Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, HIM, by CLAUDIA RANKINE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

HIM, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography


"HIM" is a poem by Claudia Rankine, first published in 2004 as part of her collection "Don't Let Me Be Lonely." It explores themes of identity, power, and vulnerability.


The poem is written in second person, with the speaker addressing an unnamed "him." The speaker describes how this person holds power over them, how their identity and sense of self are shaped by this relationship, and how they are struggling to break free from it.

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: Free verse, with no consistent rhyme or meter.
  • Imagery: The poem is full of vivid, often unsettling imagery, such as the line "You stand there with your hair / like a helmet on your head." This imagery is used to convey the speaker's sense of unease and discomfort.
  • Repetition: The phrase "And you" is repeated throughout the poem, emphasizing the pervasive influence that the person being addressed has over the speaker.
  • Tone: The tone of the poem is one of vulnerability and resignation, as the speaker seems resigned to their powerlessness in the face of the other person's control.


"HIM" is a powerful exploration of the ways in which power and control can shape our identities and relationships. Through its vivid imagery and repetitive structure, the poem conveys a sense of both the speaker's discomfort and their resignation in the face of this power.


Poem Snippet:


"He seemed, to me,

unlike himself. It might have been someone else. And yet

it was still him, but not the way

he had been before, when we were us."


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