'Hanging Fire' by Audre Lorde
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I am fourteen
and my skin has betrayed me
the boy I cannot live withoutstill sucks his tumbin secret
how come my knees arealways so ashy
what if I die
before the morning comes
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed.I have to learn how to dance
in time for the next partymy room is too small for me
suppose I de before graduation
they will sing sad melodies
tell the truth aout me
There is nothing I want to doand too much
that has to be done
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed.Nobody even stops to think
about my side of it
I should have been on Math Team
my marks were better than his
why do I have to be
the onewearing braces
I have nothing to wear tomorrow
will I live long enough
to grow up
and momma's in the bedroom
with the door closed.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Audre Lorde's "Hanging Fire": A Literary Critique
Audre Lorde's poetry has always been a testament to the power of words, and "Hanging Fire" is no exception. This poem, written in the late 1970s, stands out as a poignant depiction of adolescent angst and the search for identity. In this critique, we will explore the themes, symbols, and language used in "Hanging Fire" to unravel the complex emotions that Lorde conveys in her work.
The first theme that emerges in "Hanging Fire" is the notion of identity crisis. The poem is written in the first person, and the speaker seems to be struggling with their sense of self. They express their uncertainty about their physical appearance, their academic performance, and their relationship with their mother. The lines "I'm fourteen / and my skin has betrayed me" express the speaker's dissatisfaction with their appearance, and the lines "I have nothing to wear tomorrow" suggest a lack of confidence in their ability to present themselves to the world.
The second theme that arises in the poem is the experience of adolescence itself. The speaker is clearly young, and their concerns are reflective of the struggles that many teenagers face. They worry about fitting in at school, they feel isolated from their peers, and they long for the acceptance of adults. The lines "My mother has a job to do / but I'm home all day" express the speaker's sense of loneliness, and the lines "I don't know the answers / to the questions that they ask me" convey their frustration with their own ignorance.
The final theme that Lorde explores in "Hanging Fire" is the struggle for self-expression. The poem is written in free verse, with no set form or rhyme pattern, which allows the speaker to express themselves in their own unique voice. The language is direct and simple, yet powerful, as the speaker's frankness creates a sense of intimacy with the reader. By using a conversational tone and informal language, Lorde captures the inner world of the teenager, which can often be overlooked or misunderstood.
Lorde uses several symbols in "Hanging Fire" to convey the speaker's emotions and struggles. The first symbol is the image of fire, which appears repeatedly throughout the poem. The lines "what can I do / what can I do / what can I do" are repeated three times, creating a sense of urgency and anxiety. The repetition of the word "do" suggests the speaker's desire to take action, to make a change in their life, but they are unsure of how to do so. The image of fire also appears in the lines "I am a / raw girl / trying to find / in my burning / labor / a reason for living." Here, the fire symbolizes the speaker's passion and intensity, as well as their feeling of being overwhelmed by their emotions.
Another symbol that Lorde uses is the image of the bedroom. The poem is set in the speaker's bedroom, and the lines "The room is so small / I can touch both walls / by stretching out my arms" suggest a sense of confinement and claustrophobia. The bedroom represents a place of safety and refuge, but it is also a place where the speaker feels trapped and isolated.
Finally, Lorde uses the symbol of the telephone to convey the speaker's desire for connection. The lines "I pick up the phone / and my best friend said / 'Do you wanna go to the party / and dance with me" express the speaker's longing for social interaction and acceptance. The telephone represents a lifeline to the outside world, a way for the speaker to connect with others and escape from their loneliness.
The language used in "Hanging Fire" is simple and direct, yet powerful. Lorde uses a conversational tone throughout the poem, which creates a sense of intimacy between the speaker and the reader. The poem is written in free verse, with no set form or rhyme pattern, which allows the speaker to express themselves in their own unique voice. This style of writing is reflective of Lorde's commitment to authenticity and honesty in her work.
