The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“It Is Deep” is a short dramatic monologue of free verse divided into five stanzas of irregular length. The title, beginning with the indefinite pronoun “it,” suggests the slang meaning of “deep”: a highly abstract, intellectually profound idea lying beneath layers of superficial meanings. In Carolyn M. Rodgers’s poem, the superficial layers stem from the conflicting realities that typically exist between a mother and her adult daughter as the daughter asserts her independence and individuality.

The poet, commenting on her mother’s recent visit, notes how different her and her mother’s views are on issues of religion, politics, and lifestyle. This difference is particularly noted in their attitudes toward racism. The poet regards her mother, “religiously girdled in her god,” as having endured racial oppression by a delusion of heavenly deliverance and meek acquiescence. The poet, however, rebels against racism by stripping the “god” myth away and engaging in revolutionary rejection of the political ideology and lifestyles of white America. The opening of the poem makes the point that the mother, in her dogged role of “religious-negro,” cannot appreciate the daughter’s racial progress. Thus, when the daughter refuses to use the “witch cord” and gets her telephone disconnected, the mother can only suppose “that her ‘baby’ was starving” for lack of money to pay bills and buy food. The mother, “gruff and...

(The entire section is 519 words.)