FON American Literature Countee Cullen Guide Questions
1. Discuss the themes of exile and Africa and the image of the sun in Cullen’s poetry.
2. Comment on Cullen’s use of irony and tone in For a Lady I Know.
3. What is the psychological effect that Cullen is trying to achieve in "Incident"? What is the effect of the poem's title and the poem's content? Why does Cullen call the eight-year-old a "Baltimorean"? What is the source of racism as shown here? Is it more powerful for being less definite?
4. In Incident, what distinctions can you find between the feelings of the narrator and those of the author?
5. What traditional form does Cullen use in From the Dark Tower, and what, if anything, does he accomplish by using this structure?
6. How is color imagery employed in the poem?
7. Comment on the presence of the image pattern of water and fire (coolness and heat) in the ending of Heritage.
8. Characterize the speaker of Heritage. What problems and conflicts is this speaker depicted as encountering?
9. Explain the use of meter, especially the handling of trochaic tetrameter and pentameter.
10. Discuss the religious attitudes evident in Cullen’s poetry, particularly in Heritage.
11. Does Cullen’s poetry create “representative” black people? What representative dilemmas, ideas, and aspirations are prominent in his poems?
12. Critic Arthur Davis has observed that Cullen often “states or implies that the Negro in America is a perpetual alien, an exile from a beautiful sun-drenched Africa, his lost homeland.” In which poems can you detect these themes?
13. Discuss Cullen’s use of color imagery, irony, meter, and traditional forms in his poetry. In particular, how does he employ traditional devices in various poems? Which poems do you think make the best use of these devices, and why?