Critical Analysis: Bilingual by Rhina P. Espaillat and Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note by Amiri Baraka

Rhine P. Espaillat depicts life’s truths and uncertainties with nimble, womanly and most often comic perceptions that are consistently sensual and humane. This poem deals with the conflict of identity between a Spanish speaking father who clings to his heritage and a schoolgirl daughter who longs to fit in with her new social and cultural environment. The carefully selected title also acts as a foreshadowing for the readers about the ensuing conflict. The Poem Bilingual is written in the form of nine heroic couplets with frequent use of enjambment which works fluidly to downplay the end rhymes. Within each couplet, a Spanish phrase is parenthetically embedded without disturbing the iambic pentameter integrity of the lines. She infuses Spanish where she may not need it but the language’s syllables enhance the rhythm of the poem. The major theme of the poem is the undying love of a father for his daughter and the manner in which a daughter manipulates her father and tries to bend him to her wishes. The poet utilizes first-person narration technique and the insertion of dialogues in the text which helps in establishing a close relationship between the text and the reader. Hence the reader gets a first-hand account of the little girl’s confusion about identity and slight rebellion against her father’s wishes and the father’s helplessness. The tone of the poem is a blend of humor, playfulness and a tinge of anger which can be inferred from the little girl’s defiance against her father’s wishes.

Leroi Jones became the oracle of the explosive sixties revolution and of its rage against an insensitive world that systematically exploited black people. His first volume of poetry Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note depicts a search for new ways of expression. His images are often unpleasant they uncover vividly, humorously, and sometimes sardonically the ugly realities of life such alienation as it is apparent in the Preface. The poem orients itself around absences or the changes that have occurred as the opening of the ground and the fact that “nobody sings anymore,” the author who “counts the holes [the stars] leave,” reiterates the isolation that the poet suffers. The poem is written in the form of Free Verse as observed that the writer is following his personal style of writing. Moreover, alienation is the integral theme of the poem. The “holes” in the sky can be interpreted as the emptiness and the dejection poet feels because of the injustices done to the blacks by the world. This poem is also illustrated in first-person narration. The poem can be perceived as a reflection of the poet’s concerns and personal experience. Hence it is autobiographical in tone although the point of view could be that of a fictive voice struggling with the same issues. The use of ellipses can be interpreted as a representation of the shift of thoughts in the poet’s mind. The mentioning of his daughter in the poem can be perceived as a form of symbolic disappointment and regret poet feels about the fact that his child is also going to face the same feeling of alienation and loneliness which he faces as well. The last stanza begins with an “And” which can be described as a shift or presentation of a new idea by the poet. However, he relates his first feeling of alienation again in order to retain coherence of thought.

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