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126th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 126th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2011 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please contribute to the growing list of 2011 Indie Lit Award Poetry Suggestions (please nominate 2011 Poetry), visit the stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour from April.

Today’s poem comes from The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry edited by Rita Dove:

The Harlem Dancer by Claude McKay (page 93)

Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes
And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway;
Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes
Blown by black players upon a picnic day.
She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,
The light gauze hanging loose about her form;
To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm
Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.
Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls
Luxuriant fell; and tossing coins in praise,
The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls,
Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze;
But looking at her falsely-smiling face,
I knew her self was not in that strange place.

What do you think?

  • I love how the last two lines change everything. I thought I was reading about this confident, bold dancer, only to find out that her smile is false and her true self is somewhere else. Very vivid images.

    • I really like poems that have a twist at the end.

  • Her falsely-smiling face could describe most of the girls’ faces I see in photos of my son’s high school friends dressed up for dances, the girls wearing a vertical foot of “dress” that won’t stay in place without constant and vigorous effort.

    • What an interesting thing to associate with this poem. I think I have a lot of those false smile photos. LOL

  • I liked it and thought it made images appear in my mind as I was reading it!

    • There is so much going on in this poem, from the dancer to the prostitutes and the far-off look of the dancer’s gaze. She’s dancing, but she’s really somewhere else compared to her physical body