Much like my experience with Jupiter Hammon, I was unfamiliar with Phillis Wheatley’s work. With Wheatley, I was unaware of not only her work, but also its importance. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical when approaching Wheatley’s work. I respect the writing and understand its importance, but I have struggled with poetry for much of my life. Regardless, I tried to approach the poems with a fresh and open mind. Like with Hammon’s work, it was fascinating to see the quality of the work, particularly how impressive the content is. Due to the problems and constraints that most slaves had to face, it is very interesting to see how developed Wheatley’s work is. By and large, though, I felt that I was not getting as much out of the readings as I should have. Dr. May suggested we listen to music by Mozart and then contrast his work to Wheatley’s. I felt that this was a particularly important exercise, and I felt that it helped me understand Wheatley’s poems more completely. Immediately when comparing and contrasting Mozart and Wheatley’s work, I made a connection between the tone and flow of the works. Much of the class voiced similar thoughts, noting how the highs and lows of Mozart’s music seem to mirror Wheatley’s poems. With this new appreciation of Wheatley, I went back to read her poems again, and I began noticing certain aspects I had seemingly overlooked before. I took quite fondly to the poem “An Hymn to the Evening”, as I found it stood out amongst the others. In the poem, Wheatley discusses the setting sun, as well as recognizing God’s role in nature. The poem is very heavy on imagery, and goes into great detail describing nature. I felt that I could relate to that particular poem compared to her other works.
“From the zephyr’s wing, exhales the incense of the blooming spring” (Wheatley 40).
I found the line above extremely captivating, as it explains such a simple idea in such an elaborate way. As Dr. May ended his last lecture on the idea of narrative, I couldn’t help but see potential connections between this poem and the idea of narrative. Dr. May explained that language gives us the ability to create complex narrative, and that in turn gives us our sense of being. In a broad sense, Wheatley chose a language, but also more importantly, I think, she chose these specific words in her attempt to create a complex narrative. At first I would not have viewed a poem as narrative, but reading Dr. May’s explanation of narrative helped me view the concept in a much broader scope. Wheatley’s poem “An Hymn to the Evening” certainly displays the features that create a narrative. The idea that we as humans use narrative as a means of understanding ourselves situated through time is an extremely important one, as I believe it ties into my aforementioned comment of being able to relate to this poem. Due to her language, I was able to react to the poem in a multitude of ways. I was not only able to relate to the poem, but I was able to see how it may relate to other readers as well.
Word Count: 538