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AFRICAN/AMERICAN IN PARIS, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

 

"African/American in Paris" is a poem by Toi Derricotte that was first published in 1995 in her collection of poems titled "Tender." The poem reflects on the experiences of a Black person living in Paris, a city that has long been associated with art, culture, and sophistication.

Explanation:

The poem begins with the speaker reflecting on the beauty and grandeur of Paris, a city that is often celebrated for its art and culture. The speaker describes the ways in which the city seems to embody a kind of "timelessness," a sense that it is always somehow outside of history and beyond the reach of the ordinary.

As the poem progresses, the speaker reflects on the ways in which this sense of timelessness is complicated by the realities of being a Black person in Paris. The poem emphasizes the ways in which Black people are often made to feel invisible or excluded in spaces that are supposed to be open to all.

The poem ends on a note of hope, with the speaker suggesting that despite the challenges and struggles faced by Black people in Paris, there is still the possibility of connection and community. The poem is a powerful reflection on the complexities and contradictions of life as a Black person in a city that is both celebrated and exclusive.

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: "African/American in Paris" is a free-verse poem with no set rhyme scheme or meter.
  • Imagery: The poem is full of vivid and powerful imagery, particularly in its descriptions of the city of Paris and the experiences of being a Black person in that city.
  • Metaphor: Paris is compared to a kind of "timeless" space outside of history and beyond the reach of the ordinary.
  • Tone: The tone of the poem is both reflective and hopeful, emphasizing the complexities and contradictions of life as a Black person in a celebrated but exclusive city.

Summary:

"African/American in Paris" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that reflects on the experiences of being a Black person in a celebrated but exclusive city. Derricotte's poem emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and confronting the ways in which Black people are made to feel invisible or excluded in supposedly open spaces. It is a reminder of the ongoing struggle for representation and equity in America and beyond.

Poem Snippet:

 

"the street is like a stage

before a play.

You walk on

as if you are naked."

 


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