|Stylistic Textures and Poetic Diction
Coefficient of weirdness (wackiness otient) 4
Smoothness (vs roughness, bumpiness, striation) 8
(a lot of transitional words like “and” make it flow)
Contained in fairly traditional form, grammatically correct, ending seems all tied in.
Only gets a few points for the use of French.
Beer and skittles, giant thumb and forefinger, human charcoal
See visual imagery
Seems to come from the white minstrel’s POV. This is an unusual choice for an antiracist black poet.
Minstrelsy is in the past but the racism that led to it and resulted from it certainly aren’t. Also, white people still find ways to put on blackface.
Ain’t all, jimjams
Unless phrase “bête noir” is something I’m missing
Jollity, use of French
Is a contemporary poem but wouldn’t necessarily know it
Point of View
Monologic, third person. Free indirect.
It is about the depressed white minstrel man. The narrator doesn’t have a personal.
The tone of the text is objective. Just telling the story of a white minstrel who falls into moments of depression right before his performances. Outsider POV.
It’s about the implications of a white man doing blackface. Content that racial is inherently political.
Radical—I would argue that it’s a radical move for a black woman to get in the head of a white male minstrel performer
Blackface is an inherently racist, and therefore racial, practice.
Or maybe it’s more like an 8 because blackface is an American custom, so the poem concerns national identity. Since it condemns rather than celebrates this practice, however, it is hardly patriotic.
Gets a few points for mention of his gender (“white man”) but it’s not a central theme.
At the end he is dangled over the dark mouth of the black beast. While this is a figurative image, it still uses the danger of death as a device, and therefore concerns mortality.
Hint he could suffer from depression possibly (mention of jimjams). Probably a stretch.
No war, but the man does seem to have a good deal of internal conflict.
The poem is centered around his discontent.
Developmental / Temporal / Compositional Structures
The holy jimjams grab him, shake him loose
Narrative continuity (beginning, middle, and end) (linear 2 / hypotaxis) 6
Depends on how we interpret this bête noir
Couldn’t find what this means in the resources?
Lyrical? Doesn’t have a structural form.
It is ironic that she is telling this story from the POV of white minstrel. Also ironic that he performs jollity but falls into jimjams and is held above mouth of scary bête noir.
I guess that last part about performing jollity/suffering professional jimjams can also be seen as a paradox.
Bête noir is a metaphor; just not sure what for.
The bête noir is symbol for something. Anger? The wrongness of his actions? Existential lostness?
Each stanza is a run-on line.
Beer and skittles represent happy easiness
At least, none that I caught. Unless bête noir is a literary allusion to something?
Narrator has no persona. Seems alienated, uninvolved
Procedural? I think?
[rate the first term only]
Engaged /disaffected (alienated) 2
Affirmative/skeptical/ hostile 4
Elegiac (mournful) / celebratory (panegyric) 8
Mystery comes from wondering what the black beast is
First stanza: 7
Second stanza: 6
Flush left. Two stanzas. Very traditional. Read left to right, top down.
Born 1953 (age 63)
I can’t find it!
I can’t find it. She was born in Alabama, grew up in Texas, and went to school and teaches in California.
This is about a blackface minstrel performer. Minstrelsy was popular for many decades in the United States. White people entertained themselves by painting their faces black and pretending to be black and carrying out wildly racist portrayals.
Mullen is a black woman who grew up in the South of the United States..
Yes: Title is French, not sure what significance of that is. Means “black beast.” Also last two words of the poem. This is what the white minstrel man is dangled over—again, I’m not sure what it represents. Could be fury of black people who he is mocking in his performances, or a dark depression (earlier, jimjams are referenced). It seems most likely it represents the moral reckoning he will have to face.