The key question in poetic analysis is why is this poem a poem? That is to say, what is it about the expression of this idea as a poem that makes more more effective than if it had been expressed as an essay, a short story, or a novel. It’s a conceit, of course, but I have found that it helps students to understand what can make poetry special. As I take my students through the steps of poetic analysis I always have them conclude by attempting to uncover for themselves which literary device or structural component of a poem best embodies the theme.
In “Balada de los dos abuelos” by Nicolás Guillén they can see how the two distinct assonant rhymes, one for the White grandfather and the other for the Black grandfather, become one harmonious rhyme by the end of the poem; that new combination of sounds mirroring what has become a new identity in the poetic voice itself.
In Rosario Castellanos’ “Autorretrato” the dearth of poetic language mirrors the theme that she is ill-fitted to the world; as a poet even her poetic self portrait is prosaic:
Antonio Machado writes his ode to the common man He andado muchos caminos in folkloric “arte menor” whereas Rubén Darío announces to his fellow Hispanic Americans that their culture is at least the equal of the United States in “A Roosevelt” in the erudite and grandiose “arte mayor”.
When I get to the term “paradoja”, if any of my students have any difficulty in understanding the concept I use my go to example: forced integration of the Springfield public schools. A Supreme Court decision held that segregated schools were unconstitutional and the city’s schools were racially integrated and 65 years later the schools are…more segregated than ever. That is a paradox alright.
What amazes me is that virtue signaling has gotten so ridiculous that political candidates will criticize opponents for being against such an obviously failed policy. I would go one step further and argue that forced desegregation may have been the most harmful policy idea in the post Civil War United States. To explore that only requires a quick study of my hometown, but I am going to begin by stating, categorically, that I personally reject segregation. I live not just in a city, or a neighborhood which is diverse, but just to include the properties contiguous to my own, there are Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and immigrants from North, Central, and South America, as well as immigrants from Africa. I know them. They know me.
I was a student who was part of the busing program from 4th grade on. I suffered no ill effects, and my daughters attended schools in the City of Springfield which were still under a desegregation order 30 and 40 years later. Of course when I attended the schools were over 80% White, by the time my daughters began the schools were 80% “minority”, the White middle class population having decanted almost completely to the suburbs; and therein lies the rub.
To be succinct, the resources do not exist to obligate real and thorough integration. Minority parents don’t want their children in minority majority schools, and neither do White parents, but many of the White parents have the wherewithal to see to it that they don’t. In Springfield houses in the city were more valuable than equivalent houses in suburban areas in 1970 (before busing). By 1990 houses in the City of Homes had declined sharply relative to those in suburban locations because inner ring suburbs weren’t included in “desegregation”; as a matter of fact a 99% White school in Longmeadow was legally considered “segregated” because its population “reflected the makeup of the community” whereas as a Springfield school with a population made up of equal parts White, Black, and Hispanic students (literally 1/3, 1/3, 1/3) was “segregated”…because White kids were “over-represented”! Amazing.
In cities where inner ring suburbs were included in desegregation White folks left those communities as well and pushed suburbanization into ex-urbanization.
As an experiment in social engineering it failed.
As educational policy it failed.
In increasing the pace of suburbanization it has been a disaster for the environment and the fiscal stability of government at every level.
I know it is a policy I WOULD HAVE BEEN IN FAVOR OF before IT BECAME OBVIOUS THAT ITS IMPACTS WERE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE TO THE GOAL. Seeing that, I’m now against it. Government perhaps can use certain policies to promote a better and higher functioning society, but attempting to force enormous and politically powerful groups to act in ways contrary to deeply held, if abhorrent, beliefs will have unintended negative consequences. Happy that religious loons in Kentucky and Alabama are forced to recognize gay marriage? Cool, soon women in Missouri and Georgia won’t be able to get abortions. Think those things aren’t connected? You’re wrong.
Race, like religion, is still a powerful factor in our society, it amazes me how assiduously we avoid it. In this region, for example, Boston is the “mega-hub” the all powerful economic jet engine. If you seek to reap the rewards of its vitality you must accommodate its inconveniences. Weird though, how some smaller urban communities in New England thrive or struggle depending on their ability, or their inability, to attract wealthier residents. Hmmm. Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Springfield, Providence even, these places struggle a bit, even with, in some cases, Ivy League universities, major corporate headquarters, and centers of state government, and they seem to have lots of “brown people”. Burlington, Portland, Worcester, these cities are really doing well by most measures and, oh, weird, they’re all, like, “whiter” than the communities on that first list. It almost like you could make a chart of “whiteness” and another for “economic revitalization” and they would, like, mirror each other. Shut! up!
This won’t be made any better by passing a law, but I think it could be made worse. We’ll never know how this region might be different had Springfield schools never been integrated, but I don’t see any reason to think that the snail’s pace of suburbanization and White flight which existed before 1973 would have accelerated like it did without forced desegregation. How much less suburban sprawl would the region have experienced, how many more acres of farmland might still exist, how many more people might be using public transit, how much more economically vibrant might the city be, and finally, how much less segregated might the schools be(!) if we hadn’t insisted on integrating them? ¡Qué paradoja!