Gregory Woods: On "Tableau"

Among the most accomplished of the ambiguous poems is Countee Cullen’s elegant and fussy "Tableau", which celebrates the sight of a black boy and a white boy crossing the street, arm in arm, followed by disapproving glances. The poem offers a perfectly harmonized counterpoint of the two themes, sexuality and race, in a manner which, while saying nothing explicitly gay to the inattentive reader, nevertheless broaches the scandalous topic of homosexual miscegenation without subterfuge or disguise. To be so discreetly indiscreet is an excellent feat of anti-homophobic irony only rarely achieve in the pre-Stonewall conditions which provoked it. No amount of paraphrase can do it justice. The poem manages to negotiate its passage between safety and risk in a manner which seems almost as light as it is actually solid and secure.


Title Gregory Woods: On "Tableau" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Gregory Woods Criticism Target Countee Cullen
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 11 Jul 2021
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Critical Essays: Gay and Lesbian Writers of Color
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