Gloria T. Hull: On "The Black Finger"

Grimké's poetry accords very closely with her theoretical description of how she writes. Being expressions of the moment, her poems are usually brief. They present the scene or thought as swiftly as possible in sharp, concrete images, and then abandon it. This trait causes critics (like Robert Kerlin, for example) to compare her with the imagists. However, Grimké cannot usually refrain from comment, and thus violates the suggestive objectivity that is a part of their creed. Her poem "The Black Finger" is an excellent case in point. Here is its middle section:

 

    Slim and still,

Against a gold, gold sky,

    A straight cypress.

    Sensitive,

    Exquisite,

A black finger

Pointing upwards.

 

Those seven lines have the haiku-like, symbolic compression that the imagists prized. However, the poem consists of three additional lines--a beginning statement, "I have just seen a beautiful thing," and two closing questions, "Why, beautiful, still finger are you black? / And why are you pointing upwards?"--which alter considerably its tone and effect by making attitude and meaning too explicit.

Details

Criticism Overview
Title Gloria T. Hull: On "The Black Finger" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Gloria T. Hull Criticism Target Angelina Weld Grimké
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 15 Jun 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Color, Sex, and Poetry: Three Women Writers of the Harlem Renaissance
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