Thrailkill-mentioned poems from 4/17 Lecture

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    What really stands out to me about “Yet I Do Marvel” by Countee Cullen is the religious tone of the poem–the idea that he believes God is benevolent in creating man (“I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind”), yet he wonders why a heavenly figure would create his children with the vulnerability and temporality of human flesh. Along with the complexities of life and the delicate creation of the human body, he also addresses the tedious nature of human ventures, alluding to Sisyphus and his boulder, rolling it up the hill only to have it tumble down once more–a painful and purposeless struggle. He also addresses the issue of race. This poem was released in 1903, and Cullen ends his poem with “Yet do I marvel at this curious thing: To make a poet black, and bid him sing!” I think this is a beautiful ending, stating that God creates marvelous and beautiful things that we often cannot understand, and it is our human attempt to create meaning and a way of knowing that labels people and sorts them into groups, such as that of race and superiority/inferiority complexes. In Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “We Wear the Mask,” he creates a vivid image of a black person wearing a mask, as he is not allowed to show his true feelings for his own safety. This mask also acts as a label, obscuring his true identity as others only see the color of his skin. This idea of a mask being worn and obscuring the wearer’s true identity resonates with me in this time of pandemic and in regard to reading Tweedy’s book as a black doctor. His professor at Duke assumed he was a janitor simply because of the color of his skin–his mask, in a sense. Both of these poems beautifully ponder the nature of man and of man-made labels and the way they affect black men’s lives–this perspective is especially poignant in a time of pandemic in which black Americans are dying at a much higher rate due to a racist American history, the consequences of which these men embody with their poetry.

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