Comparison of the Poems “I Hear America Singing”, “Second Attempt Crossing” and “Harlem”

Comparison of the Poems “I Hear America Singing”, “Second Attempt Crossing” and “Harlem”

Occasionally, poems are used to express powerful emotional occurrences. The speaker of a poem illustrates his approach towards the subject matter always regarded as the mood of the poem. The speaker’s experiences have therefore used a bridge that connects the reader and the poem thus illustrating the nature of its experience. This paper compares and contrasts the speakers’ experiences of America in the poems “Second Attempt Crossing” by Javier Zamora, “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman and “Harlem” by Langston Hughes. The paper also focuses on how figurative language, diction and the structure of these poems can be used in describing the experience that the poet portrays.

In the poem “Second Attempt Crossing” by Javier Zamora, the speaker paints a picture of the southwestern backdrop full of terms that illustrate nature (Reimann 24). Zamora illustrates how they get to the middle of a desert that is not unproductive and has sand. The author paints the picture of a desert that is engulfed by coyotes, acacias and whiptails. The poem does not start in a wicked sense, as many would expect from its title which most possibly refers to crossing into the America border which is full of peril and danger. Instead, Zamora places the reader amongst beauty, affirming it by repeating the words “in the middle of those” and “in the middle of that”. A natural scene in the poem follows each of these first expressions. Zamora further paints the natural American experience in the second stanza, showing how birds and cactuses reside in the land. The speaker indicates that the American nation is not an inhabitable desert. The concurrence of this reassurance as well as its authenticity stands out depressingly. The line is grammatically connected to the poem and changes from natural phenomena towards Chino who is the subject of the narrator in the poetry despite structurally connecting it to the imagery of nature.

On the contrary, the speaker in the poem “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman introduces an entirely different experience of America (Kummings 24). Whitman depicts Americans as insensitive and strong individuals. Whitman’s illustration of the American society is illustrated in the poem where he addressed the larger American culture of exceptionalism that rejoices in the democratic victory practices and focuses on how it can alter the universe. In the poem, Whitman makes the reader understand his approach towards America as well as its duty in the universe. He illustrates America as a place that upholds self-identity that most of the Americans appreciate in a lesser or greater extent. One major difference between the poem “I Hear America Singing” and “Second Attempt Crossing” is that while Zamora paints a picture of a desert and nature in the mind of the reader. Whitman centres his depiction on the American working class individuals who make up the country and are usually happy even though they might not have the abundances in life. Every line of Whitman’s poem represents a different employee and is regarded as a synecdoche, different segments that characterise an entire perception. The author uses these words to describe the working class in America. The illustration is not rhymed to the specific employees, but can further be considered as a celebration of the general life.

The poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes illustrates a different setting of the poem whereby the author demonstrates Harlem’s treatment as a sign by American writers who developed during the Renaissance. The demonstration of Harlem is a depiction of dreams postponed and used as a microcosm of the experience of African Americans. The author asks several questions regarding images and dreams that explain decay, diminution, sickness and death in the American society. Dissimilar to the poems “Second Attempt Crossing” and “I Hear America Singing”, “Harlem” is a poem that illustrates America as a community for the whole of the United States in connection to individuals who are African American. McCay focuses on the issue of racial identity in the poem. Naturally, the author was a Jamaican immigrant to the United States. As a result, he utilises his social position to represent the global and multinational perception of the Harlem Rennaisance. Unlike Zamora’s poem “Second Attempt Crossing”, McCay paints a picture of an exemplary relationship with modernisation. The poem personifies poor and folk visual work that renders the experience of African-Americans in the United States.

The use of figurative language, diction and the structure of these poems is an essential aspect that can be used to bring out their peculiarities. Zamora’s “Second Attempt Crossing” utilises imagery and diction with a tone that is both forlorn and violent (Zamora 190). The author instils the poem with a pessimistic spin from its onset. In the beginning, Zamora structures the speaker’s American experience with the significant other in a pessimistic way. Additionally, the use of imagery in “typhoons and tropics” is somehow challenging. Comparatively, the speaker in the poem “I Hear America Singing” utilises figurative language including metaphors and personification in the poem. The speaker employs personification in making comparisons of America to the employees who are singing as they toil. The author uses metaphors of the singing workers in the poem, even though they are not celebrating or happy that they have work to do. The poem further uses alliteration I the juxtaposed beginning ad repetition consonants in series. The use of alliteration in the poem adds euphony, rhythm, structure and flow to each poetic line.

Hughes uses figurative language in his poem Harlem similar to the other two poets. Hughes begins the poem with the use of simile. The intention of using metaphor in the poem is to make comparisons between postponed dreams to other components that could be postponed or ignored until another moment arises. Hughes compares a dream to a raisin that has been left in the sun for an extended period. The meat is described as having pus and an awful smell, cracked and crusty. The significance of using this allegory was to show the readers how the poem takes into consideration every probability and consider its legality instead of merely being a recipient of specific information. Among the significant structure of the poem, “Harlem” by Langstone Hughes includes several literary devices which include imagery that is represented in similes.

Nevertheless, the poem does not include a specific sequence for rhyme scheme or set meter. In most poems, a meter is considered as the rhythm or beat. The three poems above have differences and similarities that make them unique. This paper explains the significant differences between the three poems in terms of speaker’s experiences, figurative language, diction and the structure of these poems.

Works cited

Hughes, Langston. “Harlem.” Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (1994).

Kummings, Donald D., ed. A Companion to Walt Whitman. Vol. 123. John Wiley & Sons, 2009. 20-35.

Whitman, Walt, and Lisa Tracy. I hear America singing. Philomel Books, 1991.

Reimann, Chloe Ruth. “Crossing the Border into Poetry: Documenting the Undocumented and the Trauma of Migration in Javier Zamora’s” Unaccompanied”.” (2018). 1-56.

Zamora, Javier. “Second Attempt Crossing For Chino.” (2016): 190-191.