Friday, March 6, 2009

The Poetic Form of "Seventh Street"

What strikes me about Toomer's "Seventh Street" is the form of the text which synthesizes both poetry and prose. However, the important question for is: What can I learn from the form, and are the forms really what we think they are? For me, I think this piece was originally supposed to be a poem. Thus Toomer begins the story with a traditional poem, but that feeling shifts when Toomer switches to prose.

But this prose doesn't read like prose. Its language is interestingly poetic and it has a flow to it that is enhanced by questions and imagery. The prose itself, also, resembles stream-of-consciousness type of writing, and Toomer is pouring all of his emotions and feelings into this vision of the 7th street. I find this piece remarkable because it seems to me that Toomer is deconstructing our notions of what a poem should be because it does not adequately capture his feelings and experiences on 7th street. Therefore, the poems at the beginning and at the end of the prose are afterthoughts that frame the prose. The utilization of the poems as frames suggests that Toomer wants us to think of the prose as a new poetic form.

Personally, I like this approach to poetry; it's edgy, raw, and powerful. And to an extent, it captures Toomer's ideas and feelings a 7th street better than traditional poetic forms. This doesn't mean that the poetry in the piece isn't powerful or emotional itself; I just think that this piece is Toomer's way of saying that: "while traditional poetry does capture emotion, it doesn't accomplish what I need it to for my experiences." I think we can learn a lot from this piece and its focus on form.

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