The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

Questions for Anne Spencer, Jessie Fauset, and Elma Levinger:

Elma Levinger, "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny"

1. What do you know about the history of Stephen Foster's song? Why is it an appropriate choice for this poem?

2. What can the reader know or infer about the speaker?

3. What tone characterizes the speaker's remarks? At what point does the reader suspect that all was not well in "old Virginny"? Is there a logical progression to the sequence in which the poem's ideas are developed?

4. How does the language and meter reinforce its meaning? (e. g. the line, "But folks got to expect it")

5. What is the effect of the ending? What broader points does the poem attempt to make?

Jessie Fauset, "Oriflamme"

1. What does the title mean? What is the poem's subject?

2. How does use of the epigraph effect the reader's perception of the poem?

3. Describe the stanza form and meter. Why do you think the poet chose pentameter rather than tetrameter? What is the effect is created by the shortened last line in each stanza?

4. What are some important word choices?

5. Do you think the poem's form conveys its subject well?

Jessie Fauset, "TouchÍ"

1. What does the speaker find suspicious about her lover's praise? What is her comeback? Do you find it completely satisfying or believable?

2. What social problem underlies this poem?

3. What metrical and rhyme scheme binds the poem? Are these effective for its subject?

Anne Spencer, “Before the Feast of Shushan”


1. What is this poem’s subject? The presence of which Biblical character is latent in the poem? How can we tell what are her opinions?

2. What is this poem’s form? Is its meter appropriate for its subject?

3. What do we learn about Ahasuerus from the first stanza, and from successive stanzas? What is his attitude toward sex with his wife? What alternate attitudes does he reject?

4. What are some implications of the metaphors of food, sacrament and wine? What attitudes prompt the king to claim that “I, thy King, teach you and leave you, when I list. . . . Love is but desire and thy purpose fulfillment”?

5. What is ironic about the ending? Do you think this poem is effective in making its point?

6. How would you compare/contrast this poem with Frances Harper’s “Vashti”?

Anne Spencer, "At the Carnival"

1. What kind of encounter is implied by the setting? Who is the poet's object of interest, and why is she chosen?

2. Why are the Limousine-Lady and bull-necked man described? The "quivering female-thing" and gambling? What are the speaker's own motives?

3. To what is the young diver compared? What is her effect on the speaker? What does the speaker project into the diver's future? What does it mean to implore Nepture to claim his child today?

4. Describe some of the poem's features of language, rhythm, and word choice? What is the purpose is served by some of the poem's indirections?

5. Do you think this is a good poem? Did you like it? (and of course, why)

Anne Spencer, "Lady, Lady"

1. What is notable about the title? In what sequence do we learn about the "lady" being described? What images are used to convey her essence?

2. How do the poem's rhythm and stanza form reinforce its theme?

"The Wife-Woman"

1. What is its setting and subject? Its rhyme and stanza form? What is the speaker's attitude towards her husband? Other aspects of her life? Comment on the speaker's choice of images and words to describe her situation?

2. Were you surprised by the romanticism of the ending? Is the poem's form appropriate for its subject?

The SÍvignÍs"

1. Which words convey the speaker's opinions? Who may be the implied/intended audience?

2. Why does the speaker mention Uncle Tom? Why is Uncle Remus depicted as bowing to two children?

3. Who are "the women who had so lately fled from the slavery of Europe to the wilds of America"?

4. Is the poem's language and form appropriate to its points? Is it an effective poem? What point seems to be made about public statutory art? Is this still a source of contention?

“White Things”

1. What seems to be the poem’s subject? What are some unusual aspects of its portrayal of nature?

2. What is meant by the statement, “Black men are most men, but the white are free!”?

3. Can you describe the poem’s rhythm, rhyme scheme and form? How are the contrasts between the first and second stanzas used to reinforce its meaning?

4. What is especially shocking about the image of the laughing child?

5. Do you think this poem is effective in presenting its subject? How would you compare it with similar poems we have read?

"Lines to a Nasturtium (A Lover Muses)":

What is the relation between the flower and the woman, in the lover's description?

What essential problem/aspect of life does the poem reflect? What effect is created by the choice of the ardent/now-frustrated lover as speaker?

How is its language appropriate for its themes?

Also read "[God Never Planted a Garden]" and "Creed"


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  Page updated: September 3, 2010 22:56