The Pulse of Deconstruction


Application of postmodern and deconstruction theories to the poem “On the Pulse of Morning” by Maya Angelou shows that the latter poetic text abounds in literary devices and phenomena, which are typical of postmodern and deconstruction philosophies. Bearing in mind that postmodernism, being a reaction to modernism, rested heavily on points of controversy and widely used such devices as fragmentation, paradox, oxymoron etc; and that at the same its literary partner – philosophy of deconstruction sought to reveal contradictions, irreconcilable themes, exposing overall fragmentation of ideas within a text, one can at first sight notice that the above mentioned poem is one of the typical representatives of its postmodern/deconstruction kind. The poem abounds in controversy both within the text and outside it. It also defies most norms of poetic writing, the first and the most striking its feature being that it lacks a distinct rhyme and rhythm pattern as well as a fixed stanza length. Length of each line and/or stanza is completely voluntary and is based solely upon writer’s desire for expression. For example, stanza 1 contains only 6 lines, while stanza 4 has only 4 lines; and yet stanza 6 contains as many as 15 lines of text. Neither of the stanzas has a fixed size or rhythm and rhyme pattern. It is also highly questionable why this piece of writing is considered to be a verse (obviously, a blank one), rather than a piece of prose writing. The only plausible reason to consider “On the Pulse of Morning” is rich use of imagery – for its use of symbols in the first place (the Rock, the River and the Tree) and line breaks. The distinction is not clear cut and it appears that the poem could be defined as a piece of prose (which was written by a prose writer, Maya Agelou). As said before, the poem makes extensive use of imagery in its body. The main ‘heroes’ of the poem are the Rock, the River and the Tree. Within the text, they are to a certain degree personified. Even although there is no direct speechheard from them in the form of monologue or dialogue, – as a matter of fact, there is indirect, narrator’s speech, mixed with the words of the Rock, the Tree and the River, – there is still a call, which is made by the Rock , the River and the Tree. Refusal (either conscious or not) from direct speech within the poem is also an indication of controversy, protest against the rules and convention within the literary text. The setting of the poem is not immediately clear – it is not obvious or even implied where the objects are located, what the time is, who the poem is addressed to etc. Such setting leaves a lot of room for imagination. As a matter of fact, every listener or speaker can imagine him/herself in any location and in any time. All that’s known for sure about the setting of the poem is that the Rock, the Stone and the River are located closely together and constitute one whole. They are very old and have probably been there since world was created – they saw dinosaurs, who “The dinosaur, who left dried tokens” (l 4) and all other races and civilizations of the planet. Because the author fails to define time, location and symbolism behind main heroes, ample room is created for imagination and interpretation of the Rock, the Tree and the River. The Tree, for instance, can be interpreted as a family, or a country (one, united nation) or a tree of wisdom from the biblical garden of Eden. The mentioned symbols can be also interpreted as God – who is asking his children to return to him and has been around in the world since the first days of world creation. Concluding the passage, interpretations of these symbols can be numerous, and this makes the essay philosophical. Every reader (hearer) of the poem can apply whatever context s/he deems fit and will be right in doing so. Reiterating, the overall mood of the paper is philosophical – because of the great number of possible interpretations and level of generalization of the poem. There appears to be a paradox of mixing time (time of dinosaurs and Jews) and concepts (The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik, stanza 7). Such mixture, although superficially unacceptable and wrong from a literary and linguisticviewpoint, such mixture creates an interesting artistic effect, underlining diversity of the US. As a matter of fact, such diversity is made versatile because it touches not only various nations living within the US, but also different classes or cultural/ethical/religious groups. It dissects society along multiple lines, emphasizing its versatility. Besides, it also emphasizes historic diversity, embracing a long time range – from dinosaurs, to arrival of white people to the Americas and all the way to modern times. The author therefore calls for understanding, patience, tolerance and hope. This is a great call for action. Concluding the essay, one can ascertain that the essay is a good example of deconstruction writing literature, as within the text it contains the controversies of the deconstruction philosophy and refuses to follow conventional principles of poem writing.

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