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Poem Analysis: Nikky Finney's Poetry

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Although a poet rooted in the folk tradition of the African American South, Finney’s work relies upon the spiritual and aesthetic influence of West African tradition, the womanist wisdom of her maternal grandmother, Beulah Lenorah Davenport, and her family’s political commitment to equality and social justice (Beaulieu 333). She mingles the personal with the public in order to share the experience with her readers and therefore truly express their feelings. “I think that my putting myself in my poetry is me saying to my readers and my listeners “I’m willing to stand here and be as vulnerable as perhaps I am making others and situations vulnerable in my work. I have to be willing to do that” (Finney, “Interview with: Nikky Finney.”).…show more content…
She has been caught between two fires: racial dehumanization in the form of “slavery” and “lynching” on the one hand, and the call for “being good” and exerting effort for the betterment of oneself on the other. Self-development and betterment of oneself date back to Booker T. Washington who called for peaceful co-existence with white people instead of protesting against racism. He called colored people to work hard and realize achievements in order to prove to white people that they deserve equal treatment. Finney does not agree on some values and beliefs of the past as she criticizes Washington’s viewpoint by portraying a hard-done-by protagonist who has “heard / 7,844 Sunday sermons on how God made every / woman in his image (Finney, Head off & Split 9: 60-62). Parks has also “hemmed 8,230 skirts “for white women and hemmed out “18,809 pants legs” for white boys. Throughout these years, though she tried to protect herself by having “a thimble”, she has “pricked [her] finger 45,203 times”. Numbers are very important since they convey the excruciating physical as well psychological suffering she has undergone. For all that, Parks was patient and never
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