Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, AMERICAN SONNET (10), by WANDA COLEMAN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

AMERICAN SONNET (10), by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography


"American Sonnet (10)" is a poem by Wanda Coleman that was first published in her collection "African Sleeping Sickness" in 1990. The poem is part of a series of American Sonnets that critique American society and explore issues of race, class, and gender.


The poem begins by describing the hardships that the speaker's mother endured, including poverty and racism. The poem also reflects on the ways in which society has been shaped by these hardships and the impact that they have had on the speaker's life. The poem also explores the theme of the resilience of the human spirit and the ways in which individuals can overcome adversity.

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: The poem is written in sonnet form, with a rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. The poem consists of 14 lines and is structured around the themes of hardship and resilience.
  • Imagery: The poem contains vivid visual imagery that evokes the experiences of the speaker's mother, as well as symbolic imagery that critiques American society and its values.
  • Metaphor: The phrase "hell and hardtack" serves as a metaphor for the ways in which the speaker's mother endured poverty and racism and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
  • Theme: The poem explores the themes of hardship, resilience, and the impact that societal forces can have on individuals.


"American Sonnet (10)" is a powerful and poignant poem that critiques American society and the ways in which it perpetuates poverty and racism. The poem's use of sonnet form, vivid imagery, and metaphor creates a sense of urgency and introspection, while its underlying themes of resilience and the importance of overcoming adversity underscore the value of recognizing the impact that societal forces can have on individuals and the importance of standing up to systems of oppression.

Poem Snippet:

"Our mothers wrung hell and hardtack from row

and the babies wept strung along their backs.

She says: "I've laughed and brawled, fed and fucked

and I'm a giant." History disagrees."

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