Owen Dodson Poetry: American Poets Analysis - Essay

Owen Dodson Poetry: American Poets Analysis

(Poets and Poetry in America)

As Owen Dodson was unable or unwilling to confine himself to any specific genre, his poems are also far-ranging in subject, style, and form. Reflecting his classical, humanistic education, his poetry frequently alludes to mythological or classical figures. Just as his drama is poetic, his poetry is dramatic and intense. Although highly skilled in the writing of sonnets, he also wrote free verse. Unlike most of the African American poets of his day, who attempted to lay bare the black experience in the United States, Dodson, instead, speaks emotionally, expressing pain and sorrow for those who have no voice.

Powerful Long Ladder

Powerful Long Ladder is permeated with sorrow throughout—sorrow for those individuals suffering from the domination and brutality of racism, from conditions of war, and from grief over the deaths of loved ones. Some of Dodson’s verse written while he was in the U.S. Navy focuses on his awareness of the suffering of others. “Black Mother Praying” (1943), written in free verse, is one of his most famous poems. Dodson relates an African American woman’s anguished pleading for God’s help in response to the brutal treatment of African Americans during the summer, 1943, race riots, sparked by competition between blacks and whites for higher-wage jobs in war industries. Another poem dating from his service period, “Jonathan’s Song, A Negro Saw a Jewish Pageant, ’We Will Never Die,’” was engendered by Dodson’s visit to a Jewish celebration of life. Dodson and a Jewish friend attended a candlelight ceremony commemorating Jews who had died as a result of racial hatred; Dodson’s recognition of the suffering of the Jews produced a passionate emotional poem mingling the suffering of the two races. In 1940, during the Battle of Britain, Dodson composed “Iphigenia,” whose reference to mythological Agamemnon’s daughter, who was sacrificed in order for the Argive fleet to fulfill its mission, comments on the sacrifice of the innocent English people being slaughtered to satisfy the world’s corrupt people. Dodson uses a tone of great sorrow as he internalizes the world’s pain.

In “Poems For My Brother, Kenneth,” in the first poetry selection, Dodson presents various perspectives of his brother. Kenneth appears regularly in Dodson’s dreams, giving him directions, and then disappears...

(The entire section is 971 words.)