Child of the Americas' by Aurora Levins Morales and 'What It's Like to Be a Black Girl' by Patricia Smith: A Comparative Analysis of Poems

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"Child of the Americas" by Aurora Levins Morales and "What It's Like To Be A Black Girl (For Those Of You Who Aren't)" by Patricia Smith are poems that share a common theme. That theme is identity in particular, racial and cultural identity. But the poetic means that each author employs to express her theme could not be more different. An examination of the rhetorical stances employed by each poet will show that Morales and Smith could not be more different in their expression of political and social identity in verse. A simplification would be to say that Morales states her identity positively and Smith states it negatively, but this is of course a simplification. The truth lies in the poetic strategy: to take an opposition that is well-established in American poetry, Morales is Whitmanic and Smith is Dickinsonian. A closer examination of their poems will demonstrate that Morales is attempting an expansive and exuberant form of self-expression, while Smith attains her self-expression through constraint, hermetic images, and stylistic compression. "Child of the Americas" by Aurora Levins Morales dates from 1986, when Ronald Reagan was president. The title could be viewed as ironic: Morales is clearly not a child. But "Child" in the title is metaphorical, referring to metaphorical parentage: the "Americas" are presumably North and South America, as we discover later in the poem. The poem itself is structured around the basic poetic device of anaphora, or rhythmic

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