Deserts at Night
Abstract (Summary)This dissertation includes a creative section with a selection of original poetry, along with a critical section that focuses on the work of Anne Spencer, one of the most important female poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Spencer’s poems appeared in the major anthologies and journals of the period, and she was a close friend to writers like James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes. Like many of the poets working in the Harlem Renaissance, she chose to employ rather than overturn existing and recognizable poetic structures, and she clearly saw herself as writing within a white male tradition. She proclaimed Robert Browning her favorite poet, and she wrote herself comfortably into the company of white men: “Chatterton, Shelley, Keats and I— / Ah, how poets sing and die!” Some critics explain this seeming contradiction as a separation of her art and her life and view her poetry as an escape from the more controversial political concerns that occupied her existence. Yet, her poetry constantly brings into play her own voice and concerns as a black woman. This essay reads Spencer within the white male context in which she herself envisioned her work, examining several of Spencer’s poems alongside the poems of her beloved Browning and her contemporaries T.S. Eliot and W.B. Yeats. In placing her within the white male canon, I do not mean to suggest that Spencer denied her blackness or womanhood, for I believe she managed with incredible skill the mutually exclusive terms of black, woman, and poet, marking through the white tradition every time she picked up the pen. Rather, I hope to show how poets writing out of the same tradition, using similar forms and poetic conventions, produced very different results. Such differences can shed light not only on Spencer’s artistic choices but upon the works of these white men as well.
School:University of Cincinnati
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/2005