Poetry Analysis Essay on "38" by Layli Long Soldier

Published: 2023-01-15
Poetry Analysis Essay on "38" by Layli Long Soldier
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Poem Feminism American literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1009 words
9 min read

"38" is a renowned poem by the famous poet, activist, and feminist, Layli Long Soldier. Her poetry is profound; given her ancestry is the Oglala Lakota tribe. The poem seeks to discuss the events leading to the December 26, 1862, execution entailing the mass hanging of 38 people in Dakota following orders of the then president, Abraham Lincoln. Long's ancestry is critical to her work as an activist and as a poet. Going through the poem and critically analyzing it is essential in the comprehension of the factors surrounding the mass hanging since the poet has a passion for the region where it took place and has gathered credible information regarding the issue.

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In the poem, she implies that she does not deem the poem a creative piece and the reader comprehends how serious she is in the poem. The speaker does not wish for people to ignore or treat the issue of the mass hanging lightly (Smith). She states this to capture the attention of the reader further, for the speaker understands the importance of the matter. The speaker more also emphasizes this point by saying," I do not regard this as a poem of great imagination or a work of fiction" (Smith).

Getting further into the poem, the speaker addresses the meaning of the "Dakota 38" where she describes it as the largest legal execution in the history of the United States. In her description, she uses quotation marks for the word legal. The reason for using the quotation marks is to suggest that the speaker did not believe that the execution was fair. Given the fact that the poet's indigenous roots are in the stated area, one can understand why she is so sentimental about it and does not even mind portraying this in her piece of work (Smith). Further, along with the essay, the speaker uses italics to describe the term "same week" as she explains that the mass hanging took place around the time of the president signing the Emancipation Proclamation (Smith).

The basis of using italics on the term is for the essence of emphasis. Moreover, the speaker wishes the reader to note the irony provided the fact that the emancipation proclamation was an executive order that the president had issued seeking to free all that had been kept as slaves in the rebellious states (Smith). He had pushed for this proclamation only to have 38 people executed in the same week. From the tone in the poem, the poet is against the hanging of the 38 people and does not understand how the president can this only on January 1, 1963, to issue the emancipation proclamation.

Layli Long, the speaker uses the quotation marks again in her work when she stresses the point that "During the 1800s, when the US expanded territory, they "purchased" land from the Dakota" (Smith). The use of the quotation marks in this context is to show that the United States did not buy the land as the history books would seek to portray, but the speaker wants the reader to comprehend that the land was grabbed. The 1800s were tough times having battles and even wars. During said wars, the United States sought to increase the amount of land that it had in possession, and rather than signing treaties and knowing that people of Dakota would not agree to terms of such deals, they took the land by force. Here, the use of the quotation mark shows that the poet, Long, does not believe that any formal agreement or consensus was reached at the time (Smith).

Other writers and poets have also reviewed the poem "38" and offer their professional comments about it. One renowned poet that has reviewed the poem is Omar Sakar. According to him, the speaker does an exceptional job in the piece. He commends her so much that he corrects her sentiments that her work was not a creative piece. According to Omar, "38" is an original non-fictional piece but is also a creative piece owing to how the speaker manages to incorporate some poetry techniques such as the incorporation of italics and quotation marks to capture the attention of the reader (Sakr).

Omar also notes that the poem is original and different from other forms given the fact that it bears sizeable white space and uses full stops to give the reader a chance to comprehend the idea or rather the point that the speaker is presenting in the given part (Sakr). According to Omar, how Long, the speaker uses block texts is a way for her to have people not interpret her work as fully a work of poetry, but in the real sense, it still portrays the aspect of poetry owing to the structure of her words and the flow of the lines.

Annamae Sax is another poet that extensively reviews the speaker's work. Sax says that she first came across Long's work when she was in her final year of studies at the University of Arizona. Sax was impressed with the speaker's approach to the poem, and this is because of the stylistic devices that she uses (Sax). Some of the devices involve sarcasm, and this is where the speaker bluntly states some ideas and still conceals the real meaning of her words. Sax felt that for a woman, as the speaker in this poem is impeccable in her presentation and commended her for this.

The speaker presents a well-detailed poem discussing the events leading to the 38 Dakota execution. The manner she uses words and stylistic devices such as irony and sarcasm enables a reader to note her prowess in the field of poetry. Other poets such as Annamae Sax and Omar Sakar have also provided their professional opinion and commended the speaker for her expertise in the poetry scene.

Works Cited

Sakr, Omar. Thursday Poem: 38 by Layli Long Soldier. 201. Web omarsakr.com/2015/08/20/thursday-poem-38-by-layli-long-soldier/. Accessed on 17th June 2019.

Sax, Annamae. Tufts Poetry Awards: Claremont Graduate University. 2018. Web arts.cgu.edu/tufts-poetry-awards/layli-long-soldier-respecting-the-sentence/. Accessed on 17th June 2019.

Smith, Tracy K. ed. American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time. Minneapolis, Graywolf, 2018.

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