Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Countee Cullen "Heritage"

This poetry, can possibly be summarized as being about an African AMerican male, that is contemplating the importance of Africa to him. In the poem, Cullen seems to be considering all the things that he has heard about Africa, and considering rather or not these people or things has an place in his heart or not. When Cullen mentions that he "does not have an sense of peace", one must wonder what could possibly settle Cullen's troubled mind. Also, it seems at times, as though Cullen is putting himself in the place of an native African male. When Cullen describes having "heathen gods", this an reflection that many Africans may still follow tribal religions. So it is almost as though, Cullen is considering the differences in his own life; if his ancestors had left Africa. At the end of the poem, when Cullen makes an comment about his heart and head not yet realizing, that they and I are civilized; could almost been a comparsion to Africa and himself. The use of the word "they" could represent the peoples in Africa. There is an common belief, that native Africans are uncilivlized and barbarious. So it is almost as though, Cullen can not deny the fact, that he is an African and yet an American. And yet, he could never be able to bridge an gap between the two civilizations.

While reading this poem, I could not help but think of an biography that I read by notable Asian-American writer Amy Tan.. This had been due to the fact, that Tan never learned how to speak Chinese, even though her parents spoke the language fleuntly. Also, she is not an believer in many Chinese traditions, like reverance of ancestors and ghosts. I feel as though even though Tan has been to China occasionally, she will never be able to have the same expereinces as her mother. This is due to the fact, that her mother had been born and raised in China. I feel as though she and other Asian-American writers like Lisa See and Maxine Hong Kingston, can be able to learn Chinese and study Chinese customs, and yet they could not be able to think like an Chinese and have the actual experiences that an person endured in China.
I also had an connection to another class reading. The reading that came to mind, was "Yet do I Marvel" by Cullen as well. This had been due to the fact, that both poems had similiar elements of trying to understand one's nationality, and yet comparing themselves to others.
Lastly, one specific question I had was, "I wonder if Cullen had ever been to Africa or not"?. Throughout the poem, Cullen appears to be comparing his life to those in Africa, and questions what is the signifiance of Africa to him?. Other than the fact, that he is of the same race as the natives of Africa.
Lastly, I felt as though this was an very interesting poem. The poem seemed to speak for the heritage and culture of the African Americans. The poem seems to question rather or not those of African ethnicity residing in America or in other lands, could possibly have the same connections to that of the African peoples residing in the African continent. I think this may also apply to Asian Americans or Hispanic Americans. That is due to the fact, that an Asian residing in Asia would have an different perceptive on life, than an Asian that has lived in Europe or America there whole lives. Just because someone is of an different nationality, does not mean that they will be able to identify with people of the same race as them. This makes me think about an close friend of mine, that is Korean American. She has never been to Korea before, and has lived her whole life here in America. She told me that she does not know the Korean culture or language. Because her family wanted her to be assimiliated into American culture. This is due to the fact, that her parents are Korean immigrants. So, even though she wants to learn more about her heritage, that does not define who she is. So I personally feel as though this poem could be applied to all, of all sorts of ethnicity and cultural backgrounds. Lastly, this poem also reminds me of the increase in international adoptions, that many American families have been pursuing. There has been an surge of Chinese children, that have found homes with families that are often not Chinese. So even those these children are Chinese by ethnicity, they will not be able to identify with Chinese living in China, or with other Chinese immigrants that came to America as adults. I feel as though heritage is an important aspect, and should be explored. And yet, one may not also seek to learn more about their heritage.

1 comment:

  1. I want to make, several comments about this poem. One comment, is that Cullen appears to be showing how seperate he really is from native Africans. Other connection, is that Cullen seems to be showing how repressed his feelings are. This is due to the fact, that he is an repressed African-American male in America. Cullen seems to want, to identify with the native Africans and yet, he cannot due to cultural factors. Lastly, Cullen wants to reach out and be able to identify, with an country that is entirely different in civilization from his own.