Johnson wrote “The Creation” in imitation of African American pulpit oratory. The poem eventually became a part of a seven-poem sequence published as God’s Trombones. The traditional sermon pattern that Johnson is imitating follows a sequence beginning with Creation, moving through the Fall of Man, the persecutions of the Hebrews, redemption through Christ’s Crucifixion, and finally to Judgment Day. Johnson’s poems basically correspond to this sequence. Though the source of this structure is biblical, the African American preacher was quite individualistic in his retelling of this story. Though Johnson consciously avoids dialect in the poems, he carefully embeds into the verse a nontraditional pattern of meter, using dashes to indicate pauses for breath and embedding syllables to create “a decided syncopation of speech.” In “The Creation,” God creates the world in the same basic sequence that he creates it in Genesis, but God in the poem is much more anthropomorphic than the Old Testament God. He walks around and looks around. He even puts his head in his hands. When he breathes life into man, God is “Like a mammy bending over her baby.”
The Creation by James Weldon Johnson Summary
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