The Blues

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A style of poetry with American roots, blues evolved in the late nineteenth century as a traditionally oral and musical form of poetry. The blues has an African background as it started as a work song, musical and verbal chants. By the early 1900s, different areas of the south developed their own form of “blues” and performances of these types of poems became more popular and spread across the country.

The blues, while a more nontraditional and lyrical form, has a typical style. Traditional blues consists of three line stanzas with an AAa rhyme scheme, where the first line is repeated twice and the third line is a rhymed response to the statement of that line (Patterson 188). Different blues poets, however, have created their own adaptations of the style, but each use their poems to portray difficulties in life, love, loss and struggles of people in their culture.

One blues poem, “Oakland Blues” by Ishmael Reed is an example of how the blues form portrays the life struggles or hardships. These types of poems rely on repetition and rhyming to help convey a story. This poem is sharing the emotions that occur after the passing of a loved one and what many go through when struggling with grief and loss. Some of these emotions are shown through the lines, “Without you little papa/ what O, what will become of me” and “You went down fighting, daddy. Yes/ You fought Death toe to toe” (Reed 11–12, 17–18). Both of these lines also play with the rhyming nature of the form, having rhyming end words with the previous lines of their stanza. The use of rhythm and rhyme help to not only convey these emotions and the story of the poem, but also help to give it the flow that is used when these poems are performed for an audience.

Finch Annie, and Kathrine Varnes. An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art. Ann Arbor: U.of Michigan Press, 2002.

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Hi! My name is Gina and I love reading and exploring poetry. I hope to use this space to further my understanding of poetic forms.

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Gina Pepe

Gina Pepe

Hi! My name is Gina and I love reading and exploring poetry. I hope to use this space to further my understanding of poetic forms.

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