Monday, October 20, 2014

Analysis of "Legacy" by Amiri Baraka

Poem found here: "Legacy" by Amiri Baraka

The poem here starts off with place "In the south," then gains traction by the usage of verbs.  For example, "sleeping against / the drugstore, growling under, the trucks and stores."  The focus here is action; meanwhile, the subject who is making the action is invisible.    But note the usage of verbs here tending to side of animalistic or basic:

  • stubling through and over the cluttered eyes / of early mysterious night
  • frowning / drunk waving moving a hand or lash
There is mention of human action but no actual specific focus on a single one.  Here the speaker is encompassing the "blues people" by their actions

Then the switch to the fun, "Dancing kneeling reaching out, letting / a hand rest in shadows. Squatting / to drink or pee."  The speaker doesn't hold back on the actions, this is not somewhat glamorous action -- these are human actions which bring the groups of people together with "letting a hand rest in shadows" being more poignant metaphorically and "Squatting to drink or pee" being more poignant physically.  The speaker is building up a group -- blues people.

"Stretching to climb / pulling themselves onto horses near / where there was sea."  And as the people climb there's a parenthetical, "(old songs / lead you to believe)" the only one to appear in the poem in which the refer to the past rather than the present action.  Here, the parenthetical serves as a underlying push of the blues people -- "lead you to believe."

Then the leaving based on belief, "Riding out / from this town, to another, where / it is also black."  "Black" holds many metaphorical implications -- the physical darkness, the unknown, the mental escape.  But it's a direction, and the end of the poem starts every phrase with a direction: 

     [...]  Down a road
     where people are asleep.  Towards
     the moon or the shadows of houses.
     Towards the songs' pretended sea.

Note the reference of the sea comes back around at the end.  The "sea" is non existent, but the people keep searching for it physically and within a song.  It is the search beyond the shadows and the moons.  It is the search beyond the people that are asleep which these people aspire to, in which the blues people get past through old beliefs to live by.

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