Poetry is thing of beauty. It can be talking about the same thing, yet the details of the poem can be extremely diverse. Ishmael Reed’s “Beware: Do Not Read This Poem,” and Essex Hemphill’s, “American Hero,” is an example of this with their similar metaphors, and imagery, but very different personifications and tones.
The first similarity between these two poems is their metaphors. These metaphors are similar because “Beware” and “American Hero” are pointed towards vanity, and how people are hungry for attention. “Beware: Do Not Read This Poem’s” metaphor is “Back off from this poem, it is a greedy mirror” (25-26), the part where it talks about the “greedy mirror,” is the indicator of vanity. “American Hero’s” metaphor is “as I spin the ball above our heads on my middle finger,”(3-4), because he is boasting, its obvious it is about someone who is hungry for attention. In these poems there are people that like to show off. “Beware” and “American Hero” are similar because of their prideful, captivating metaphors.
Secondly is the similarity of imagery between the two poems. The images are similar because “Beware” talks about a crowd of people and so does “American Hero.” “Beware: Do Not Read This Poem’s” image is, “One day the villagers broke into the house,” (9), “the villagers,” is the part that tells us there is a crowd. “American Hero’s” image is, “The crowd goes wild for our win..” (12-13), “the crowd,” is a very obvious indicator that there is a crowd. The imagery of the villagers and the crowd helps the reader to interact with the poem and pretend that they are a part of it. By both of these images, you are drawn into the poem and keep reading (or “living” it) to find out what happens next. These two poems images give you the opportunity to share the experience and emotions of the crowd.
Despite the similarities, there are also differences in the poem, the first is personification. While both of the poems make something inanimate have human characteristics, “American Hero” does it to make the poem more exciting, while “Beware” makes the poem creepier and send chills up your spine. “Beware: Do Not Read This Poem’s” personification is, “This poem is the reader & the reader this poem” (42-43), and, “The hunger of this poem is legendary” (19). When the quotes state that we are the poem and the poem us, and how the poem has a hunger, it creeps you out and makes you stop to think.. exactly what kind of poem is this? “American Hero’s” personification is, “I never hear the ball slap the backboard..” (10-11). Unlike “Beware”, the personification in “American Hero” of making the ball “slap the blackboard” makes it is more of a happy, excited feeling. While both poems do have personification, the use of this particular figure of speech are very different.
Another difference is the tone of the poems. “American Hero” is ONE person being vain and prideful and it is centered on that one person, while “Beware” is also talking about vanity and pride, but instead of really focusing on one person it is more generalized and talks about how vanity consumes us. “Beware’s” quote is, “you are into this poem. from the waist down nobody can hear you can they?” (27-29), and, “abt an ol woman, so vain she surrounded her self w/ many mirrors” (1-4). The part where it says “You are into this poem” and where it says “So vain she surrounded herself w/ many mirrors is what leads us to belive this poem is talking about vanity. “American’s” quote is, “All my men surround me, panting, as I spin the ball above our heads on my middle finger. It’s a shimmering club light and I’m dancing, slick in my sweat.” (2-6). The part where it says “I spin the ball above our heads,” and “It’s a shimmering club light and I’m dancing,” are the parts that talk about vanity. Both “Beware” and “American” do have similar tones in the generalization of the words vanity and pride, but the specific tones are different, because one is a large body of people being consumed by vanity, while the other is one person being prideful.
In conclusion, Essex Hemphill’s, “American Hero,” and Ishmael Reed’s “Beware: Do Not Read This Poem,” have similarities between their imagery and metaphors, yet extremely different uses of personification and tone. Through the lines of the poems, we have been able to deduct vital information about the uses of figures of speech, and different elements of poetry. The similarities between the metaphors because they both talk about hunger and attention, and the imagery because of the connection with the reader through the crowds, show us how two completely different poems can be very similar. On the other hand, with the differences of the tone on the different aspects of vanity, and the personifications for the different feelings it can give a poem, two completely different poems can be, in fact, completely different. From the elements of the poem, we can draw how people become consumed with vanity and we can take these as a for-warning to not be consumed.
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