What does "I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, / Welling and swelling I bear in the tide" mean?

Expert Answers

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

This poem is an expression of confidence and self-empowerment by a speaker whom society tries to oppress and control. She compares herself and her sense of self-worth to many different things throughout the poem via metaphors and similes, comparisons of two unalike things (a metaphor says one thing is another; a simile says one thing is like or as another). For example, she says that she walks like she has "oil wells / Pumping in my living room." She says that she will rise, "like dust" or like the moon and the sun, with the "certainty of tides." She uses a metaphor when she says that she is "a black ocean, leaping and wide." Such a comparison emphasizes her feelings of empowerment and unstoppability: one cannot stop the ocean's waves; they are relentless. The speaker means that she is as undeniably powerful as the ocean. Further, she implies that her power is a natural part of herself, just like the ocean is powerful because of what it is. It cannot be anything different, and we do not ask it to be. Likewise, the poem's speaker cannot be anything different, so why should society ask her to be? No matter how many times she is beaten back or denied, she will keep rising, like the tides.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial