Jazzonia Poem Analysis

Good Essays
The final poem of significance is Jazzonia, in which Hughes experiments with literary form to transform the act of listening to jazz into an ahistorical and biblical act. Neglecting form, it is easy to interpret the poem shallowly as a simple depiction of a night-out in a cabaret with jazz whipping people into a jovial frenzy of singing and dancing. But, the poem possesses more depth, when you immerse yourself in the literary form. The first aspect of form to interrogate is the couplet Hughes thrice repeats: “Oh, silver tree!/Oh, shining rivers of the soul!” Here, we see the first transformation. The “silver tree” alludes to an instrument used to perform jazz (probably a saxophone). “Trees” are long, like a saxophone, and the “keys” and “key…show more content…
The first of these two lines is a quatrain that highlights the bold eyes of a dancing girl. Additionally, the rhyme scheme is CCDD. A couplet comes after this quatrain and is followed by a quintet. The lines within the quintet include names like “Eve”, who serves as a biblical allusion, and Cleopatra, who serves as a historical allusion. Hughes purposely juxtaposes the “dancing girl” in the quatrain with two prominent women figures to illustrate the transformative effects of jazz. Within the cabaret—filled with music—not only does the city become a site of trees and rivers, but someone as monotonous as a dancer in a club, becomes as eminent as Cleopatra or Eve. Even more, the rhyme scheme also changes in the quintet. Now, the rhyme scheme is EFDGD, and the rhyming words, “bold and gold”, are continued from the quatrain. There is a slight change, however, similar to the change of the dancing girl into an Eve or Cleopatra. Hughes’ use of punctuation illustrates a change. Before, “bold and gold” were followed by periods. But, in the quintet, “bold and gold” are followed by question marks. The entire meaning of the end rhyme has changed! And the change acknowledges the transformative power of jazz because the speaker is questioning the various transformations taking…show more content…
His three poems: The Cat and The Saxophone (2 A.M.), Harlem Night Club, and Jazzonia all exemplify his experimentation with form. Hughes writes two poems in one, he emphasizes the smallest physical features, and he disrupts the continuity of a poem that looks tame from afar. An ordinary object like a saxophone becomes as cherished as a lover. An ordinary venue like a cabaret becomes the site of political and social change. And an ordinary pleasure like jamming to music becomes an ahistorical and biblical act. Furthermore, the superficial simplicity of Hughes’ poems is not meant to deceive, but to encourage readers to engage in poetry from different perspectives because there is more to the poem than meets the eye. Additional questions remain, however. Does Hughes’ experimentation with form threaten to mischaracterize or further objectify the subjects of his poetry? Does Hughes ascribe too much value to these ordinary objects and places? Are there limitations to Hughes’ experimentation? Can experimentation in general fail, and what’s an example of a failed experiment with form? What harm could a failed experiment with form cause? So then, can a book also be a hat? Maybe it can. Maybe it cannot. Hughes would tell you to experiment and discover the answer yourself.
Get Access