Analyze Canisia Lubrin's poem “The Mongrel.”

To analyze Canisia Lubrin’s “The Mongrel,” think about how the poem engages with racist tropes about Black people and how it demonstrates the fragmentation brought on by colonialism.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

To analyze Canisia Lubrin’s poem “The Mongrel,” think about how the title links to the content of the poem. The term mongrel refers to an animal of different breeds. It also has a derogatory meaning when it’s applied to a mixed-race person. The racial components of the poem are emphasized by allusions to Haitian slave revolts, colonialism, and demeaning stereotypes about people of color.

One prejudiced stereotype that could be analyzed has to do with the belief that Black people are less than human and have more in common with animals. Lubrin engages this racist trope with an array of bestial imagery. In the second stanza, Lubrin refers to the “feral” quality of the mongrel. In the following stanza, the inclusion of dogs and cows reinforces the animalism of the poem. In the final stanza, Lubrin spotlights the mongrel’s tail.

However, Lubrin appears to see positives in the mongrel designation. Try to analyze how Lubrin’s poem reformulates the idea of the mongrel and makes it into something laudatory. Consider how mongrel could refer to endurance and resilience. Despite the “blows” and “wild brutality," the mongrel remains “elegant”; it has not surrendered its “orienting grace.”

Another way to analyze the poem would be to focus on fragmentation. The poem has two epigraphs. One of them addresses fragmentation—a key theme in the poem. Perhaps evaluate how fragmentation is reflected in the number of enjambed lines, as well as in the aforementioned themes of colonization and racism.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team