Original poem reprinted online here: "Discrimination" by Kenneth Rexroth
Originally read: June 1, 2013
More information about the Poet: Kenneth Rexroth
Cocky? Pretentious? The tone has audacity, "I don't mind the human race." Which is then followed up by, "I've got pretty used to them" -- a pretty awkward statement, but an intriguing one. The focus here is the mindset of the speaker whose tone and insight on the subject of the "human race." And the short declarative lines makes this poem have unintentional (or intentional) humorous moments.
I don't mind if they sit next
To me on streetcars, or eat
In the same restaurants, if
It's not at the same table.
These lines have a personal feel to them, the level of detail and disdain is humorous as the speaker nit picks what he can "tolerate." And what of these situations? Dinner, and a streetcar. Note how the speaker can "mind" them if they sit in a streetcar, but would rather not have "them" at the same table for dinner. The poem progresses through the sense of isolation, until the turn.
"However, I don't approve / of a woman I respect / Dancing with one of them." Now the focus is on an individual woman -- dancing with "them." Of course the humor is in the specificity and the distanced judgmental tone.
But the situation sits as though the speaker attempts to reconcile with the "them," the other, "I've / Tried asking them to my home / Without success." Amicable, yes. But the isolation of the self becomes further prevalent as the judgement goes outward after this moment.
[...] I shouldn't
Care to see my own sister
Marry one, Even if she
Note how the judgment is solidified here towards men. Careful though, past me went on this rant about Feminism, but I feel this is not the case with this poem, well at the very core of this poem. What this poem does is separates a type of person, rather than gender. It's not necessarily man versus women (although, as past me would demonstrate in the notes, this can be one strong interpretation of the poem)m but I feel that the poem has stronger sentiment on the human race as a whole.
"Their art is interesting. / But certainly barbarous." These line draws me. The judgement is of the art being barbarous -- although funny lines, they inform and can be comparable with the last sentiment, "I'm sure, if given a chance, / They'd kill us all in our beds." Barbarous acts -- both in art and in violence. Yes, these things are interesting.
The last line dismisses the possible depths of the previous lines, "And you must admit, they smell" This is the first instance of "you" in the poem which, I think, makes the "you" -- I think which addresses the audience -- into the group with the "I" -- the isolated judgmental type.
Of course this poem is satirical based on the extremes, so the "you" should also be in the joke -- not part of it like the human race.