[A few years back, I shared a handful of my favorite American poems in a weeklong series. Before I go back to sharing poems for money—well, teaching them as part of my job, but you get the idea—I wanted to highlight another week’s worth of favorite poems and a couple reasons why I love each. Share your favorites in comments, please!]
Today’s favorite poem is Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask” (1896).
I love “Mask” because I don’t know of any other literary work that mirrors its author’s situation more closely (Dunbar was a hugely learned and talented poet forced by the market and publishers to write in a dialect voice much more often than he would have preferred) while at the same time speaking for a broad community of perspectives and experiences. I love it because if I had to pick only one literary text to portray the lynching epidemic, this would be the one. And I love it because of the raw, potent emotion of “O great Christ.”
Next favorite tomorrow,
PS. Thoughts on this poem? Other favorites you’d share?
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