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Analysis of Jayne Cortez’s Poems

Jayne Cortez is a representative of African American poets who have started writing during the Black Arts Movement. Many of Cortez’s works demonstrate her concern about the environment and raise the topical themes of natural disasters and pollution. Moreover, the poetess also explored the theme of oppression, specifically the exploitation of third world countries. In her poems “There It Is” and “Push Back the Catastrophes,” one may observe many of the abovementioned themes. This paper will analyze the two poems written by Jayne Cortez in order to examine their structure, figurative language, tone, intended meaning, and the final message.

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In “There It Is,” the author uses parallel structure in order to underline her point of view. At the beginning of the poem, the poetess states that if people do not begin to fight now, they will achieve nothing. The author uses the statement “If we don’t” three times in order to underline the importance of the actions people have to take (Cortez 16). To throw off the chains of oppression, Cortez urges mankind to “fight, resist, organize, and unify” (Cortez 16). Later in the poem, the poetess uses statements with “Then” to show what may happen if people do not follow her advice. To draw the readers’ attention to the consequences of inaction, the writer employed bright metaphors. For instance, through the metaphor “the stylized look of submission”, the author refers to the advertising industry where the pictures of submission are used to sell goods (Christian 146). Moreover, the intended meaning of the poem is a call to people to evoke and rise up in revolution. The parallel structure of the poem helped the writer to strengthen her message.

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“Push Back the Catastrophes”, just like “There It Is”, is composed in the form of free verse. Both poems do not have rhyme and meter, but they have jazz rhythms (Feinstein 312). In “Push Back the Catastrophes”, the poetess also used parallel structure. Every line of the first stanza starts with “I don’t”; in the second and third stanzas, many lines start with nouns; and the last stanza is a call for changes. Moreover, the author used violent and even repulsive figurative language, specifically metaphors that rely heavily on bodily parts. For example, she says, “I don’t want a drought to feed on itself/ through the tattooed holes in my belly” and “a spectacular desert of/charred stems & rabbit hairs” (Cortez 62). By means of these metaphors, the poetess tries to emphasize that biological weapons, the consequences of human harmful activities, and human inaction will lead to the emergence of new diseases and ecological devastation. Cortez appeals to her readers to stop the exploitation of nature.

Both poems contain powerful images targeted at making the audience aware of the author’s message. At the same time, the two poems tightly relate to each other in terms of content and techniques utilized. They both contain negative forms “don’t”, a call for people to change the situation, and the depiction of the consequences they may face in the future if they do nothing. The tone of the poems is thrilling and inspiring. The two works depict oppressed nations and natural catastrophes, as well as the author’s advice on how to fight and change the current state of affairs. The final message of the poems is that if people do not develop themselves and struggle for a better future, they will risk remaining in the miserable and contaminated world.

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In conclusion, Jayne Cortez referred to different themes in the poems under analysis, such as revolutionary moods, racism, oppression, and environment. In the poetess’s works, one can find the passion and rhythm of the melody that unite the feelings of pain, rage, and despair. Both poems are free verses, and they are quite similar in terms of structure and literary devices used. In “Push Back the Catastrophes” and “There It Is”, the author makes an important statement that there is no easy way to get out of the situation the world is in now. Thus, the two poems are a call for people to fight for their wellbeing and a good future for the whole world.

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