Part 1 of my question: How do I effectively analyze this poem:  Camille Dungy's poem "Because it looked hotter that way" (I need to effectively analyze this first poem before moving onto the...

Part 1 of my question: How do I effectively analyze this poem:  Camille Dungy's poem "Because it looked hotter that way" (I need to effectively analyze this first poem before moving onto the other two poems.)

Part 2 of my question: I then need to do a comparison and contrast between this poem and two others. The other two poems are both by the same poet Langston Hughes, one is "Madam and the Phone Bill" and the other is "Life is Fine." Please give me any suggestions or help possible with this assignment. It would be greatly appreciated. 

Asked on by sbhagley

2 Answers | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Camille Dungy's poem "Because It Looked Hotter That Way" is, interestingly, an acrostic poem that utilizes the last words of Gwendolyn Brooks's "We Real Cool" and, thus, restricts its form.(Here is the link to this poem: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/17315)

Therefore, the student may want to discuss the form of this poem as it contributes to meaning. For, the use of Brooks's short words at the end of the lines stop short the narrative rhythm of the poem. This abruptness contributes to the tone and meaning of the verses as the lines end one reflection and another begins; thus, there is a sense of incompleteness in the thoughts expressed. For example,

we knew we'd blow our cool
sooner or later. Probably sooner. Probably even before we
got too far out of Westmont High and had kids of our own who left
home wearing clothes we didn't think belonged in school.

Whenever a student analyzes a poem, he needs to determine what the controlling metaphor is that gives the underlying meaning of the poem by asking himself what seems to be what is written about, and what is the deeper, more significant meaning (the metaphor). That is, ostensibly this poem is about school, but it is really about life's illusions and deceptions that end all too soon. The subtle mention of "we went on to the cotton gin" suggests the dead end that the speaker and her classmates are headed for, as do the lines

We took turns saying nice things, though we just as likely say
Die
and go to hell. Beauty of hell. The bell would ring soon.

_____________________

With respect to the other poems by Langston Hughes, there is also the sense of story to them that involves struggle and some despair. "Madame and the Phone Bill" is a dramatic dialogue with the controlling metaphor of the phone connection and the phone bill which represents the internal conflict that the speaker has over her relationship with Roscoe who is less of a man for having the woman support him economically and even emotionally.  In fact, the woman's refusal to pay the phone bill indicates her regaining of dignity and her soul from the man who took it as she has had to support him in exchange for her erotic relationship with him.

In "Life is Fine," Hughes tells the story of a person who despairs, but does not have the will to commit suicide. So, he resigns himself to live and defies the one who has brought him to the depths of his soul:

Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry--
I'll be dogged, sweet baby
If you gonna see me die.

Life is fine as wine
Life is fine!

Interestingly, the first line is the same as the last; however its meaning contrasts with that of the final line. In the first line "Life is fine" can be interpreted as Life is fragile; there is a fine line between life and death, whereas in the last line "Life is fine" can be interpreted as Life is a delicate balance, but one worth living/tasting as a wine.






Sources:
sbhagley's profile pic

sbhagley | Student, College Sophomore | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Part one of my question was in reference to Camille Dungy's poem "Because it looked hotter that way". I need to effectively analyze this first poem before moving onto the other two poems. There was interference in the way of a download so you must have lost some of my message from the beginning. I apologize. Thank you for your help. 

We’ve answered 318,915 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question