Poetry Comparison





Poetry Comparison

Langston Hughes is a renowned poet, popularly identified as the leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He was an African-American poet that lived in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. He celebrated black art and culture. He used his plays, essays, poems and other works to condemn racism and injustices on the black community. The poem, ‘The South’ talks about slavery. Diane Di Prima was a member of the beat generation that focused more on self-expression in the form of art rather than conventional society. The poem ‘Rant’ is a poem from this generation that sees the author defends their poetry as what they do for a living. She also insists that every person must have a spirit of imagination within them. She authored many other works of art including poems, prose and well as memoirs.

The poem ‘The South’ by Langston Hughes talks about the love-hate relationship that the author has with the South. The poem is set during the ear of slavery where the South held fast to the institution while the North allowed freedom for all men. Although they had suffered a lot in the South, the black people still found it difficult to leave it as it had been their home for many years. The North promised freedom but the choice was still difficult to make. They struggled with the decision to depart from a land that they had romanticized fro along time. Tough they found freedom and work in the North; the black people still faced discrimination.

The poem begins by describing the South as lazy and laughing. This deceives the reader into an image in which there is happiness. The Southerners enjoy conversations and other niceties in the hot summers. The second line, “with blood on its mouth” (I, 2) shows that the South is not as innocent after all. It has devoured the lives of the slaves leaving blood on its mouth. The south is a cruel mistress as it pretends to be unaware of the harm it does to its slaves. The author further states that the South is “child minded” likening it to a curious child unwilling to leave the ashes of the Negroes. It insists on continuing the institution of slavery, racism and oppression instead of moving forward to a more progressive future. Even after realizing that the South is cruel, it still appears to be a “Beautiful, like a woman, Seductive as a dark-eyed whore,” (I, 13-14) but also “syphyllic”. The seductiveness of the South symbolizes its fertile land but the term syphillic shows that it causes harm to those who work on it. The slaves love it despite all this. However, they consider moving to the North, “Is a kinder mistress, And in her house my children May escape the spell of the South.” (I, 27-29). The north is also cold faced, meaning the people there are cold and impersonal especially to strangers.

The poem ‘Rant’ by Diane Di Prima is quite different. The poet is a defense of intellectual capabilities of any person; the poet asserts that any person in any occupation has an active and creative imagination which is necessary for all parts of life. She explains that without imagination, there is no memory, no sensation, no will and no desire. All of these things are necessary for human life. So imagination in turn is basic for any human being. Every man and woman has imagination inside them a spark that is different from the stars in the sky. They should not be defined by history, but instead they should carve out their own paths. History is a weapon for more exploration into their creativity. The art of poetry and daily life are one, it cannot be separated, she no part of yourself you can separate out saying, “this is memory this is sensation / this is work I care about, this is how / I make a living.” (II, 6-7) She is proud of her work as an artist and a poet.

The two poems are similar in that they use symbolism. ‘The South’ uses symbols in labeling the North and South as mistresses. The South is also explained as being seductive and beautiful like a woman. ‘Rant’ defines history as a weapon, a symbol that shows that the audience can use history to their won advantage. Another similarity in the two poems is that they are not particularly ordered into stanzas. ‘The South’ is written in lines continuously to the end without breaks while ‘Rant has uneven stanzas.

There is a distinct difference in the themes addressed by the two poems and this is mainly affected by the era in which they were written. Di Prima is from the beat generation therefore she emphasizes non-conformity in society and the universality of poetry. The beat generation was a group of racists who began to question the societies they lived in; they wanted to live their art and encouraged others to do the same. She insists that poetry is what she does for a living, it is not just fun. Hughes on the other hand is a Renaissance poet, more concerned with racial matters. ‘The South’ addresses the issue of slavery and how the African-Americans struggled with the choice to leave the oppressive south for the equally cold North. He accuses the south of devouring the slaves and leaving blood on their mouths. The Renaissance poets were concerned with celebrating the black culture and addressing injustices in the society.

Hughes’ poems have a more serious tone, tackling the grave matter of racial injustice. ‘Rant’ is more lighthearted, urging the audience to look within themselves for creativity. Both of the poems have a common theme of freedom. The salves want to be free from slavery and at the same time; ‘Rant’ wants its readers to be free of societal expectations. Symbolism is used to pass across the message of the poems. It is clear that throughout history, poetry has been used to tackle matters of concern in the society.

Works Cited

Hughes, Langston. Selected Poems of Langston Hughes. Vintage, 2011.

Di Prima, Diane. Rant. White Fields Press for the Literary Renaissance, 1993.