Student Question

Analyze Canisia Lubrin's poem "The Mongrel."

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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.

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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.

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Analyze the poem “The Mongrel” by Canisia Lubrin to demonstrate how the poet deploys diction and at least six other literary devices to elicit fresh conceptualizations of diasporic geographies.

With diction, Canisia Lubrin’s poem “The Mongrel” elicits fresh conceptualizations of diasporic geographies by combining violent language with terms of endearment. The “blood,” “revolts,” and general strife and struggle emphasize the force and brutality that produce diasporas. Yet Lubrin complicates the horrors that are associated with diasporic geographies by attaching them to terms like “elegant” and “grace.” The diction arguably allows beauty and brutality to coexist. The notion that oppression doesn’t inevitably deprive one of their dignity and allure could qualify as a “fresh” concept.

Another literary device that elicits fresh conceptualizations connects to imagery. The poem ties together an array of images. There are depictions of primitive life and portrayals of modernity and outer space. The diverse images might help one conceptualization how diasporic geographies take root on Earth and transcend it.

A third literary device, symbolism, relates to the scientific imagery. Consider how the mention of science could help one see how space exploration symbolizes diasporic geographies. Even in space, the Mongrel can be displaced since space, as the inclusion of Albert Einstein indicates, can be viewed as the dominion of the West.

A fourth literary device used by Lubrin is hyperbole. To reinforce the dramatic journeys of diasporas, Lubrin embraces theatrics and pyrotechnics. The over-the-top ferocity might help one conceptualize the magnitude of what diasporas have to overcome.

A fifth literary device is repetition. Lubrin repeats words and phrases throughout the poem. God appears twice, as does the phrase million years. Of course, the Mongrel makes numerous appearances. Perhaps repetition develops the concept that displacement doesn’t preclude continuity.

To find additional literary devices in “The Mongrel,” look out for alliteration and juxtaposition. Juxtaposition links to Lubrin’s diction, while alliteration could be seen in terms of rhythm, repetition, or continuity.

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