Of the many assignments we had to do this year, I thought this one to be the most fun (not to be confused with easy), which, I believe, comes from the fact that we usually do not get assigned homework of this sort. Though the novel "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad had many topics and themes to choose from, I have a natural instinct to loathe poems. However, I am rather content with my poems' outcome. Picking out a theme and writing out the poem beforehand did not present to be the problem; finding words and phrases that matched the words I chose did. Though I encountered more hardship then a fun time with this assignment, my editing partners approved of my themes and even complimented on my writing styles.
My first poem I centralized on the tone of the poem. I tried to get across a mysterious, eerie feeling I got from reading the first passage. Conrad writes of the untrustworthy cannibals, Marlow's desperate attempt to save Kurtz, and ends the first section not allowing the audience to know if Kurtz is alive or dead. Using words like "mystery," "horror," not knowing," "deadly," "cry," and "darkness" I was able to set the tone. I wanted the tone to resemble the fact that Marlow did not know what awaited him when he went to retrieve Kurtz; confusion and distrust towards the Europeans' delay filled Marlow's heart.
Once I accomplished setting the tone, I moved on to rhythm I wanted the poem to have. Like the first part of the novel, my poem is rather uneventful and drags on, yet is questioning of what lies ahead. Being the only poem I used a question in, I wanted the question to have significant meaning. I used Shakespeare's line "To be or not to be?" and substituted the "be" to "trust." With this I was attempting to convey the fact that the men in the poem could not trust one another--would one kill the other... or should he kill the others first? At first, my editing partners were confused at the line "But for the bodies they had not conquered," which is a reference to the untrustworthy cannibals from the novel, so I added "For the bodies still not devoured" to allude to the cannibals. In reality, the "bodies not conquered" and the ones "not devoured" are meant to be an emotional consumption--the savage men wanted the men pure at heart to be miserable like they were.
In my second poem I focused on the topic of racism. Conrad used a lot of color references (mostly black and white) in his book. Though black is usually left to symbolize the dark and gloomy and white the pure and innocent, Conrad uses the colors in opposite meaning. Also, I thought this section was where the action really began, and the characters’ personality showed the most. Conrad’s theme of racism and darkness began to develop during this section. In my poem, I used imagery of white supremacy towards black. “We two whites stood over them”—“them” being the “black shapes crouched, helpless”. For the first two stanzas the narrator speaks of how they (the white men) are superior to the black men. And in the last line of the second stanza, the narrator realizes that these men they are mistreating are “perhaps” equal to them—“perhaps” they deserve to be respected as humans. But, as the third stanza speaks, the idea that they are somehow equal is killed, because the white men are ruthless.
Another tactic I used for the second poem was the usage of capitalization. I capitalized all the first words of each line, except for the last three lines: “abandoned//killed//beaten.” Through the lower case letters, I was attempting to imply the ruthlessness of the narrator. Unlike there thoughts of supremacy that will never be “abandoned//killed//beaten,” these black men’s lives will soon be ended. I also tried to add a little bit of irony into the last stanza. The narrator’s “glorious” idea ironic to the first two stanzas, in the sense that he is the one inflicting pain on the people, however the thought that they are equal is “glorious.”
And lastly, for my third poem I concentrated on the beat of the poem. Except for the last two lines in the first stanza and the last two lines in the last stanza, all the lines in the poem consist of six syllables. I chose the number six, because according to the Bible, the fall of men makes every human imperfect (the number seven is considered the number of perfection in the Bible). So, naturally, this poem is about the fall of every man—how every man has a dark side and cannot be fully trusted. The narrator of the poem does not even trust himself, referring to his heart as a “heart of darkness.” The four lines that are not making up of six syllables represent the human attempt to be good and civil. However, the two lines from each stanza add up to six, figuratively making the narrator imperfect again.
My use of diction in my last poem is also important (but then again, when is it not?). I used the words “sunshine” and “darkness” to contrast the idea that we as humans attempt to be moral, but corruption is in everyone. The last line two lines of this poem is repeated, “To you all//To you all!” for an emphasis on the fact that some kind of evil is in all of us, no one is spared.
Conclusively, I put much thought into making my poem fully connect to the ideas Conrad was attempting to convey. Though poetry is not my strongest point, I hope that my poems reflect the deliberation I put into them. My editing partners seemed to understand what I was conveying, and were helpful in pointing out which parts were confusing. For the most part, I took their suggestions—I added a few lines to make the confusing parts less confusing, and changed some of my diction to help send my message. Overall, this assignment was an interesting, yet stressful (because I had a hard time finding the words I wanted to use) one.