By Sara Constantakis
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Additional info for Poetry for Students, Vol. 32
In 1926 and 1927 he was awarded Opportunity magazine’s Alexander Pushkin Poetry Prize. While teaching at the Harlem Academy, he became acquainted with writers and artists often associated with the Harlem Renaissance, such as poet and novelist Langston Hughes, with whom Bontemps formed a close, lifelong friendship, and the poet Countee Cullen, who later worked with him in adapting Bontemps’s 1931 novel God Sends Sunday to a play. In Harlem, Bontemps met and married Alberta Johnson, with whom he would eventually raise six children.
THEMES Black Identity Bontemps tells of one individual’s experiences in ‘‘A Black Man Talks of Reaping,’’ but he also makes it clear that the situation described in the poem is meant to reflect the experiences of all black Americans. The first sign that he is describing more than just one person can be found in the phrasing of the poem’s title. ’’ By specifying that the speaker is P o e t r y f o r S t u d e n t s , V o l u m e 3 2 A B l a c k M a n T a l k s o f R e a p i n g TOPICS FOR FURTHER STUDY Read Walter B.
The poem’s controlled tone does not show the speaker’s anger, but it is hinted at 2 4 Generations In this poem, Bontemps mentions the coming generation twice, indicating two different sets of expectations about what will happen. In line 10 he mentions the sons of his brothers, who are related to him but not of direct lineage. Their lives are predicted to be the scrabble for survival by gathering whatever has been left on the ground, deemed useless after the harvest. These nephews appear to be of a different age than the speaker’s children, P o e t r y f o r S t u d e n t s , V o l u m e 3 2 A since the situations facing the two groups are different: by the time the children of the speaker will have to fend for themselves, even the meager left from the harvest will not be available to them.