feel that when it comes to descriptive poems, drawing oneself a picture makes analyzing a poem much more enjoyable.

 

Breaks in the rhyme scheme/melody of The Weary Blues

A difficult point in the reading for me was during “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes. It was not in understanding the meaning of the piece or even identifying rhyme where I had trouble, but rather in certain breaks in the “melody” of the poem. While reading the poem the initial rhyme made the piece seem quite like a song to me, with a definitive and fast moving rhythm. However, various breaks in the rhyming distracted me from the flow of the poem.

 

For example, the poem follows the rhyme scheme AABCCBBDEE for the first 10 lines. The B rhymes seem to slow down the pace of the poem, which I could understand some reason for, but I don’t understand the purpose of the lone D. My only theory for this is that this end word of “blues” is something that is then repeated two more times, when Hughes makes lines 11 and 16 “O blues!” Even so, it seems out of place in line 8, and is a full-length line rather than the short interruptions we see in 11 and 16.

 

Additionally, the two sections (lines 19-22 and 25-30) where Hughes brings out the voice of the man singing the weary blues, the rhyme scheme is changed completely. The first section goes ABCB and the second has repeating end words of “blues” and “satisfied” for the first 4 lines and then a line with no rhyme followed by “died” to rhyme with “satisfied”. I do not understand either the use of the repeating word or his reasoning for this rhyme scheme. My only theory is that the difference in rhyming, from couplets to this, is to highlight that is a new voice that is “speaking” in this part of the poem. Even so, I don’t quite see the purpose in how the rhyme scheme was set.

 

All of the above interruptions and changes in the rhyme scheme made the poem seem choppy and made it difficult to read.

Confusing Meter/Structure for “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes

“The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes has a loosely structured, confusing form. The different meters from line to line made the flow and rhythm difficult to grasp.

From lines 1-5 and 6-10, I was able to sense the metrical pattern where the first and last 2 lines in a stanza had the same metrical feet. For 1-5, the meter was 5,5,3,5,5. And for 6-10, the meter was 3,3,4,6,6. But for lines 11-15, the meter was 1,5,6,1,3.

Lines 1-5:

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,     (5)

Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,  (5)

I heard a Negro play.         (3)

Down on Lenox Avenue the other night      (5)

By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light    (5)

Lines 11-15

O Blues!          (1)

Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool    (5)

He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool. (6)

Sweet Blues!       (1)

Coming from a black man’s soul.    (3)

Form is one of the most important aspects of a poem and the key to understanding the meaning of a piece. The rhythm and meter makes up the form a particular poem takes. And when the form is ordered in a way that is not apparent to the reader, it creates a sense of being lost within the poem. When the meter of each line is looked at as a whole, there were not any consistent patterns. Because of that, I did not find the poem to have any flow, but rather choppy. In an attempt to find a pattern that would help with the poem’s flow, I read aloud the poem and counted the syllables. However, when I did that, I was unable to find an overall consistence in meter patterns. Another way of approaching this poem is by listening to someone else’s recitation of the poem. Different people can recite a poem differently by stressing some syllables and unstressing others which can change the meaning and flow of the overall poem.

 

Difficult Form in “The Weary Blues”

 

Langston Hughes’ The Weary Blues reads at first glance as a villanelle, but as the poem progresses, I see that it doesn’t follow the traditional structure. The first stanza makes the reader think that the last line will be repeated, as expected in villanelle. The second stanza does not repeat the same way though. This is what confused me when reading. Is there a type of form that this poem follows, or is it just loosely playing off the villanelle? The middle stanzas follow the traditional structure with “O blues” and “Sweet blues” serving as the repetitive lines, but then the first line in the stanza does not rhyme with the last. There is rhyme throughout starting with an AAB scheme. The poem may be organized like this in the beginning to give the reader a sing song-y type feeling because the Hughes’ wants to poem to read in a musical way to imitate the idea of blue music. The insertion of the song lyrics towards the end of the poem halts the poem a bit with the “thump, thump, thump” but this serves to shift the readers focus to better read the following lines from a different speaker and with a different rhyme scheme. The poem wraps up with the words “bed” and “dead” in a nursery rhyme type way which sounds to the ear like a logical closing point for the poem, but also gives the poem more meaning because its is even mentioning going to bed/being dead as the end to a day or a life. Hughes’ form was very appropriate for this poem, but also makes more difficult to read.

 

How Diction Disrupts Rhythm in The Weary Blues

As mentioned in previous posts, Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues” does not follow a consistent rhyme scheme or form, thus disrupting the overall flow of the poem. Additionally, I noticed that the use of words containing elongated vowels, like in “tune” and “key,” in rhyming couplets did not ease the choppiness of the poem either.

