Neil Hester

All poems © Neil Hester unless otherwritten

Location: North Carolina, United States

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cullin' Cullen

A short feature for today, highlighting Countee Cullen, whom I discovered on Cosmoetica. Mr. Cullen, 1903-1946, is... oh, heck, I'll just pull this bio from Cosmoetica, it's short and to the point:

Black, male, homosexual, devout Christian, & remembered more for his famed feud with Langston Hughes over whether a black poet is a poet first (his position) or a black first (Hughes's position). But he is, along with John Donne & Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of the best theistic poets in the Western world- as well a devastating lyricist. Note the sublime child-like majesty of Incident- & how his purposeful dictive flaws accentuate such.

Though I've yet to read more than 4-5 of his works, he's written a couple shorter poems that are favorites (great poems in simple quatrain form, a type that I favor), these being Incident and A Brown Girl Dead:


(for Eric Walrond)

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, "nigger."

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.

By Countee Cullen


A Brown Girl Dead

With two white roses on her breasts,
White candles at her head and feet,
Dark Madonna of the grave she rests;
Lord Death has found her sweet.

Her mother pawned her wedding ring
To lay her out in white;
She'd be so proud she'd dance and sing
To see herself tonight.


Incident is positively riveting, its effectiveness superb in its childish simplicity- about as poignant as racism gets. A Brown Girl Dead creates a melancholy but beautiful image of a funeral, then switches to the sacrifice made in order to pay for the service. The last line is very effective and somewhat discomforting- the girl, more beautiful in death than in life? Count on Cullen for fine poetry~ 'Til next time,




Blogger AnoNick said...

I like the first one very much. Simple but heartbreaking.

The second is good too, but not as nice as the first. I'll look up Cullen, thanks for pointing me to great poetry. :-)

11:16 PM  
Blogger SempreArioso said...

"Incident" is a sad reminder of the behavior that can be introduced to young children. One heartbreaking thought: the little boy probably believed his actions were justified. It's a good poem, but the truth is saddening.

5:37 PM  

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