Poetry Essay "The Whipping"

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Poetry Essay A poem, “The Whipping”, written in 1966, by Robert Earl Hayden, speaks about an elderly woman, who is whipping “the boy” again, witnessed by an onlooker or neighbor. It is a heartbreaking story of a young boy being whipped and the pain and suffering that resulted because of “the whipping”. Born Asa Bundy Sheffey to a poor African-American Michigan family, Hayden’s height of fame came in the 1960’s during the Civil Rights Movement. It is said that Hayden’s writings were influenced by what his personal childhood experiences were and from what he had seen in his neighborhood, growing up in a Detroit, Michigan ghetto. He was constantly teased by his classmates because of his poor eyesight, as a result of myopia, and he wore the classic “coke bottle” type eyeglasses. As stated in “The poetry of Robert Hayden” by Adrienne Su, Literary Cavalcade 52. 2 (Oct 1999): 8-11, “this great African-American poet defied all categories and simply wrote about being human. Like all great artists, Robert Hayden (1913-1980) did not fit easily into narrow categories. He wrote about relationships, good and evil, history, family, and identity. He was a black man, but wanted to be known as an American, not a black poet.” In later years, Robert Hayden suffered from bouts of manic depression. Also noted in “Contemporary Black Biographies” by the Gale Group, Inc., 2006, “Robert Hayden preferred to think of himself not as a black poet but rather as an American poet whose work spoke universally about the human condition. Although many of his best known works explore the African-American experience, Hayden avoided politics and polemic, opting instead for an artistic body of work in the grand tradition of English literature. He labored in near obscurity for much of his life, only becoming recognized as a preeminent poet in the 1960s and 1970s. Only now is his work being
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