Although the rhyme scheme of the poem is unclear, there are couplets dispersed throughout the poem like lines 1 and 2 and lines 4 and 5. These lines share a common theme, which is the use of elongated vowels in the last word of those lines. For example, “tune/croon” and “stool/fool” are some of the words that function as end rhymes. When reading these lines, it was distracting for me to move on to the next line due to the tendency to hang on to these words as I was reading. This pattern repeats throughout the poem, making it challenging to not pause after those lines before moving on to the next. Hughes’ may have done this purposely to mimic the lethargy of the man.

Furthermore, the style of the poem mimics a slow, lyrical song that contains melancholy versus represented by the use of ellipses and exclamations. At first glance, the indented lines stand out like rest notes in a music score. Upon closer examination, I noticed that those lines supplement the previous and subsequent lines by further conveying a sense of lethargy through the use of the ellipses in lines 6 and 7 and the repetition of the phrase “O Blues.” The ellipses function as an unfinished thought to describe the man’s dissatisfaction, while the “O” in “O Blues!” could be a yawn to express his fatigue. The use of these two elements adds pauses to the poem, which further hinders the flow, thus making it challenging to read.

confusing structure of Hughes’ “The Weary Blues”

Form is an aspect of poetry that helps the reader see an author’s intentions. They can organize their words and art in a way that helps the audience read or perform it the way it was intended. In Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues” had me feeling quite lost when it came to the structure. I did not see any patterns throughout this piece and the flow seemed to change every time I thought I had it figured out. I read the poem out loud twice and even read it to my roommate to see if she recognized or heard any patterns in the way it sounds. The meter did not have a clear sensible pattern to either of us. I wonder if the way we pronounce words in this day and age has anything to do with it since it is 2016 and not the early 1900’s. The pronunciation of words may drastically help the flow of the poem and may make it sound more melodious and less choppy. I was curious as to what the main point of the poem was trying to get at as well. The entire thing made me feel tired and confused at the end of reading it, even multiple times. It was almost like trying to listen to a song on YouTube but the link keeps buffering. Overall I think that Langston Hughes did this to keep the reader on their feet and make us wonder as an audience about his intentions. His message in the poem may correlate with the structure since form is a tool used to help poets enhance their meaning and get it across a certain way.

Irregular Structure Leads to Meaning in “The Wearing Blues”

I thought that the structure of this poem was very irregular, not having a consistent and stable rhythm scheme. The first time I read it (and many times thereafter) the unpredictability of this poems structure made it hard to follow meaning. The poem starts off with a steady rhythm scheme (“…drowsy syncopated tune/…to a mellow croon”) which turns into a less strictly structured rhythm (…hands on each ivory key/…moan with melody…O Blues!….O Blues!”, an excerpt of lyrics (Ain’t nobody in all this world/Ain’t got nobody but ma self”), and ends with the same steady rhythm scheme (…went to bed/…through his head/…a man that’s dead).

 

A main topic of last weeks lecture was centered on how structure can influence and change meaning. It was difficult for me to break down and analyze this poem because I wasn’t clear on how the structure was doing this; I couldn’t see a link in the poems sporadic rhythms and the words that Hughes was writing.

 

I started to think in a more broad sense of what this unpredictability could mean. I think that Hughes uses this overall inconsistency to convey the meaning that both his subject (the piano player) and jazz music are unpredictable and changing. Something I noticed is that the poems structure goes full circle, starting and ending with a rhythm. This could indicate that jazz music also goes in circles.

 

With this insight, it was easier to take apart the poems meaning. For example, I thought the description of the music as having a “melancholy tone” appeared again in the end of the poem. The poems end is particularly melancholy and sad, just as the song is melancholy and sad. This illustrates the connection between the music and the meaning.

Unique Structure/Form in “Song for a Dark Girl”

I read the poem “Song for a Dark Girl”.  During my first read through, two specific things that drew my attention were the parentheses in lines 2, 6, and 10 and also the way the poem is structured with every other line being indented.  The use of these parentheses were particularly confusing to me because they do not follow a specific pattern, i.e. every other line, and one of the lines in parentheses “Break the heart of me” is repeated.  I thought about this for quite a bit, and the only reason I could come up with for the use of parentheses in selective lines is that the speaker is trying hard to keep it together, so maybe the lines in parentheses represent him singing more softly and trying not to cry.  Maybe this could even explain the alternating indented lines; the speaker tries to be strong about what he is saying about his lover but then is on the verge of breaking down in the next line, and so on and so forth.  (I am still not sure if this is what the author intended.)

I think that what makes this passage a particularly difficult one is that it isn’t structured the way many other poems are.  The other poems that I read for class were separated into stanzas with no special indentation, and this one was different.

I think the best approach to understanding this poem would be to paraphrase it, and try to get an idea of what the speaker is feeling.  Then that might allow us readers to understand what the author might have been trying to convey and emphasize about the speaker.

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