Lorde also uses repetition throughout the poem to create a sense of urgency and anxiety. The lines "what can I do / what can I do / what can I do" are repeated three times, and the repetition of the word "do" suggests the speaker's desire to take action, to make a change in their life, but they are unsure of how to do so. The repetition of the word "and" in the line "and my best friend said / 'Do you wanna go to the party / and dance with me" creates a sense of excitement and anticipation, as the speaker is presented with an opportunity to escape from their isolation.
Finally, Lorde uses imagery throughout the poem to convey the speaker's emotions and struggles. The image of fire, as previously discussed, is used to symbolize the speaker's passion and intensity. The image of the bedroom represents a place of safety and refuge, but it is also a place where the speaker feels trapped and isolated. The telephone represents a lifeline to the outside world, a way for the speaker to connect with others and escape from their loneliness.
In conclusion, Audre Lorde's "Hanging Fire" is a powerful reflection on the experience of adolescence and the struggle for identity and self-expression. Through the use of themes, symbols, and language, Lorde captures the inner world of the teenage speaker, creating a sense of intimacy and authenticity in her work. "Hanging Fire" stands as a testament to the power of poetry to convey complex emotions and experiences, and it remains a timeless piece of literature that continues to resonate with readers today.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry is a form of art that allows us to express our deepest emotions and thoughts. It is a medium that has the power to move us, inspire us, and make us feel alive. One such poem that has the ability to do just that is "Hanging Fire" by Audre Lorde. This classic poem is a powerful representation of the struggles faced by a young girl growing up in a world that is not always kind to her.
The poem begins with the lines, "I am fourteen and my skin has betrayed me / the boy I cannot live without still sucks his thumb / in secret." These lines immediately set the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker is a young girl who is struggling with her identity and her place in the world. She is dealing with the physical changes that come with puberty, and she is also dealing with the emotional turmoil that comes with being a teenager.
The line "the boy I cannot live without still sucks his thumb / in secret" is particularly poignant. It speaks to the idea that even though the speaker is growing up, she is still holding onto childish things. The boy she loves is still sucking his thumb, which is a habit that most children give up by the time they reach a certain age. This line also speaks to the idea that the speaker is still holding onto her childhood, even though she knows that she is growing up and that things are changing.
The next few lines of the poem are equally powerful. The speaker says, "We have begun to die already / because the food we eat is full of poison / and the air we breathe is full of radiation." These lines speak to the idea that the world is not always a safe place. The speaker is aware of the dangers that exist in the world, and she is worried about what the future holds. She is also aware of the fact that she is not in control of her own destiny. She is at the mercy of the world around her, and she is struggling to come to terms with that fact.
The next few lines of the poem are particularly interesting. The speaker says, "And there is nothing I can do / except wait for the revolution / or wear my new bikini / to the pool." These lines speak to the idea that the speaker is aware of the fact that she is powerless. She knows that she cannot change the world on her own, and she is waiting for something to happen that will allow her to make a difference. At the same time, she is also aware of the fact that she is still a teenager, and she is still interested in the things that teenagers are interested in. She wants to wear her new bikini to the pool, even though she knows that there are more important things going on in the world.
The final lines of the poem are particularly powerful. The speaker says, "I have nothing to wear tomorrow / will I live long enough to grow up / and momma's in the bedroom / with the door closed." These lines speak to the idea that the speaker is struggling with her own mortality. She is worried about whether or not she will live long enough to grow up and become an adult. At the same time, she is also aware of the fact that her mother is dealing with her own struggles. The fact that her mother is in the bedroom with the door closed suggests that she is dealing with something that she does not want her daughter to know about.
Overall, "Hanging Fire" is a powerful poem that speaks to the struggles faced by young girls growing up in a world that is not always kind to them. The poem is a powerful representation of the emotional turmoil that comes with being a teenager, and it speaks to the idea that even though we are growing up, we are still holding onto our childhood in some way. The poem is also a powerful commentary on the state of the world, and it speaks to the idea that we are all at the mercy of the world around us. Despite the fact that the poem was written over 40 years ago, it is still relevant today, and it is a powerful reminder of the struggles faced by young girls all over the world.
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